Alumni Stories

Our graduates go on to a wide variety of careers and some of their stories are below.

Eddie Bell

In his handmade raw-selvedge Oni 512 jeans, you might guess that Eddie Bell is a designer. But this data scientist works for an E-fashion company and has coined his own title of 'fashematician'.

The Lancaster University graduate now spends his days at London-based Lyst. Here he trains computers to recognise makes of clothes, to pick up on colours from industry descriptions and to predict your clothes-buying preferences.

He says: "Lancaster opened up my eyes to study and gave me social skills. Without those two, I would not be doing what I am today."

The spark for Eddie was a lecture in his first few weeks at Lancaster. In it, Dr Joe Finney talked about the elegance of computer programs and ways of designing beauty. This transformed his thinking and almost overnight he decided he would need to do a PhD.

"Computing is not a cold and sterile science", says Bell, "it is more like an art form."

Eddie did his undergraduate thesis on understanding language using artificial intelligence. He felt the need for higher-level maths and decided to stay on and did both a Master's in Statistics and a PhD in Discrete Mathematics.

At the end of his time at Lancaster, Eddie knew he wanted to work in the 'real' world rather than academia. He started off in finance with Bloomberg on the currency trading platform. After a year he joined a small fashion technology company called Lyst as a data scientist. Three years later it had grown to become one of the largest fashion technology companies in the UK, with a turnover of $60m and a site featuring 3 million products from 11,557 designers and stores.

He enjoys his work and runs a team of eight people. Eddie spends much of his time thinking up ideas, trying them out using Artificially Intelligent models and using data to try and predict trends.

He says: "If anyone had told me in my first year undergraduate year what I would be doing now, I would have said they were crazy. I could not have done it without Lancaster."

Eddie Bell

Stacy Westhead

It may be a surprise that Stacy has made such a successful career in marketing, given that her degree is in mathematics. As a winner of Media Week's Rising Star award for entrepreneurs under 30, Westhead does not see anything particularly special about inhabiting more than one world at once. Lancaster University helped to prepare her to do so.

She says "I have a nice balance of logic and being comfortable with numbers, but also the social element of life and marketing. Lancaster University was all about broadening and making me realise that there was more to my world than my small background."

Now as Director of atom42, she ensures that clients and her work teams are happy. She mentors and oversees the company's strategic direction - a total people job - but she would never have predicted this career direction.

"I loved it at Lancaster," she says. "I always felt safe in the college community. My one regret is that I did not get involved in more student organisations."

Stacy took modules in the third year teaching maths with St Martin's College and another in marketing. Both were demonstrations of maths in action, with words often doing the work of the Greek alphabet. She realised how much she had missed dealing in language, rather than formulae.

She soon gained a job at PHD Media in search marketing, where she gained experience working at a large media agency. The person who appointed her there, Andy Atalla, moved on after a year to set up on his own as atom42. She decided to join him in setting up the company.

Seven years later atom42 is thriving with clients like AOL, National Accident Helpline and Drinkaware. She finds that maths makes total sense in a people business, providing the skills to forecast, plan and report creative ideas and concepts for her team and clients.

Stacy Westhead

Adrian Hall

Adrian Hall loves to use philosophy with his pupils at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, to discuss the big questions. Should humans build machines as intelligent as ourselves? What are the morals of rationing health care?

As assistant head at a school numbering 1,400 pupils, much of his teaching time is in mathematics. Yet he loves to challenge his students to play with ideas, and not to be afraid of tackling important issues.

The challenge of sharing his passion for ideas continues to fire his professional life. After 20 years as a teacher, he counts himself fortunate still to be in a job he loves. "I still get up feeling that I have a moral purpose and that I am doing something worthwhile – it is a job where you change people's lives."

Adrian holds Lancaster University responsible for inspiring his philosophical interests. Mathematics was enjoyable but it was the philosophy courses that felt exciting and relevant. Of course, he took courses on existentialism and Nietzsche, but also tackled issues like artificial intelligence and the separation of mind, body and brain.

He felt at home on the campus and spent most of his time socialising there outside lectures, with people he met on his course and in college. He and his friends also took advantage of the nearby Lake District to explore the fells.

He applied to do a PGCE at St Martin's and immediately felt he had found his niche. He arrived in his current job in 2007. Today half his time as an assistant headteacher focuses on staff and professional development, classroom teaching methods and developing links with the community as a Teaching School. He is also trying to develop links between the school and universities including Lancaster.

He feels Lancaster University prepared him for teaching and inspired his love for philosophy, which lives with him daily. He says: "Lancaster got me excited. I have a critical eye on the world and my time there helped me to think about and try to resolve issues."

Adrian Hall

Jon Barry

Former Mayor of Lancaster Jon Barry completed a PhD in Statistics at Lancaster in 1996.

Jon arrived as a research worker in the Centre for Applied Statistics in 1987 and went on to lecture in the department, finishing his PhD in 1996 and leaving in 1998. He was elected as a Green Party Councillor in Castle Ward in 1999, one of a batch of five who were the first Greens elected to the Council. The numbers have fluctuated since then, but there are now 10 City Councillors and 1 County Councillor. Jon has been a member of the Council’s ruling cabinet for 12 years in a variety of rainbow coalitions – political parties are rarely able to get an overall majority in the Lancaster District.

He allocates two days a week to Council work (and lots of evenings!) and three days to his ‘proper’ job when he works as a statistician for the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) which is a Government agency of Defra. He works from home for three weeks and then spends the fourth at the laboratory in Lowestoft (which is a long train ride from Lancaster!). 

Jon and his colleague advises 200 scientists on numerous different areas including setting up Marine Conservation Zones, surveys on the amount of litter and plastics on the sea bottom, how bad dredging is for the environment, numbers of eels and jellyfish, why are salmon numbers declining, how to analyse underwater video surveys etc. 

Life is never dull and always busy. His dual roles mean that at one moment he is trying to sort out some tricky algebra and the next trying to sort out why Mrs Smith’s bin hasn’t been collected.

Jon Barry