Meet our Students
Graduating students and alumni can give you a real flavour of life at Lancaster and how we can change your life and launch your career.
Kris Morcom, BSc Mathematics and Statistics
I started my Mathematics and Statistics degree back in 2019 and being at Lancaster meant I had all the support I needed during my studies.
Said studies have generally been the perfect balance of fun and challenging. Lecturers are always willing to help, and the weekly workshops help me catch up on anything I’ve missed. There’s a good balance of assignments – quizzes, coursework and the occasional group project to mix things up. (Not to forget the end-of-year exams!) Between all of these, I feel like my skills are being fairly assessed; there’s both academic and more ‘real life’ work.
Something that really caught my eye when I was applying to Lancaster was the minor offered in first year. As far as I know, there’s no real comparable scheme anywhere in the country. You can do something related to your degree, a complementary skill, or something completely different! I personally took a minor in Creative Writing, because I thought that the opportunity was so good, I couldn’t pass it up. Meanwhile, one of my friends took a minor in German – he liked it so much he changed his degree to be a joint major in both Maths and German.
I’ll look back fondly on my years here. The careers scheme has helped me to land a job as a programmer at a biostatistics company in London. I really look forward to using what I’ve learnt here, and I’ll be proud to say that I’m an alumnus of Lancaster University!
Ellen Sayles, BSc Mathematics (Placement Year)
At A-levels I studied Math, Further Maths and Chemistry but I was always really focused on doing a maths degree. Coming to Lancaster I thought I wanted to study pure mathematics but after the first year I decided that I wanted to change to Maths and Statistics which is very straightforward to do. I could have either changed early in my degree, but if I choose specific modules in my final year it automatically changes to Mathematics and Statistics instead of just pure Maths. The course is really flexible and is open to what you are wanting to get out of your degree.
In my third year, I will be taking a gap year in my degree to do a year on a placement. I will be joining GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to go into the Supply Chain team based at Barnard Castle. During my 12 months placement I will gain paid work experience in a business environment before returning to finish my degree the year after. For me, it was an opportunity to see what the working world is like and help me decide what I would like to do after university.
The placement is something I had to set up myself with the support from the university. In my first year I was given workshops in how to write a CV, cover letter and how to apply for placements. Then in my second year I started applying for placements, taking part in interviews and assessment centres. I was offered a number of interviews and placements and made the decision to accept GSKs offer in the second term of my second year.
As with anything new, addressing the challenges is always a bit daunting. However, I learned rather the best way was to ask people for help and advice and use the tools and support provided by the University. Whilst I am looking forward to my year away, it will be great to be back in Lancaster to finish my degree, catch up with friends and get back on the river.
Ana Nicolae, BSc Mathematics and Statistics
After attending Lancaster’s Mathematics summer school, I had no doubt that Lancaster University was the right place for me. The choice of activities was endless and the campus was one of the most beautiful ones I had ever seen. Studying here only confirmed that Lancaster was the best choice.
The welfare of students is highly prioritised across the department and the staff members are passionate about forging a leading academic environment for their students. Staff work closely with students – regular meetings regarding student feedback and module feedback surveys help keep both parties working smoothly together. Additionally, personal academic representatives can be contacted at any point throughout the year and the department has an open mind to any extra adjustments that your studies may need.
The university offers a unique level of flexibility, with support and choice available whether you wish to change module or even degree programme. As someone whose career path remains wholly uncertain, knowing this has been reassuring as I feel like I can pursue any interests I may have without the burden of inflexibility within the degree.
Outside of the course, there are a plethora of things to do - practice old hobbies in the abundance of societies available, or discover new hobbies. Whatever takes your fancy, you’ll be certain to make plenty of new friends, especially with regular events organised in both the town and the university campus.
My favourite thing to do is to take a walk around the campus and watch the ducks wander.
If given the choice, I would absolutely choose Lancaster all over again. The support the department offers, the lively atmosphere of the university and the quality of teaching make Lancaster feel like a second home and I cannot imagine going anywhere else.
Rhys Peploe, BSc Mathematics and Statistics (Placement Year)
I’ve been at Lancaster for 5 years doing my Bachelor's degree in Mathematics with Statistics (with Placement Year) and a Master's in Data Science, which has equipped me with the tools for me to feel confident going into graduate roles after university. The undergraduate course is broad to allow you to gain vital skills in a number of areas while being detailed enough in order to understand and be able to reproduce those abilities to a high standard; it gave me the framework to allow me to pursue the Master's and specialise in a topic that I’m really passionate about.
I spent 13 months with IBM as a financial analyst. During this time, I was responsible for managing projects and budgets as well as a number of ad-hoc tasks which allowed me to experience various roles, not just what was on the job description. Before placement, I had no clue what job I wanted to pursue, the year gave me plenty of chances to try out various roles and find out what I do (and definitely do not) want to do, so the flexibility has allowed me to mould a career path and lead me to choose to study the MSc Data Science. Training is provided by our faculty in the first two years and then ongoing support throughout the industry year means you are never far from help if you need it; the team was vital in my search for a placement!
Both of my degrees have constantly challenged me to be more inquisitive about maths, and our world-leading researchers teach modules on their fields, so you get the very best to learn from. Utilising the software R has been fascinating and the applications are endless; knowledge of this program makes picking up new ones so much easier too.
Having graduated with a BSc in Mathematics in 2019 and an MSc in Statistics in 2020, Megan embarked on her career as a Statistician with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. Having relocated to Cambridge, she now works within the Oncology department.
A place like home
When choosing a University, there were several features that made Lancaster stand out against the crowd - but it was the collegiate system that sealed the deal. "This turned into being one of my key considerations in looking at Universities as I found it really worked for me: having a very friendly atmosphere, all amenities on campus, and having that extra level of support [...] I was a member of the Cartmel JCR during my 2nd/3rd year; I felt really involved with my college and enjoyed this new opportunity, putting on events for the college, and looking at that collaboratively. There was the availability to mix with other colleges and that’s a really big part of your university life; members of my college grew to be like a second family".
Finding my passion
When it came to the course itself, Megan loved the opportunities that the Mathematics undergraduate offered her: "the lecturers appeared to be very involved and friendly, the course very much hit all of my key interest areas, and it allowed me the flexibility to tailor it to my future goals as well." It was in her third year, though, that she found her passion for Medical Statistics. "I had 2 favourite modules during my BSc: Medical Statistics and Graph Theory. Whilst Graph Theory wasn’t highly statistical, I found the real-world aspects of this module really interesting and engaging. The Medical Statistics module is what first sparked my interest in the field I now work in." Lancaster's array of options and the ability to tailor the course to her interests were what really made the University the place for her. "During my 3rd year", she says, "I really enjoyed being able to choose all of my own modules. I was always drawn to statistics and was able to focus upon this in my final year".
Plenty of support
Lancaster University prides itself on its pastoral and academic support, and Megan found that she felt she had people to turn to, no matter what the issue. "Within the colleges, there were SCRs and JCRs; they can help with any issues from flat/accommodation problems to welfare. Within the department, you are given an academic advisor who is a lecturer in the department when you first arrive. They were there to make sure that we were coping and keeping up with your studies, they could act as references, and really help point us in the right direction". The Base (ASK) on campus also offers plenty of careers advice, from listings of job opportunities to CV writing workshops - "all of the support you could ever really need during your degree is at your fingertips".
Teacher Adrian Hall has little patience for people whose response to philosophy is to question the existence of the table in front of them. For him the subject is much more important and relevant.
He loves to use philosophy with his pupils at Queen Elizabeth School in Kirkby Lonsdale, as a means of thinking about the big questions – whether humans should build machines as intelligent as ourselves, the morals of rationing health care, whether animals have souls and whether states should be able to dictate whether a woman can have an abortion.
As assistant head at a school numbering 1400 pupils from 40 primary schools drawn from three counties – Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire – much of his teaching time is assigned to mathematics. However in formal philosophy courses, and informal discussions with pupils, he loves to challenge them 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. The three-subject option in the first year was the greatest draw for him as an 18 year old, straight from a mediocre comprehensive school in the West Midlands. He was, he says "a typical mathematician" with a liking for finality, but the opportunity to study philosophy alongside mathematics and ICT, opened up his thinking in new ways.
Mathematics was enjoyable but it was the philosophy courses that really felt exciting and relevant. Of course he wrestled with the meaning of life and with courses on existentialism and Nietzsche, but he also tackled issues like artificial intelligence and the separation of mind, body and brain, that continue to be hot topics for discussion today. He dropped ICT after the first year, but continues to use it at school when teaching mathematics.
He felt instantly 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. Having bars to hand made it easy to drop in and chat to people over a drink, without it turning into "a session". He and his friends also took advantage of the nearby Lake District to explore the fells.
Adrian also met his wife, Tina (née Mant) in Bowland. Tina was doing psychology. She is now a speech and language therapist and they have three children.
At the end of his course he was interviewed for maths-based jobs such as actuarial work, but found them 'lacking in heart'. He applied to do a PGCE at St Martins and immediately felt he had found his niche. Since his first teaching job at a high school in Chorley, he has moved to other maths teaching positions around Lancashire, until arriving in his current job in 2007. Today half his time as an assistant head teacher of an Ofsted-rated 'outstanding' school, 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."
Many people express surprise that Stacy Westhead has made such a successful people-based career in marketing, given that her degree is in mathematics.
As a recent 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, her day is spent ensuring that clients and her work teams are happy, mentoring and overseeing the company's strategic direction - a total people job - but she would never have predicted this career direction.
The decision of her 18-year-old self to study at Lancaster was made on the basis that she was good at maths, she was keen on a campus university, and the open day presented an idyllic scene to her of students sitting outside the George Fox building in the sunshine, with rabbits jumping around them.
She arrived as a confident fresher from a small local comprehensive in Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire and rapidly realised how narrow her horizons were and how sheltered she had been from different cultures and nationalities. She was excited and eager to find out about life.
One aspect of that was addressed in her first week, when she met a second year sociology student, Gareth Westhead in the Grizedale bar at a freshers event. They dated throughout university providing her with stability during her studies. They married in 2012 on the 10th anniversary of their meeting at Lancaster.
"I loved it at Lancaster," she says. "I always felt safe in the college community. My one regret is perhaps that I did not get involved in more student organisations."
Grizedale became the centre of her social life and friendships have continued beyond university, to the extent that a quarter of their wedding guests were from their old college. Her confidence grew to the point that she felt able to go alone to the USA for three months with CCUSA to work on a summer camp after her second year - a choice which would later come to change her career path completely.
Academically she found Lancaster tough. Having breezed through the first year, the second year came as a challenge with many compulsory modules of pure maths. Westhead reckons she would have foundered without the support of Gareth and other friends who were also struggling with the shock of the second year.
Light dawned in the third year, when she took modules in teaching maths with St Martin's College and another in marketing, both of which 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.
The day after she was accepted to train as a Maths Teacher at St Martin's College, an email circular from CCUSA dropped into her inbox, which changed her life. It required former scheme participants to go round UK universities to recruit - a marketing job, but with no experience required. She took it and decided she could always come back to teaching if it did not work out.
When she went down to London to join Gareth nine months later, she now had marketing experience as well as a mathematics degree. 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 accurately in order to implement creative ideas and concepts for her team and clients.