Thursday, 17 September 2009

Report on activities of Newcastle University Maths Society

There follows a report I have received of the 2008/9 activities of the Newcastle University Maths Society by Stacey Aston. An IMA University Liaison Grant was used to support the guest lectures, raffle, decorations and advertising materials for the Christmas Party and materials and prizes for the regular quizzes. Details about University Liaison Grants to support the activities of mathematical student groups are available through the IMA Student webpage at

Peter Rowlett

The 08/09 academic year was yet again a great one for the Newcastle University Maths Society. We kicked off the events with a pub crawl in the first week. With involvement from the first years greater than ever we knew there were some fun times ahead. The pub crawls continued once a month, with the best being when we introduced a ‘ravers’ theme. To add to these we started a monthly quiz, these became so popular, among students and staff alike, that they were noticed by the school who now sponsor us to help pay for them.

November witnessed the first of our guest lectures, given by Peter Rowlett. This was an introductory talk on Cryptography followed by an interactive session giving students the opportunity to test there deciphering skills using a computer programme. This was followed by a trip to the outdoor ice skating rink later in the month as well as a meal at the local Chinese. To bid everyone a fond farewell at the end of the first term we held a Christmas Party. A three-course meal, free raffle and complimentary drinks made sure the night was a fitting end to an exciting and eventful first term.

In January we saw off the exam period in style with a weekend trip to Amsterdam, by far the biggest event the Maths Society has seen in a few years. Further to this we organised another guest lecture given by Prof. Robin Johnson on the History of Mathematics, a couple of Deloitte career talks and an outing to Durham to go bowling. This ensured we had a second term jam pack with events.

The final term provided our members with the last of our guest lectures. Another given by Peter Rowlett, this time a talk based around the Wii called Spin in Ball Games. The year was finished off with a spectacular summer ball. The evening involved a gorgeous Spanish buffet followed by a three hour Tyne River cruise to end the year in style.

Stacey Aston, Newcastle University

Monday, 8 June 2009

Setting up a Maths Society

When I first started to set up the Maths society I thought it would be a pretty easy thing to do, grab fifteen like minded individuals and make one of them treasurer and another secretary, and there we go a Maths society. But as I was going to find out, things were slightly more complicated than that. Finding fifteen initial members was no problem, I knew enough people on my course to sort that out so that wasn’t going to be too hard but the more everything slowly got set up, the more that sprung up, all of which I was unsure of a definite answer to. Stuff like, “What does a Maths society do?”, “Why make a Maths society?” along with “We’re not just going to meet up and do Maths equations are we?” In all seriousness my answer to these questions initially was quite vague and uncertain.

So to start with I went about answering these questions. As a Maths Society what would we do? I decided that the best way to answer this was to put together an executive committee to help run the society. Now when I was signing up my initial fifteen members the question I kept being asked was, ‘I don’t have to do anything, do I?’, and although they didn’t I wanted people to get involved with the committee and other stuff to do with the society, so I had to try a different approach to find a decent committee. I wanted people from different years other than my own and being that I only knew a few people in other years I decided to seek out the help from the convener of our staff-student committee meetings, Andy White. With Andy’s help I was able to email the entire Maths department to try and find anyone interested in joining the committee and helping out with the society. I received an amazing response and I went about meeting up with people in various areas of the university from the library to the student union to discuss everything we could do and to see if they themselves had any great ideas.

In order to set up a society at Heriot-Watt you need a minimum of a president, a treasurer and a secretary. There is however the option to create more committee positions. So with such interest in positions on the committee I decided to create two further positions that of vice president and social secretary. The vice-presidents job would be to help me out with running the society and the job of the social secretary would be to help with setting up and running of social and networking events. Once I had put together our committee it was time to make our society official, so all that was left to do in terms of setting up the society was to hand in all the forms to the student union and get us affiliated with them. This took about a week, and involved a meeting between the student union and the society’s convener to decide whether we were a suitable society or not. After that it was official, the Math society was founded, all was done, or was it? This was merely the beginning. True, I had accomplished what I had set out to do. The Maths society was created but this is not by a long way the end of things. I now have a great committee and that will be the start of making a great society, but as a society we will, in my opinion, only be the best when we have recruited most of the Math department to our society and have everyone involved in the events that we will hopefully put on in the forthcoming academic year.

Coming back to the questions I didn’t have too much of an idea how to answer when I started out, I’m still not too sure how to answer them, you’ll have to ask me in year, we may end up sitting down and looking at equations, I hope not, but for all I know we could. I hope that we can get everyone in our department to work together in order to develop a more integrated peer supportive learning system along with plenty of social activities and career events.

So that’s how I set up a Math society, with the help of others, there are lots of ways to go about it so here’s some tips I’d like to finish with that I hope will prove useful;

  1. You can’t do it alone, find people to help you out
  2. Have a rough idea what you want the society to be set up for (for example is it for social activities, math based activities, careers or further math education)
  3. Go to your student union and find out as much as possible with regards to how the societies in your university work and how to go about setting them up
  4. Find out what money you can get for your student union and look into applying for grants (IMA offer a grant for Math societies, check it out on the student part of their website)
  5. Get as many people involved as possible, the more the merrier and the more successful you will be
  6. Look at other well established societies and where possible find out how they did it.
  7. Once you are set up, get your committee together and decide how the society is going to be run and what activities and events you are looking to put on.
  8. Finally don’t be scared, just go for it, and aim to be the best society that you can be.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Mathematics at St Andrews University

Chaosoc is the mathematics society of the University of St Andrews. We would first like to thank Peter for coming to talk on careers in mathematics. I think many people found it helpful.

Chaosoc exist to stimulate interest in mathematics and statistics in St Andrews and to organise social events for those interested in mathematics. Events we organise include a staff-student football match, a charity quiz featuring teams of both lecturers and students, a weekly Friday afternoon student seminar, other academic talks and pub nights.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

University of Bristol - Matrix, Signing In!

Mathematics is a complex area of study, so when students graduate, it's nice to know they'll be rewarded for their years of (mostly) hard work. When Peter came to talk to my Society (Matrix) it was a great chance for our members to discover where their qualification could take them in the future.

Matrix a well established society, with three large Sponsors - KPMG, Watson Wyatt and Teach First. Part of our agreements with these companies is that they'll provide termly skills sessions for our members. KPMG for example have run an In-tray session, as well as a session on Commercial Awareness. The aim is to develop business skills and make us more employable undergrads. The only downside of this (If you can consider it a downside) is that the talks tend to be fairly company focused.

The talk given by Peter was valuable because it was providing a much more general overview of what the future could have in store. Despite being advertised just the day before it was happening, the event still showed a fantastic turnout. In the current economic climate, its clear undergraduates are searching for ways to get ahead in the game.

My role of President will be coming to a close in a couple of months time, however my experiences to date have proved to me how student societies can provide so much more than an opportunity to go out with your course mates. Matrix attempts to support its members in other ways too - Every fresher gets assigned a mentor within the maths department. Sometimes it's nice to discuss course matters with someone other than your tutor.

Next week our society Hoodies will be put into production. Those members who ordered can look forward to walking around with the following design...

...well, we do try to be funny.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Careers Talk

Yesterday (26th Jan) Peter Rowlett nobly made his way to Greenwich again. This time he was speaking to our maths students from 1st, 2nd and 3rd years on the different maths careers available to maths graduates. He gave a very entertaining half-hour talk which was followed by one of our lecturers (Dr Mayur Patel) giving advice on how to present a CV which was also very informative and no-less entertaining.

I was very glad that Peter reminded our students about what the QAA says maths graduates can offer to employers: 'they will also be able to work independently with patience and persistence, pursuing the solution of a problem to its conclusion' and perhaps more importantly the areas that maths graduates tend to be weaker in - communication skills, team work etc. This certainly helped our students to see why we emphasise these things in courses such as modelling skills and our final year group project.

This was a very valuable meeting and I would recommend maths departments at other universities to invite Peter to give a similar presentation.