Andrew Kelly

"The placement was a great opportunity to learn more about maths and to help me decide that that is what I want to do at university, which is obviously a very important decision."

Why did you apply for a Nuffield Research Placement?

I applied for a Nuffield Research Placement because it seemed like a really exciting opportunity to further my knowledge of maths (and science in general) before my last year at school, when I had to start making university choices. It was great to experience the university environment outside of just attending an open day or interview with an admissions tutor.

How did your supervisor help you with your project?

My supervisor helped me both with understanding the specifics of the project as well as working with complex mathematical ideas, which I had never encountered before.  He also offered me advice about how to tackle the various quantitative analysis aspects of the task.

What was your project about?

My project was about the mathematics of one- and two-dimensional functions and maps, considering a variety of possible behaviours and the conditions which cause these behaviours. I also looked at branching processes including some computing techniques used in modelling and I considered some of the biological sitatuions where this type of modelling can be applied. As part of the placement, I spent a couple of days learning about the university’s iGEM team, who were working towards the annual undergraduate iGEM competition.

I knew a bit about one-dimensional functions and maps before I started but I haven’t studied any biology or computing since Year 9 of secondary school, so parts of the project involved a steep learning curve!

Did you learn any new skills?

As well as expanding my mathematical ability, I worked with some of the industry-standard software packages which will be useful in the future, both at university and, hopefully, in the workplace. I learned about writing science reports as well, which I’d never done before but the skills I picked up on the placement have already been helpful with my Advanced Higher science investigations. I also had the opportunity to give a presentation to post-graduate mathematics students at the university which was a great experience.

How do you think this experience might help you with your university applications/future work?

In the short-term, the placement provided something interesting and unusual to talk about in my UCAS personal statement and at interviews. Longer term, I’ve learned a lot about working independently and about the great diversity which exists within the field of mathematics. I don’t think a bit of familiarity with the university environment has hurt either!