Women in Science, Tech, Engineering and Maths

Take a look at this recent article in the Guardian about women working in Stem and the effects of Tim Hunt’s recent comments. I like the nice, positive aspect to it.

“…anyone considering a career in technology or science should be encouraged by the uproar that followed Tim Hunt’s comments that made one thing clear – stereotyping will not be tolerated in Stem any longer.”

Are your Maths skills ready for employment?

Like it or not, many employers now include numeracy tests in their recruitment procedures. Jobs which you may not think require good knowledge of Maths will still ask you to sit basic numeracy tests. And for those of us who haven’t done Maths since our GCSEs, this may prove a challenge.

The Maths Centre at Loughborough University has a free online course, starting next month, which will give you basic numeracy skills for employment. It starts on 15th June and last for three weeks, taking only a few hours a week of your time. You can find out more here: www.futurelearn.com/courses/numeracy-skills. Sounds like a pain-free way of getting those Maths skills you’ll need for job hunting!

maths course




Maths + Football = Sports Statistician

Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre recently hosted a talk by an alumni, David O’Brien from Squawka, an app company that delivers real-time data to you on any football match you’re watching.  David had graduated from QMUL with a degree in mathematics in 2013 and is developing a career that is allowing him to combine his talent for maths with his love of football and his support for Manchester United.

So David, what does Squawka actually do?

“We have a range of products all based on analysing football statistics – we don’t collect these, a company called Opta does that – but we produce Match Centres, Comparison Matrix and Rankings tables.  Opta provides the raw data by tracking everything that happens in top flight games – everything from assists, goals, saves, completed passes and tackles.  We can then process the data and write algorithms produce products. Our Customers are the everyday football fan, we look to provide them the extra information to settle debates at the pub.”

We heard that you got this job through networking…

“I was just talking to somebody in Drapers and they told me about the internship they had done with Squawka, a football statistics company.  Once he found out that I loved football and was doing a maths degree he said an internship for me was a possibility as well.  So that’s how it happened and it’s hard to believe that I only left Queen Mary in the summer of 2013.”

Football stats

And what’s your job like?

“I’m not involved with the statistics and algorithms so much now but have been given more responsibility for overseeing the development of our products. For example, we have had some interest from a sponsor of one of the biggest teams in the world who want a version of our football fantasy game for their site. I managed the project. This involved writing a specification, working with the designer and front end coders, moving then to the back end coders and finally testing the product.

Another great part of the job involves broadcasting appearances.  Football statistics are very fashionable at the moment and I get called on by broadcasters such as Tip TV to present and comment on football statistics – to be honest some of the TV pundits don’t really understand what the statistics are telling them so it’s good to get a chance to talk about them directly – if somebody had told me I’d be on TV talking about football when I was in the middle of my maths degree I would not have credited it. In retrospect though some of my modules that required me to make presentations actually helped for this part of my job. And even though my current role has moved me away from statistics, lots of my colleagues are still very much using their maths degrees. For example, we have to analyse things like ‘click through’ rates to see whether companies are getting value from our products.”

Any tips for students thinking of this type of work?

“Since I’ve been a Squawka the company has grown so much – now nearly 100 staff work there and new offices are under consideration. We’ve also moved into other sports; games like Rugby, for example, have lots of data points. So there are opportunities out there. Maths is a great qualification to bring to the business.  Any statistics modules are great for this work.  If students get a chance to develop coding skills that would also be helpful.  So any mathematics computing modules, database design experience and languages like php and CSS would be a great bonus.”

If you’re interested in being a sports statistician you can read another post about it here: http://blogs.ucl.ac.uk/ucl-careers/tag/stats/.  You also join the Royal Statistical Society – they have an active group of sports statisticians which holds regular meetings. Like David, you could find something through networking.

I know what you did this summer

To commemorate the period during World War Two when Queen Mary College was evacuated to King’s College, Cambridge, eight students are invited to spend four weeks at King’s College during the Long Vacation Term.  In addition, one student is also invited to spend four weeks at St John’s College, Cambridge. This year, Martyna Sikora, a 2nd year Maths student from Queen Mary took part in the scheme and here she tells us how she found the experience.

One big reason that I wanted to take part in the Cambridge Long Vacation Scholarship was that I wanted to work on something very specific – a new forecasting mechanism called prediction markets. I had become fascinated by it while reading about different applications of probability and economics. I soon found a project involving just what I was looking for, at the Institute for Manufacturing which sits within Cambridge University. Following advice from my academic advisor, I contacted the Institute to ask for a possibility of a meeting. Luckily, after a call from a PhD student, I was offered an opportunity to work at the Institute with him provided I got the scholarship. I was therefore even more determined to submit a strong application to the scheme! So I had my academic advisor and the QM Careers service  check it over for me before I submitted it, and I’m sure that was a key reason my application was successful and I got the funding!

The scholarship included: accommodation at King’s College; money to cover travelling expenses to and from Cambridge; together with maintenance during the 4 week period (to buy food etc). Furthermore, I had reading rights access to the Cambridge University Library and borrowing rights at King’s College Library. However, I spent my time mainly at the Institute for Manufacturing working on my project with my supervisor, the PhD student. As a result, I gained experience doing professional research and working mainly unsupervised. This scholarship also enabled me to get an insight into what an academic career might be like and to gain organisational skills. Every Friday I met with my supervisor to discuss the progress of my research and my ideas about designing a prediction market and at the end of scholarship I had to present my results among people working in the Distributed Information and Automation Laboratory. Consequently, I improved my communication and presentation skills.

Kings College organized various activities for Queen Mary students. We had the chance to go to the roof of King’s College Chapel, discover the history and interesting traditions of this place and talk to PhD students about their careers. Apart from this, we went to see a play during the Shakespeare festival and I even tried punting a few times. I also took advantage of having a Cambridge Student Card and went to see other colleges including Trinity College, Clare College and St John’s College.

Applying for this scholarship was a great idea. Although I was spending my time studying, it was on a project that I found really interesting and I learnt many new skills while I was at Cambridge. The best bit for me was being able to spend time in the Institute for Manufacturing, working with people who were interested in the same things I was. So I can’t recommend enough to anyone thinking of applying for the scheme to do their research beforehand: contact different departments at Cambridge and get talking to academics. They’ll most likely welcome the extra help on their projects, especially if you can show them how enthusiastic you are about their work.

More than numbers – what you can do with a Maths degree

Many maths students enter into their  degree programme without fully knowing exactly what it is that they would ultimately like to do after completion whilst at the same time being aware that there are a wide range of options available to them.

What does your degree provide you with?

A maths degree provides students with a wide range of skills such as:

  • logical thinking
  • analytical thinking
  • problem solving
  • high level quantification skills
  • numerical skills.

This is in addition to the skills gained by a degree programme in general such as communication, team-work and time management skills. Maths graduates have the benefit of developing both numerical and non-numerical skills which means that there is a wider range of opportunities and career options to choose from. Due to the open-ended nature of a maths degree, you will have built upon some of the transferable skills that are important to many aspects of employment, therefore making you very employable.

maths 2

So what can I do?

Essentially, as a maths graduate you have the option of pursuing a career that caters to the numerical side or the non-numerical side of your degree.

  • Many maths graduates choose to use the numerical side and go into finance, engineering or statistics
  • Others choose the non-numerical side and seek careers in other areas such as sales, HR or administration
  • Another primary area for maths graduates is within statistics, working for the government, commerce or industry
  • Other options include planning and forecasting of various sorts, such as meteorology, logistics or transport planning, as well as careers in quantity surveying, IT, consultancy, insurance and actuarial work.
  • Another option is to go into teaching, this would require further study but it’s a fulfilling career that offers both tangible and intangible awards. With a current shortage of mathematics teachers, there is a wealth of opportunities available within teaching.

In conclusion, there are many things that you can do with your maths degree!

Have a look at the prospects website for more options with your subject: www.prospects.ac.uk/options_mathematics.htm

Also have a read of some of the detailed career profiles available on the Maths careers website: www.mathscareers.org.uk/career-profiles/

Novlet Levy

Careers Information Assistant, QM Careers & Enterprise Centre

Diversity in STEM Careers

There has been a wave of concern recently regarding the way in which women and girls are highly under-represented in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) careers. The lack of women within this sector has been the basis of contentious argument and many initiatives have been set up on the back of this. Nevertheless, it is also important that we continue to look at the bigger picture and remember that the lack of diversity within STEM careers exceeds further than a gender issue, since disabled people, ethnic minorities and socially disadvantaged groups are also marginalised in this industry – more significantly within the most senior roles within the sector.

A report conducted by the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) highlights some very insightful facts and figures in regards to the lack of diversity within STEM for example:

  • Only 8% of British engineers are women and only 13% of all STEM jobs are occupied by women
  • For STEM subjects, 94% of UK national physics, chemistry and mathematics academics are white
  • Physical and mathematical sciences degree courses show significantly low levels of socioeconomic diversity which has decreased since 2004.

Why is diversity in STEM important?

Other than the grounds of fairness and equal opportunity, there are many other reasons why diversity within STEM on a wider scale, is worth pursuing. For one thing, it is important that as a society, we develop and make use of the talents which can be found in different sections of our societies. This is especially if we are to continue to encourage the sciences to grow and excel on a global scale. In addition, the potential benefits to businesses cannot be undermined as a lack of diversity essentially can mean a loss of talent. With diversity comes a mix of ideas, skills and approaches and therefore it is important to have diversity if we would like to continue to have creative, innovative and effective working environments within STEM.

There is a long way to go before ensuring a fully diverse STEM sector but there are indeed steps that can be taken in the hopes of reaching this goal much sooner. In a climate where science and technology is used to improve lives and develop the economy, it is essential that barriers are broken down enabling the most capable candidates to shine.

The good news is that this issue is gaining increasingly more coverage in the media and in the popular conscience, hopefully making it more and more possible for barriers to be broken down. If you have a love for STEM subjects, don’t let your gender, race, religion, social background or physical capability stop you from pursuing a career in this sector. And remember, if you need advice on any issues you face with employment, you can always talk to one of our Careers Consultants.

What can I do with a Maths degree?

QMUL student, Khadhija Khanom, tells us about her experience of figuring out what she would like to do with her Maths degree. picforblog edit

“My name is Khadhija Khanom; I am a part time third year student studying MSc Mathematics (BSc with integrated Masters). I am of Bangladeshi descent and I am the second female in my entire family to pursue further education.  I went to Mulberry School for Girls and Sixth form before attending QMUL.

After my A levels, The Brokerage Citylink, a charitable organisation based in the City of London helped me secure a Summer Internship with UBS Investment Bank working in Equities Research. I was working alongside senior business analysts in a very dynamic and challenging environment.

After doing my internship I still was not 100% sure what I wanted to do; I was advised to go to the Careers & Enterprise Centre by my Advisor. I went to my appointment with a Careers Consultant fully equipped with a piece of paper writing down all my work experience, what I enjoy and what I definitely don’t. I spoke for a while with a very friendly and understanding consultant. She helped me narrow down the rather large network of career possibilities that were going through my head at that time.

Mathematics is a subject that can open many pathways to careers from Research to Teaching to Banking. And I wanted to be greedy and try and do every possible job until I could secure the one I truly wanted. And she said that, it was ok to do that, there is a very small probability that I would strike gold on my first ever job. She advised me to volunteer, join societies and be active during my time at University. So I nominated myself and got elected as Course Representative, became a Mathematics Ambassador both for two years and volunteered as a mentor for PASS (Peer Assisted Study Support which is a student run mentoring scheme) and later co-ran the scheme myself.

In my third year and I applied to become an upReach associate and through the help and support of upReach as well as the Careers Centre, I was successful in gaining a place in the Summer Diversity Internship Programme (SDIP) with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office through the Civil Service Fast Stream (CSFS).

There is a substantial amount of help available in the Careers & Enterprise Centre, including application/CV advice, hand-outs such as ‘Understanding Interview Questions’, and even practice numerical and verbal reasoning tests. The list really does go on. Having used all these resources, I was invited for a telephone interview. I booked a Practice Interview with Jeff Riley, another Consultant and also coincidentally a Careers Consultant for the Mathematical Sciences department. After a grilling hour of why I want the internship and who I am, Jeff made me realise I wanted this internship more than ever. I felt ready for my actual telephone interview. And now I am one of 15 interns hoping to start summer 2014 by working with some very important people with the Government.

I believe that I would not have gotten an internship with Foreign Office with CSFS; a very competitive program with thousands of applicants if it hadn’t been for the support I had been given throughout my time at University; from my Advisor Prof Oliver Jenkinson, the Student Support Officer and of course the Careers & Enterprise Centre.”