If you’re thinking about studying maths at Imperial, you might be wondering what kind of problems first year studenst are supposed to solve in the tutorials. Last term I was a graduate teaching assistant (GTA) for a course Probability and Statistics I. Let’s see an example of a question posed by the lecturer, prof. Emma McCoy.
Imagine that n people, including yourself and a friend, are seated at random in a row of n chairs. What is the probability that you sit next to your friend?
This problem is easier than you think, especially after following the lectures. I’ll explain how to tackle this problem here.
The mission of my life is to show people surprising ways of using maths. However, today I’ll make an exception: I’ll talk about an example of maths abuse.
Surely you’ve heard that tomorrow we have the Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year. Even restaurants and shops all over the UK become almost charities by offering great deals (I can’t believe I just linked you to the Mirror!) to make this day a bit brighter for us, customers – I’m sure they do it solely out of goodness of their hearts, without any profit…You might also have heard that it was scientifically proven and that this date is found using a mathematical formula.
Let’s face it: doing a PhD isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. The process can be painful and annoying, and at some point you’re probably going to get completely stuck. If you’ve ever done any research, you definitely know what I’m talking about.
There’s something you need to do, usually some task that was supposed to be easy – a toy example, an almost standard code, a “quick” experiment to check your hypothesis. And here you are, spending long hours, days, weeks, even months, not even closer to solving your problem. You’ve tried everything, used all possible sources you could find, but this devil isn’t giving up.
While for undergrads university means plenty of tests and homework, PhD students spend long hours marking their work. If you’re the one submitting solutions, these are ten ways to annoy the marker.
- Write your solutions in random places of the page. Don’t waste any space – make sure that this little gap in the middle of question 1 is filled with your answer to question 3.
- Use a pencil or, even better, a red pen. Don’t forget about correction fluid! Surely the instructions to write only in black or blue were just a joke.
- Provide a few answers to the same question, with a comment: “Choose the correct one”.
You have your undergraduate degree, you’re about to finish your masters and you aren’t sure what to do next. Get a proper job or maybe become an eternal student and apply for a PhD? I opted for the latter and so far I don’t regret (ok, I do regret sometimes, but more about it later).
Doing a PhD is something between studying and working, which surprised me. I expected a similar experience to my previous degrees. I thought I would still study, just the subjects might get harder and more detailed. I was so wrong!
If you want to pursue a PhD in order to explore your area, then I’d discourage you from this decision.
Until recently I had no troubles to explain what I was studying; I was just an average Maths student. I could predict the reaction of a person informed about this fact: “How can you do that? I’ve always been hopeless at Maths. And I think teaching is boring.” Things got much more complicated since I have started PhD studies at Mathematics of Planet Earth (just to clarify: not all mathematicians end up teaching in schools!). First reaction is usually the question used as a title to this article. After a brief explanation that I am learning how to use Maths in climate and weather predictions, I just get a reassuring statement: “I know that this whole climate change thing is very dangerous/rubbish”.