Mathematics was Sally Cockayne's favourite subject at school. The rewarding feeling after solving a problem and its logical nature meant it was the first bit of homework she would work on. Without an immediate career in mind, Sally wanted to go to university to further develop her expertise and skills, by pursuing a subject she is passionate about with diverse career prospects.
“Studying Maths opens a lot of doors in terms of career opportunities, as Maths graduates can be highly sought after.”
The campus and facilities offered at the University of Reading had a large influence on Sally's decision to study BSc Mathematics at Reading.
“I really enjoy the rural aspect of the large, green campus as it feels more homely to me. The amount of outdoor space together with modern buildings such as Reading Students' Union and the library really appealed.”
Array of opportunities
Our range of Mathematics courses can be tailored to meet your interests and enable you to develop skills that are desired by employers; including mathematical computing, communication skills and teamwork. This flexibility and the teaching of skills tailored to the requirements of industry has benefited Sally.
"As well as maths knowledge, the course has increased my personal skills. One of our core modules, Professional Skills for Mathematicians has helped with items like presenting, building your online presence and other key areas to help us get a job.
"We can also take credits outside of the Department, such as in business, law and education. This year I'm taking a criminology module, which I enjoy having the opportunity to study, and have since started to consider roles in criminal intelligence as an analyst."
Now in her final year of study, Sally's final year has been different to previous - with in-person teaching limited by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Sally is buoyant about the blended learning model of face-to-face and online teaching and the efforts made by the Department to support her.
"The lecturers have been really helpful, putting a lot of time and effort into producing comprehensive lecture videos. Staff in the Department have been friendly and supportive, and encourage us to ask questions be this online or in our in-person tutorials. They are always willing to do one-to-one meetings if you are struggling with a particular issue."
As Sally looks ahead to the future, she has appreciated the added flexibility provided by the blended learning model.
“In some ways, it's more convenient having lectures online as you can attend when it suits you rather than being timetabled into a specific slot. This extra flexibility is appreciated particularly as I apply for graduate roles, as I can fit it around assessment days and interviews.”
Securing a placement
All our degrees have the option of a placement, which can help to strengthen employability prospects and provide valuable work-related skills to complement the course. The Department has a dedicated Placement Coordinator to help students, like Sally, work on their applications and identify companies with vacancies. Sally secured a placement at the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and was excited to grow her confidence as well as her networking and communication skills.
"I was over the moon to get the role at GSK. I worked in their Research and Development Site as a student statistician, and was based in the Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls (CMC) Statistics department which focused on drug development to treat respiratory conditions and HIV.”
While at GSK Sally took advantage of opportunities provided both by the role and outside of it, allowing her to finish the year with lasting memories and, crucially, a wider skill-set and practical experience.
“The expertise of the team at GSK is very broad and having the chance to work with so many people in such a large company was a real highlight.
"During the placement, I learned how to prioritise and work in different environments, and how to do so effectively with varied deadlines. At GSK I was able to apply real-life data in an office environment alongside a range of highly skilled statisticians, which has really boosted my confidence.
"A main part of my role was programming in statistical software called SAS. I used this daily to perform statistical analysis and generate results, which also developed my coding ability. A lot of jobs I'm applying for now require coding skills and I'm also applying this to some of my University work.
"There were lots of opportunities outside of the role as well, such as the chance to become a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Ambassador. Here I was able to support events like A level work experience week, plus science shows which welcomed huge amounts of students on-site for us to inspire them with science and talk about the range of roles available in STEM.
"I'd 100% recommend a placement for the skills you learn and the range of people you can meet."
Looking to the future
Approaching the end of her degree at Reading, Sally feels the placement has been useful in showing the type of role she'd like to work in after graduating, but she is not ruling out other areas that have caught her interest during the course.
“I'm really interested in the pharmaceutical industry, as it's relevant to the skills I've learnt and the experiences I've had. Something in crime and intelligence would also be great. Anything with an analyst role and data-driven would suit me!"
Reflecting on her experiences, Sally has some advice for students who may be considering studying Maths at Reading.
"Do what you enjoy! Reading is a great university that cares about you and will help you decide what direction you want to take, whatever area of maths interests you. If you've got the ambition and drive I'd highly recommend it. I've thoroughly enjoyed my university experience and would recommend it to anyone considering studying Maths at Reading.”