Bedford School; Cambridge University; Oxford University
9 O-levels, 3 A-levels, 2 S-levels, BA, M.Math, D.Phil
Computer programmer (x 3); University lecturer; Civil servant
I’m self-employed, so I work for different people on different projects. At the moment I’m working with a team at a research lab in Bristol on new ideas in data science.
A professional mathematician. Also cats.
I live in Cheltenham with my wife, two cats, three fish and several frogs (fish and frogs in the pond). I recently retired from full-time mathematics and now work ad hoc on problems that interest me. I volunteer for the professional body for mathematicians where I do a number of different things aimed at getting out the word about what mathematics and mathematicians can do to help solve problems.
How I Use Maths In My Job:
My work involves helping people to use mathematics to understand the world around them. In many cases that means that they have data — often lots of it — and want to know what’s going on and how they should act as a result. So I use algebra to describe data; probability to describe the way we expect data to arrive, and statistics to decide what is meaningful about the data: whether one thing described by data is different from another.
I help people use maths to solve real-world problems.
My Typical Day
I work two days a week in a team of other mathematicians helping to solve hard real-world problems.
Life is rather odd at the moment. I work in a shed at the end of my garden and keep in touch with my team by video. Normally, I would go to an office in Bristol and meet the team face-to-face. We start a project with talks from the people with the problems, and try to make sure we know what the problem is in mathematical terms. Then it’s a mixture of each of us thinking hard on our own, trying out various ideas; then informal sessions when we all put our ideas together, no matter how odd they may seem, and try to work out what the best lines are to work on. Then we go back to thinking!
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Mathematician; Christian; husband
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
H.S.M. Coxeter's book on geometry; my college tutor
What's your favourite use for maths in everyday life?
Mathematics is the basis for the security of the internet.
What did you think about Maths when you were in school?
It was my second favourite subject.
What did you want to be after you left school?
At first, an author. I didn't realise "mathematician" was a career!
Were you ever in trouble at school?
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
Who is your favourite singer or band?
What's your favourite food?
Tell us a joke.
Why did the chicken cross the Mobius Strip? To get to the same side!