How long have you worked at the Uni? What does your role involve?
I have worked here for nearly 7 years now, and 5 in my current role, which is based in Mathematical Sciences. Primarily, I deliver a large doctoral training and research centre called SAMBa (Statistical Applied Mathematics at Bath). As such, I work with about 75 students and 100 academics, in the department and across campus, and a bunch of industry partners and international organisations too.
Aside from that, I’m involved in a lot of projects which have spun out of SAMBa. Many involve working with developing nations, where we are helping to build capacity in mathematical skills in academic and government organisations in order to implement societal and policy interventions to improve quality of life. It’s wonderful to see the immediate impact of the training we provide for our students. I’m involved in a number of collaborative projects with stakeholders in Mongolia, where there is a huge problem with air pollution, and keeping up with all the activities and potential opportunities here is full on – though very rewarding.
I’m also part of an EPSRC grant awarded for a “Reimagining Recruitment” project, led from Bath but working across the UK to embed equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) in STEM research. It’s a joint project between Maths and Psychology, building on a lot of the good practice we have developed in SAMBa, and I’m really excited about seeing how we can expand our experience and success in delivering ED&I further.
What would you most like to achieve while at the University?
I am so proud of what we have achieved so far in SAMBa. We worked really hard during our first five years, it has paid off and I think that we are giving our graduates a great platform to do brilliant things in the future. I hope that we can achieve as much again in the next five years – although perhaps I would like to get some more rest!
I would also like our ED&I work to start delivering more broadly than within SAMBa. I feel like the maths department here is at the forefront of much of the culture change that is happening at the University at the moment, and I would like to see that attitude grow more nationally and within the University.
Name one thing that makes you feel proud to work at the University of Bath?
I love my department! It is full of the most wonderful, welcoming, passionate, and creative people. There is no way that we could have delivered what we have over the past few years without their support. I hear so many inspiring things, at both a professional and personal level, from both staff and students, and this helps me develop a wider perspective and, hopefully, become a better person.
What piece of advice would you like to give to a student?
Sometimes it is easy to forget that your time at University should be challenging. Of course no one should let things get on top of them, but the challenge is often in itself the reward. Especially as a PhD student you are supposed to be pushing new boundaries and delivering novel research. There are going to be times when nothing works and it becomes extremely frustrating and suddenly you will get a massive high when everything comes together. Being able to deal with extreme emotions is going to set you up for the rest of your life, as you will become a more resilient person. The tough times are often more valuable in the long run than the good times.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
This was an easy one - I wanted to write novels, and I still want to write novels! One day I will find the time and, more importantly, the inspiration.
What was your first job?
I volunteered at a talking newspaper service. Newspapers and magazines were read out and recorded onto cassette tapes weekly. I’d get 12 tapes and stuff them into a big rubbery envelope with a Velcro seal which scratched my hands to bits. They’d then be sent off across the country to people with visual impairments so that they could, in theory, get a week’s worth of current affairs and gossip. It seems hard to believe nowadays, but in fact the organisation is still going in a much smaller form. There used to be a big warehouse full of thousands of tapes but now there are only a few hundred subscribers.
Where is your favourite holiday destination and why?
I’m really lucky as I have been able to travel to some really amazing places in the world. I love exploring new places and finding out about the culture and the history, so I always like to try somewhere different. However, I’m probably most relaxed when I’m out and about in the UK or Europe in my camper van.
What’s your favourite book or album and why?
This is really tough for me. I like books that transport me to new places, especially fictional books set around real events. Recently I read ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara. It tells a story over many decades about four friends living in New York City. From the start I knew it was going to make me cry! It was a wonderful insight in people’s lives and loves.
When are you happiest?
In the camper van, near the sea, with a good book and a beer.
If you could meet anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be and why?
It would probably make me quite angry, but I’d like to meet some of our current politicians to try to understand what is driving some seemingly incomprehensible decisions.