University of Oxford – Chris Dean

Research placement with Prof Christina Goldschmidt and Dr James Martin

Nature of the internship: 

Research placement at the University of Oxford with Professor Christina Goldschmidt and Dr James Martin

What did the internship involve? 

The current outcome of this work is a proof of a conjecture stated here. At the present time, Christina, James, and I are working on a paper for this proof which we hope to submit shortly. Furthermore, many ideas were generated on problems involving random matchings which I hope to pursue with Christina and James once the paper is submitted. On top of the research produced which will contribute to my PhD thesis, this placement has built a long-lasting collaboration for me which I believe will be extremely useful if I pursue academia in the future.

Outside of my research, I was able to attend the Oxford probability and junior probability seminars, even being given the opportunity to present a talk at the latter. These were fantastic opportunities to broaden my knowledge in my subject area, and learn to speak about my work in a friendly environment. I plan to attend both of these seminars in the future. Outside of maths, I joined a running group with other PhD students in the department which was (exhausting!) fun and something I had not done seriously before. I cannot be thankful enough to how welcoming not only my placement supervisors were, but the entire probability department at Oxford. I believe there is much crossover between the probability groups at Oxford and Bath, and would fully recommend future collaborations, such as placements.

Advice to PhD students considering a placement/secondment:

  • Be transparent to your supervisors about your thoughts on doing a placement and what you would like out of your placement. Your supervisors will have good insight for where your project needs to be before going on a placement. Furthermore, they will have significantly more academic connections than you, so they will be able to give you opportunities that you may have not considered yourself (indeed this was the case for me!).
  • Be transparent to your placement/secondment team about what you hope to accomplish out of your placement. For example, if you wish to continue collaborating after your placement, have this conversation sooner rather than later!
  • (Placement only) Don’t worry too much if you are not making much research progress. Since a placement counts towards your PhD, it can become stressful if you are not making much progress in your research. However, if you are in a new area this is completely normal, since it will take time to learn the fundamentals you need to produce research.
  • If you have a desired career path in mind, I believe a placement/secondment is a really smart choice to make. They can give opportunities that may not have existed before. For example, an academic placement to build collaborators and strengthen an academic CV. An industrial secondment, to open job opportunities with the company you choose to work at.

Comments from Chris’ supervisor:

I believe that this placement will strengthen Chris’ CV and make him more competitive for future postdoc positions, and even for permanent positions in academia later in his career. Indeed, the subject that Chris agreed on with Christina and James is related to his previous work on Pólya urns, but also significantly different, which will allow Chris to greatly expand his area of expertise in probability. This placement was also a great opportunity to work with collaborators that are not his supervisors and that belong to another institution than Bath, which again will be a strong asset when applying for further positions in academia.


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