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The University of Southampton
Mathematical Sciences

Alex Coombs MMath Master of Mathematics

3rd year student

Alex Coombs's Photo

As a student at Southampton studying for a STEM degree, I was offered the chance to apply for the ‘Northern Hemisphere Summer Research Scholarship’ -at the University of Auckland.

Why did you choose to come and study at Southampton?

I think what really swung it for me was the open day, where the staff seemed genuinely interested in what people had to say, and the students offered original insight into student life. Combined with being a Russell Group university, and with well-known connections to various companies and industries I was interested in, it really did seem like the best place to go.

What opportunities has studying at Southampton provided you with?

As a student at Southampton studying for a STEM degree, I was offered the chance to apply for the ‘Northern Hemisphere Summer Research Scholarship’ -at the University of Auckland.  16 students (8 from the University of Southampton and 8 from the University of Bristol) were selected and hosted in Auckland to each complete a project selected from an approved list. The project I selected was entitled ‘Post-Quantum Public-Key Cryptography’.  

The idea of the scheme - besides strengthening the relationship between the three universities - was to allow students from the two British universities to study projects that weren’t offered in their native universities.  Each student is assigned a supervisor to assist them in their project, and given access to all the resources they should require to complete their project.  Each project is different - but the majority are expected to complete a paper or a review by the end of the eight weeks.

Each student is also paid a bursary towards their flights and living costs, allowing all students to apply without having to worry too much about the financial obligations of the offer.  For the duration of the stay, each student is technically enrolled in the University of Auckland, and so has access to library services, student discount, and plenty other aspects of University life.

In summary, this scholarship essentially offers me the opportunity to travel to a country I have never been before, to study something interesting that I can’t at home, and to gain some life experience as well as something truly unique for my CV.

What is it like studying here?

I was quite surprised by how quickly I settled in and just how used to everything I became in the first few weeks. Each lecture has a different feel, so the modules feel varied. Everyone around campus is pretty easy to talk to, and it’s really easy to start a conversation with just about anyone – especially in the first few weeks!

What are you enjoying most about your course?

There’s quite a bit of variety in the maths department and on my course it’s very rare for modules to overlap too much in content. It really keeps you on your toes, and makes it easier to pay attention and keep up.

How has your time at Southampton helped you to grow as a person?

I definitely came out of my shell quite a bit! Everyone at the University is so friendly, and you get to know so many people, that you can pretty much run into friends at in any part of campus, and just around Southampton altogether. The experience has given me a lot of independence when it comes to studying and general living and I’ve learned quite a few skills that will certainly help me in the real world after uni.

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