"I chose to study mathematics at university for two reasons. The first was because I have always enjoyed the subject and the second because I wanted to keep my future career options open. The skills you learn while studying mathematics can be applied to many disciplines, meaning that maths graduates are highly sought after by a wide range of employers. One of the things that attracted me to the degree course at Plymouth was that it allowed me to study a mixture of pure and applied courses. The pure courses gave me a good grounding in the subject (and helped satisfy my curiosity) while the applied courses taught me about how maths is used in different areas. Plymouth was particularly good in that the class sizes were relatively small and there was an emphasis on quality teaching. The lecturers operated an open-door policy and were always willing to help with problems. This contrasts with many other universities where the bulk of the teaching is assigned to graduate students.
After graduating and then going to Bath for a masters in applied maths, I returned to Plymouth to study for a PhD. My research topic was (and still is!) high intensity laser-matter interactions. This was a very exciting project to work on, since there are new laser facilities being built which will be far more powerful than any currently in existence. They will allow us to test physics theories under extreme conditions and are also likely to lead to many spin-off applications in both science and medicine. My studies required me to use many of the subjects I learnt during my degree, especially the courses in calculus and theoretical physics. The programming skills I learnt during the numerical courses also proved invaluable.
As well as being a great place to study, Plymouth was also a very good place to live. Despite being far from London and other large cities, there was always much going on - both within the university and outside it. Not only that, but it was also easy to escape to some of the amazing countryside surrounding the city. This includes both Dartmoor National Park and lots of beautiful beaches.
I now work as a researcher at Umeå University in northern Sweden. I still use the skills I learnt at Plymouth on a daily basis and I enjoy my work very much. I am grateful for the opportunities that studying mathematics has given me."
Chris Harvey was interviewed by Martin Lavelle.