Ten Things I Learnt from my MSc…

… by Kevin / from Hong Kong / MSc Computational Applied Mathematics / PG (2019 Graduate)

My name is Kevin, I had completed an undergraduate degree in maths at Warwick before pursuing a Masters in Computational Applied Mathematics at Edinburgh (2018-19). Now I’m doing a PhD in Medical Informatics at the Usher Institute in Edinburgh.

Here are the 10 things I learnt during my MSc programme.

  1. Lecturers are people too

A Masters is a great opportunity, should you seize it. Small classes from 5-30 students allow more interactions with lecturers compared with classes of 300, as was common in my undergrad. Make use of office hours as well, where you can dive into a topic of your choice; transforming something you are unsure to a forte. Remember that lecturers are experts in their field and have a wealth of knowledge that you can chat about.

  1. Students can be teachers

Most likely, you will meet other students who have studied other subjects and have experiences that you don’t have. Masters programmes often bring together many who have specialised in different fields, so everyone has something they can share and learn from peers. Furthermore, the exchange of ideas outside class is a chance to immerse yourself spontaneously into a topic.

  1. University is not just studying

“Education, education, education”; that is not to say “study, study, study”. Education comes in many forms and non-stop studying will wear most people out. There are many student societies run by students for students, this still applies to postgrads and undergrads, you could try a new skill and meet some new faces. There are lots to do and see around the city of Edinburgh.

  1. To enjoy the city

Especially come August, there an international festival of culture: the Fringe. Alongside the Fringe there is “The International Festival of …” you name it. World-renowned acts across every discipline descend to your doorsteps; in the midst of writing your dissertation, take some time to explore the amazing music, food, culture, movies, arts, and much more. This overflow of culture also fills Edinburgh throughout the year, there is never a quiet month.

  1. Edinburgh is walking distance

In such a magnificent city, students can stretch their budgets and legs by simply walking everywhere. Edinburgh is very walkable; from the Meadows, everywhere is only a stone’s throw away. You will soon be accustomed to the street hiking of Edinburgh, then they become part of the charm of the city and the rolling streets make for a magnificent sight, as do the architecture of Old Town.

  1. Studying at Edinburgh is more than Edinburgh

After you’ve been up Arthur’s Seat, Carlton Hill, and Blackford Hill and down the Royal Mile, you might want to explore further with public transport. From Waverley, other parts of Scotland is never far away: Glasgow, Dundee, St. Andrews, Stirling, Aberdeen. Student tours are in abundance if you want to travel with others and not worry about transport. Also, don’t miss out on the highlands and islands; some fabulous scenery outside of the city.

  1. Edinburgh is world-class

“The University of Edinburgh is a world-class university” I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it truly is. As much it is the people who form the community, the environment and facilities are also world-class. In the main library are lots of amazing books, but did you know about uCreate Studio? Housed in the library are multimedia facilities: 3D printers, VR headsets, poster printers and all the software to go with it. If you’re into music, there are the newly fitted practice rooms that students from any department can enjoy; the Reid School of Music recently got the prestigious All-Steinway School status.

  1. Mathematics is multi-dimensional

Coming from different viewpoints, each branch of maths will continuously branch out further. For example, I had studied linear algebra and PDEs as an undergrad, but there were many aspects of numerical linear algebra and numerical PDEs that were new and interesting. Computational mathematics makes use of computers for more than just searching in Stack Overflow and WolframAlpha.

  1. Mathematics is not arithmetic

From my experience, mathematics is more about logic than it is about numbers. You might not learn how to count but might learn about countable numbers. Learning about the fundamentals that underpin the examples is much more important than the example itself. Studying maths will foster a thinking process that is useful in many walks of life.

  1. A final word on studying maths.

“Maths is not a spectator sport” as my tutor would say; so just do it! Reading and listening alone is not enough, try to work through proofs and examples from start to finish. Also, memorising and understanding every definition, every intricacy and every detail is important to building a strong foundation. Most of all: enjoy it!