Case Study: Applying Maths to Industry

Posted on: 31 May 2020 by Dr. Ewan Russell in Graduate stories

This year we introduced a new module to our final year mathematics students, which has proved to be a huge success.


MATH390 Professional Projects and Employability in Mathematics, has been collaboratively developed by Dr. Ewan Russell a lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Careers and Employability, and our employer partners 

The main aim of the module is to develop student’s employability skills by giving them the opportunity to apply their academic skills to industry. Projects are set by employers and students are expected to work in groups and communicate results back in both written reports and group presentations. 

Before group work commences, The Careers and Employability Service provide useful training on commercial awareness, video interview techniques, and job applications to enable students to explore various skills and their own professional competencies. 

Reflection is a key element of the module and students are required to write short reflective pieces frequently as part of the module assessment. These pieces ask students to consider their approaches to the tasks and identify skills that may have developed through engagement with module activities. 

The Projects 

Two of our employer partners, The Very Group and BAE systems set their own tasks for students in which the primary objective was to communicate mathematical work in a manner suitable to the client.  Students worked with input from both employers who acted as the domain experts.   

The Very Group set an analytics problem which asked groups to identify important traits of high-value customers. The client provided data and students had to investigate trends and present recommendations.  

Very were so impressed with the success of the project and the presentations they received back that they offered the winning group a day experience at their head office. 

"We were delighted by the range of recommendations that came from the groups. We saw a variety of team dynamics, approaches, and suggestions but all combining commercial thinking with data analysis. Perfect! We were so pleased with the quality that we offered the winning team a day experience at The Very Group, hoping to give a taste of what it’s like to work at a large organisation, the various career paths Mathematics can take you, and a real business problem to solve for." (Employer partner representative, The Very Group) 

BAE Systems asked students to investigate methods for identifying suspected cases of money laundering from a large data set. BAE set up an online channel for discussions, file sharing, and detection attempts. 

Student impact 

Our students have provided positive feedback on the module, they’ve identified a number of important benefits of studying it when compared to more traditional mathematics modules and feel that it boosted confidence and prepared them for graduate employment. 

“I had no experience in creating reports and presentations for external clients. MATH390 has taught me valuable skills needed to be successful in a job when I graduate. The University would benefit greatly from many more modules such as this.” (student comment).

Very Group Site Visit Experience Day 

After producing a winning presentation, one group of students were invited to spend the day at The Very Group head office. They had the opportunity to meet with Very’s early career talent partner to discuss their future after graduation, take part in a mock interview, and meet with a number of different people from various roles. 

The winning group at The Very Group:

We never knew so many different roles existed for maths graduates. One that stood out the most to us was the credit risk team who would look into fraudulent customers which sounded so interesting. We also got to speak with current graduates and ask them about their experience with working at Very and what their jobs as graduate analysts entailed. (student comment) 

Keywords: Case studies.