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News, anecdotes and pictures from across science and engineering at UCL


Archive for the 'Mathematical & Physical Sciences' Category

Student Instagram Takeover: Mullard Space Science Laboratory Summer Event

By Peter Marron, on 22 July 2023

Join UCL Space & Climate Physics student, Eleanor (@blond_with_a_telescope) as she shows you around the activities going on at our Mullard Space Science Laboratory Summer Event!

Open Days 2023 Instagram Takeover

By Peter Marron, on 1 July 2023

Join UCL Natural Sciences student, Alexa, in our Open Days social media takeover. Alexa answers questions around her programme and shows us some of the best bits going on in the Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences, during this week’s UCL Open Days.


Student Vlog: UCL Mathematics Department Tour

By Peter Marron, on 14 April 2023

Undergraduate Mathematics student Teren takes us on a tour of the Maths department and shares her tips on some of the best places to study and hang out at our Bloomsbury campus.

Formula For A Healthy Lifestyle

By Peter Marron, on 9 February 2023

For most students, university is the first time you’ll live on your own and be constantly surrounded by people, ideas and events. As tempting as it is to join every society, make a million friends and excel academically, it’s normal to get overwhelmed by new responsibilities and neglect your health. Luckily, I have some advice on how you can balance a healthy lifestyle so you can get the most out of university whilst not burning out!

From my experience, the formula for a healthy lifestyle is:

Healthy = 35% mental + 30% physical + 30% academic + 5% professional

This is easier said than done, it took me months before I had any control over my life so don’t worry if you feel disorganised at the beginning. To help ease the chaos, below are a few tips on how you can personally maintain each element in the formula.

Mental (35%):

For me, there are two factors that manage mental health- stress relief and social life. Tips that help stress relief are:

Find a mindfulness technique that works for you

Meditation and yoga might seem pretentious but having an outlet to let out your thoughts and feelings is imperative! Personally, journaling after a tough day helps decongest my head and untangle my thoughts but for others, it’s drawing or going on long walks.

Call family, friends and loved ones!

Tips for socialising are:

  • Make the first move: As cliche as it sounds, people at university won’t talk to you unless you approach them first. Remember: everyone is in the same boat as you so don’t be shy (and don’t forget to get their socials to stay in contact)!

Physical (30%):

It’s easy to sacrifice a few hours of sleep and a workout to get a practice sheet submitted. I’m guilty of midnight instant noodles and all-nighters, but you’ll start feeling fatigue and low moods if you routinely not care for your body. My biggest tips on maintaining physical health are:

Find an exercise that you enjoy

Regularly moving your body is easy if you do something you find fun. UCL has a myriad of sports societies that you can join from football and rowing to ultimate frisbee and Aikido. I took up Krav Maga, which was both stress relief and socialising!

Set a sleeping deadline 

After a certain time, it’s more productive to sleep than to churn out low quality work. Set a strict time where you’ll stop studying and go to bed to get the rest you need.

Eat at least one fruit and one vegetable a day

This sounds patronising but it’s difficult to eat nutritiously when you’re super busy. Your immunity system will thank you for eating at least one fruit or vegetable with each meal.

Academic (30%): 

MAPS degrees are exam-focused so it’s essential to make sure you’re learning effectively throughout the year. My tips are:

Develop a study routine

Dedicating specific times of the week to studying ensures productivity. The best structure for me was setting a module per day (eg. Analysis on Monday, Algebra on Tuesday etc.) but figure out what’s best for you.

Establish a note taking method

How content is taught at university is different from secondary school so it’s important to organise how you’ll absorb and make future resources from lectures, lecture notes and tutorials. This will make revising easier!


Professional (5%):

This is something you don’t need to focus on when you start university but if you’re interested in starting your professional development, my biggest tip would be:

Take advantage of UCL’s opportunities!

UCL has so many opportunities to develop your career- from MAPS-specific career newsletters, volunteering roles and profession-focused societies such as Business Society, you can start developing employable skills, gaining experience and deciding what you want to pursue.

Overall, when life gets tough, don’t feel pressured to keep up your perfect routine. Everyone’s healthy lifestyle is unique to them and constantly changing depending on deadlines, personal obligations, finances and other factors. At the end of the day, the goal is to just do your best at university. I hope my tips offer some guidance on how to survive first year and I wish you the best on your university journey!

Written by: Teren Lee, UCL Mathematics

If you like Maths at A Level, then you’ll love studying it at UCL because…”

By Peter Marron, on 9 February 2023

An A-Level to University guide on all things Maths

Have you looked at maths degree modules and had no idea what any of it means? Compared to A Levels, university modules can sound terrifyingly vague. What in the world will you study in Methods? But fear not, this guide will break down how the A Level Maths topics you enjoy link to the modules you can study at UCL, so you can tailor your UCL degree to what you like learning. Taking a look at the mandatory modules I studied in first year:

If you like… well all of A Level Maths, you’d enjoy Mathematical Methods!

Mathematical Methods (or the shortened name ‘Methods’) is a continuation of almost all your favourite A Level Maths and Further Maths topics like vectors, polar coordinates, integration, differentiation and more! By balancing new ideas with revision of familiar concepts, UCL structures this course to make studying undergraduate maths friendly and never monotonous. 

If you like sequences, series and proofs, you’d enjoy Analysis!

Analysis 1 and 2 dissect the reasoning behind classic maths topics such as calculus and functions. Building on A Level proof types like contradiction and induction, new notation is introduced to prove fundamental ideas around limits and differentiation. These concepts are standard in any undergraduate maths degree but UCL’s well-structured, supportive framework means that you’ll understand the reasoning every step of the way. This module is a favourite amongst most students as it uses clever reasoning to provide dimension to ideas you already know, making the content feel relatable. So if you’ve always asked why in class (why is the limit of 1/x = 0 as x tends to infinity? Why are we able to differentiate this curve?) and love the certainty of maths, Analysis at UCL is perfect for you!

If you like matrices, functions and set theory, you’d enjoy Algebra!

If Analysis focuses on the fine print, Algebra’s about the big picture. Algebra 1 and 2

discusses what links mathematical objects (such as matrices and vectors) together – what can we say about the way these groups behave? The first year centres around the underlying complexity of different linear equations like functions and matrices. This unlocks greater depth to the ‘simple’ A Level topics you know to create cohesion between Algebra and other mandatory modules. Algebra 1 and 2 are the modules I enjoy the most because its straightforward concepts are easy to conceptualise. This makes the ideas grounded and logical, enabling them to feel accessible and engaging.

UCL’s mandatory modules build a strong mathematical base which allows you to confidently explore any area you choose, inviting you to shape your own education so you study what you’re interested in. This personalisation is provided through the wide range of UCL maths degree programmes and modules you can pick. So, looking at the modules on offer:

If you like modelling, differential equations and conservation of energy, choose Applied Maths!

This mandatory module for Mathematics BSc students provides a great foundation on how maths is utilised in real life. Using ideas like second order differential equations and conservation of energy, this module applies pure maths concepts to build different population and oscillation models.

If you prefer statistics, why not pursue Mathematics and Statistical Science BSc?

This combined-studies degree allows you to take three Statistics modules in First Year:

  •   Introduction to Probability and Statistics
  •   Introduction to Practical Statistics
  •   Further Probability and Statistics

With an emphasis on probability, distribution and coding in R, these modules incorporate data from a range of fields such as astronomy, medicine and finance to show theory in action!

And if you prefer less maths-focused topics, check out the other degree programmes you can take at UCL:

With the cohesive structure and the flexibility to individualise, UCL is the perfect place for you to study maths depending on what you enjoyed at A Levels!

You can visit our module information page for more details on the syllabi of each module.

You can find more details on different degree programme structuresere. on the UCL Mathematics website.

Written by: Teren Lee, UCL Mathematics

Student Vlog: UCL Science and Technology Studies students’ Christmas wishes

By Peter Marron, on 21 December 2022

To mark the beginning of the festive season, UCL STS students talk about their Christmas wishes – the issues they’d like to solve (using science and technology). What is your Christmas wish?

How has technology shaped Christmas?

By Peter Marron, on 20 December 2022

Christmas, a beloved tradition for many families around the world, which has held a special place in the hearts of Christian families since the 9th Century, has now become a universal tradition, allowing different cultures to adopt the holiday and shape it as per their wishes. However, with the advent of the industrial revolution and its associated technologies, it has evolved into an increasingly non-denominational event with a decidedly commercial nature, thanks to advances in manufacturing, shipping logistics, and marketing, all brought by technological change.

The mass production of consumer goods has forever changed the tradition of gift-giving on Christmas (and other holidays or festive occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, Bat Mitzvahs, etc.).

Gone are the hand-crafted trinkets and ornaments of the past – the modern Christmas relies on a steady flow of commodities from manufacturer to consumer, making products that were once expensive and rare cheaper and more widely available than ever before. For instance, in the past, there was a practice among the wealthy to give citrus fruits on the holidays. It was a symbol of status – citrus fruits are out of season in the winter, and must be imported to a rainy, cool place like Britain. It was a sign that the giver of such a gift had the means to afford such a luxury. However, when considered in our modern context, this practice seems quaint. In fact, it is quite easy to picture a child’s face, full of disappointment while receiving a citrus fruit when all they really wanted was a PlayStation.

Furthermore, the wide availability of these commodities is facilitated by the vast, somewhat reliable network of modern shipping and logistics. Planes, trains, trucks, and powered boats have made access to merchandise much quicker and less expensive. These advances in manufacturing and distribution enabled by technology have led to cheaper, more plentiful consumer goods, and modern Christmas is changed because of it. In some sense, it is a positive change – revolutions in these sectors have made it easier and cheaper to bring joy to a loved one, awarding it with inclusivity. However, the other side of the coin is the negative effects these technologies bring – the rapid increase of pollution and global warming due to the methods in which mass production of goods is executed, amongst other undesirable effects.

The current state of Christmas is inextricable from the technology it is built upon – it would look foreign to us without the mass production of consumer goods, the vehicles and manpower used to distribute them, and the platforms on which they are sold to us. Even the inability to track Santa Claus’ journey across the globe seems rather antiquated. This demonstrates the inevitable social shaping of technology and how technology has reshaped Christmas (along with perhaps every other tradition known to the human being).

Written by: Andréa Lekare, UCL Science & Technology Studies

Student Blog: All I want for Christmas is µ (mu) – Christmas Gifts for Any Mathematician!

By Peter Marron, on 19 December 2022

Are you stuck trying to find a gift for the mathematicians in your life? As much as we love t-shirts with cheesy mathematical puns, it’s great to get something more intellectually satisfying for any mathematician you know this holiday season. Whether you’re passionate about numbers or know someone who loves solving problems, here are some of my favourite gifts that will make any prospective mathematician happy!

1) Maths Books

The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas

The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus: The Mathematics of Christmas

These are great presents for anyone who wants to build their mathematical knowledge and venture into new areas of mathematics. Ever wanted to know how to use game theory to figure out who you should buy Christmas gifts for? Well, ‘The Indisputable Existence of Santa Claus’ written by UCL’s very own Dr Hannah Fry and Dr Thomas Oleron-Evans solves that exact question as well as all other mathematical Christmas conundrums (including the metabolic rate of Santa Claus!).

If these popular science topics pique your interest, definitely check out the rest of Dr Hannah Fry’s novels such as ‘The Mathematics of Love’ which finds patterns in romance and ‘Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine’ which tackles the good, bad and ugly of algorithms. If novels are too long for your liking, why not gift issues of Chalkdust magazine, a bi-annual magazine tackling all things mathematical? Founded by UCL Alumni Rafael Prieto Curie and published in UCL, each issue uses different areas of maths to solve real life problems so there’ll be something interesting for anyone who’s mathematically curious. Click here to check out some of their articles and order a copy!

2) Puzzles

Mathematicians are driven by a love of solving problems so gifting any sort of puzzle will definitely be fun. From chess sets and sudoku books, to mathematical board games like Decrypto and mechanical puzzles, the possibilities are endless. I’d particularly recommend puzzle books by Raymond Smullyman as they blend recreational maths problems with different fields of logic and set theory, the perfect brain teaser for on-the-go or a relaxed afternoon.

3) Klein Bottles

Klein bottles are key shapes in topology since the neck of the bottle twists into itself such that there’s no outside or inside to the shape. This topological surface isn’t actually possible to make in three dimensions, but 3D approximations are fun gifts as bottle openers, water bottles, lamps and decorative places!

4) Maths Pun utensils

No mathematician can deny the fun of mathematical puns, especially when they are in a practical application. Think ‘proof is in the pudding’ pudding bowls where mathematical proofs are written at the bottom, or a π pie plate. This will definitely put a smile on their face.


I hope this short list gave you some inspiration for the types of presents you can get to develop someone’s passion for maths. Regardless of what you give, what we value most is time with loved ones and a well-deserved break so I have no doubt that anything mathematical will be appreciated.

Happy Holidays!

Written by: Teren Lee, UCL Mathematics

Student Vlog: Day of the Dead – what is it and where does it come from?

By Peter Marron, on 25 October 2022

In the run up to Halloween, UCL Science & Technology Studies student Andrea explains the Day of the Dead, its significance in Mexican culture and how technology helps to connect with traditions.

Student Vlog: Tricks to treat your fear of Maths

By Peter Marron, on 15 October 2022

Do you have math phobia? Well, you’re not alone! To celebrate the spooky season, UCL Mathematics student Teren asks UCL students to share their tricks to treat the fear of maths. Happy Halloween!