Mathematics at Cambridge

Sasha studies Mathematics at Queens’ College, Cambridge as a current first year.

1. What is your course and where do you study it?

I spoke to Sasha Glendinning, a first-year at Queens’, about how she has been finding studying mathematics this year. Prior to Cambridge, Sasha came from state comprehensives in Huddersfield and is currently using her skills as Treasurer on Queens’ JCR. Sasha is committed to widening participation across different underrepresented groups, especially getting more women into STEM and other male-dominated subjects like her own.

2. What does your course entail?

Maths at Cambridge is an intense, yet dynamic subject, offering a broad and flexible degree as you progress throughout the course. For, first years like Sasha, modules are compulsory as they are important to introduce students to the fundamentals of higher mathematics, as you study two courses, pure and applied mathematics.

3. What is your favourite part of the course?

Sasha’s favourite module so far has been differential equations. Whilst aspects of the course can be challenging, Sasha thanks the supportive team of supervisors at Queens’ who have been instrumental in aiding her progress and clarifying issues she has had within topics.

Maths is an intensive course, with two lectures a day, 6 days a week. Most of Sashas time is spent working on example sheets, which usually contain a range of broad questions, with differing levels of difficulty. Sasha finds these challenging but believes this is a positive part of the course, consistently pushing her to think hard and beyond what she thinks she is capable of. Maths students in their first years are assessed entirely by exams which happen at the end of the year. Each paper takes 3 hours and you are expected to answer around 6 questions.

In our interview, Sasha said she has enjoyed the applied courses in the first year more than the pure courses. However, she has also grown to respect and admire the complexities of pure maths and how valuable it can be. Sasha also really enjoys the Cambridge supervision system and values the experience of discussing her work with supervisors who are often academics and researchers in that area. They engage in interesting discussions, answering the pressing questions she has.

4. What would you improve about the course?

Whilst Sasha loves studying maths, she would improve some things about her course. Sadly, reflecting a national pattern, women are underrepresented in the course cohort. The issue is also prevalent amongst lecturers and supervisors. Cambridge has some amazing female maths academics such as Profesor Julia Gog, and Sasha would love to see more female representation on the course. Maths is also a very intense course, and sometimes Sasha feels it can quickly become overwhelming without good organisational skills.

5. What do you plan to do after you graduate?

Sasha isn’t sure what she wants to do after graduating from Cambridge but thinks she will pursue a masters in maths, hopefully also at Cambridge. Maths graduates at Cambridge go on to a wide range of careers and different opportunities, and Sasha will possibly follow this route, into research positions, industry or finance.