Charlie Dickens

MSci Mathematics, 2016
Research Scientist, Yahoo!

I completed my Mathematics MSci in 2016. This was vital preparation for my recently completed PhD in Computer Science at the University of Warwick. I am now a research scientist for Yahoo. My work focuses on providing mathematical guarantees for algorithms that are used for large-scale data analysis software.

My first experience of the University of Birmingham campus was on a sixth form visit to the University. I immediately loved the campus but was also inspired by the talks and demonstrations given in the School of Mathematics. Despite initially wanting to move further away from home, I found the department and course description much more appealing than I had anticipated which convinced me to accept my offer at the University of Birmingham.

The course was rigorous and challenging but also highly interesting. I enjoyed the fact that we were all given a common and strong foundation in the first year so that we had the confidence to choose modules specific to our strengths later on in the course. This was coupled with an introduction to programming which would prove a vitally important skill in my later career choices.


As my time progressed, I found that my favourite parts of the course were the modules offered by the Combinatorics group.  These modules introduced me to topics that lie at the interface of mathematics and computer science.  Following some of these modules, the School supported my application for a London Mathematical Society Undergraduate Research Bursary.  This bursary allowed me to carry out research in a topic beyond the taught syllabus and much closer to the area of theoretical computer science where my interests were heading. 

The support of this project was vital for my career: the knowledge that I gained in the project later formed a crucial starting point of my MSci thesis.  Additionally, the project confirmed that I wanted to continue with research in this area and formed a strong part of my subsequent PhD applications.  Combined with a reasonable proficiency in programming, this is when I was finally able to take advantage of two specific aspects the course offered.  Firstly, I began proving statements about the mathematical structure underpinning social networks.  I then used the programming skills that I had developed to carry out experimental testing to show how these claims work in practice.  This is essentially the key skill I will use for my role in an industrial research laboratory all these years later! 

Overall, I would say that the School of Mathematics was a welcoming and stimulating environment.  The staff supported and encouraged me to take as many opportunities as possible.  This has been a mantra that I have tried to continue throughout my PhD and has put me in a position to take advantage of the skills I have learnt in a job that I find very exciting. Ultimately, many of these skills were fostered while studying mathematics at the University of Birmingham!

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