Jennifer Sexton

Jennifer Sexton

Manchester confounded my expectations, and is by no means stuck in the past.


How did you decide on your course choice? What appealed about Manchester?

I enjoyed my MSc studies and wished to learn more about stochastic analysis and its use in financial modelling.

I wrote a proposal to study applications of optimal stopping problems in new markets and my MSc supervisor recommended I apply to Manchester as my PhD supervisor (Prof. Goran Peskir) had expertise in this field.

I visited Manchester before applying and thought I would enjoy being part of such a large mathematics department, with many other PhD students.

What were your first impressions of the University and the city?

The University of Manchester was initially overwhelmingly large and at the induction events I met a wide range of PhD students from all over the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

However, other PhD students in my office helped me to find my way around and I soon settled in. I spent a lot of time walking around the city and visiting museums and galleries. I was surprised to find that Manchester not only was at the centre of the industrial revolution but remains a very forward looking city with innovative architecture and an upbeat attitude towards rain.

Manchester confounded my expectations, and is by no means stuck in the past.

What are you most enjoying about your course?

I have greatly enjoyed the whole process of writing my thesis. I was not expecting to change as dramatically as I have in my ability to read and understand the purpose of academic papers, generate original results and communicate these to others.

Although for the most part this has been difficult and challenging the creative aspects of original research have outweighed these problems. In particular, I have enjoyed travelling to conferences in Turkey, Finland, France and Russia as well as being invited to present my results at La Sapienza in Rome. I have enjoyed teaching example classes for undergraduate and master level students.

What skills and attributes do you think you have gained from your course and co-curricular activities so far?

My teaching and communication skills have greatly improved from the work I have undertaken in the department as well as the opportunities to give presentations in internal seminars about my work.

I have become very independent and able to identify and pursue viable research topics. I can now identify, set and reach realistic deadlines. My problem solving skills have improved and I find it much easier to find and correct errors in my own proofs.

Most importantly, I have developed a way to gauge the value of my own research which does not depend on the input of my supervisor; this has increased my independence and confidence.

How do you think you are benefitting from studying at Manchester?

I have benefited greatly from the flexibility that my PhD studies at Manchester have provided me with. I have been able to work both at home, at the department and overseas with collaborators.

All of these working environments have been pivotal to helping me develop as an independent young researcher and write my thesis. My PhD studies have become one of many essential and defining aspects of my life over the last four years and will enable me to pursue a career in academic research and teaching.

What advice would you give to students considering applying for the same course that you took?

It is essential to have a research topic in mind from the beginning as this will help you to focus your initial reading and provide something to discuss with your supervisor. PhD studies may seem to last a long time, but it is easy to overestimate the quantity of work required and underestimate the amount of time it is essential to spend writing work up and checking technicalities.

Furthermore, mathematics is portable! So just take your pen and paper (or laptop) and work where ever you are most comfortable.

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