For this post I (Robert Johnson) contacted Trevor Pinto. He was my first PhD student at Queen Mary and graduated in 2016. It was a pleasure to catch up with him, remember his time in the group, and find out what he is doing now.
What have you been up to since graduating from QMUL?After graduating, I joined the Government Operational Research Service, an analytical profession within the Civil Service. It has allowed me to work on various analytical projects in government. My first role was in developing and analysing the Longitudinal Education Outcomes dataset of graduate salaries to understand the interplay of different factors affecting graduate earnings. I currently work for the Ministry of Justice on modelling the department’s pay bill and have been supporting the department in negotiations with Treasury and with unions.
What good memories do you have from your time at QMUL?One of the highlights was a month long stay as a visiting student at Umeå University, Sweden. As well as the collaboration itself with a professor there, I enjoyed seeing the Northern Lights for the first time, and exploring the snow-bound landscape. I also enjoyed the social aspect of life in QMUL and made a number of long-lasting friendships during my time there.
Tell us something about your PhD project.
My PhD was in Extremal Combinatorics and allowed me to work on a few different problems loosely related to the hypercube. One project I was particularly proud of was solving a 20 year old conjecture on the number of directed paths between two sets of vertices in the hypercube, developing a novel twist on an existing proof strategy in the process.
How do you feel your PhD prepared you for working outside academia?
I think a PhD is only worth doing for love of the subject itself, but many of the softer skills I learnt during it were still useful when I left academia. The ability to explain complex ideas in a digestible way, gained from leading tutorials and from discussing my research with non-experts, has been helpful when explaining analytical work to policy colleagues. I also developed organisational skills and self-motivation, from having responsibility for my own project.
What are your interests outside maths?
In my spare time, I enjoy walks in nature and playing board games.Any advice for students considering applying for a PhD place?
The nature of a PhD means there will be periods of frustration when you do not make much progress so it is important to be patient, and to savour the moment when you do make a breakthrough.