Could you predict an economic crisis? How many prime numbers are there in a certain interval? How do we calculate the limit of an infinite series of function values?
Mathematicians love difficult questions and models underpinned
by theoretical foundations. Over the centuries, mathematics has
made an important contribution to technological progress, and it is
still a crucial part of research into important issues such as the
Obviously, parts of the degree programme in Mathematics are similar to the mathematics that you studied at secondary school. However, you will also discover new areas such as algebra (number theory and coding), dynamical systems (how predictable is the weather?) and systems theory.
Some people choose to study Mathematics because its diversity appeals to them. Others recognize the social relevance of mathematics, and choose to do research. Other students enjoy Mathematics simply because it involves solving abstract problems.
The University of Groningen offers degree programmes in both
Mathematics and Applied Mathematics. The first year is largely the
same for both Bachelor’s programmes, during which you explore
the programmes and gradually work towards your specialization. It
is possible to switch programmes at the end of the first
Within the degree programme in Mathematics, you can choose between two specializations:
- General Mathematics
- Probability & Statistics
This three-year programme in Mathematics is an international Bachelor’s degree programme. All of the course units are taught in English, which gives Mathematics an extra dimension as many of your fellow students and lecturers will come from abroad.
Studying ice caps
Leo wanted to do practical work after graduating in Applied Mathematics. He spent two years with Alten, a technical and engineering consultancy, where he developed software in Fortran and C++ for Shell. Last year he set a new course and he now works at Utrecht University where he is studying the changes in the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps using climate models.
Na mijn studie wilde ik heel graag praktisch aan de slag. Zodoende heb ik twee jaar lang in Capelle a/d IJssel gewerkt als consultant bij Alten, een bedrijf in technische consultancy en engineering. Hier deed ik hoofdzakelijk ontwikkeling van software (Fortran, C++) voor Shell.
Dit heb ik met veel plezier gedaan, maar het begon op een gegeven moment weer te kriebelen en ben ik iets nieuws gaan zoeken. Tegenwoordig ben ik promovendus aan de Universiteit Utrecht, waar ik onderzoek doe naar veranderingen in de Groenlandse en Antarctische ijskappen in het recente verleden (1850-nu). Voor dit onderzoek maak ik gebruik van data-assimilatie technieken en klimaatmodellen.
In beide banen heb ik veel profijt van mijn goede wiskundige basis en de programmeervaardigheden die ik tijdens mijn studie Technische Wiskunde heb opgedaan. Verder heb ik één jaar van mijn master doorgebracht in Zürich, Zwitserland. Ik heb daar verschillende interessante dingen geleerd, maar het is tevens een terugkerend gespreksonderwerp geweest bij sollicitatiegesprekken. Het is, vermoed ik, op veel plaatsen een pre als je cv niet helemaal standaard is.
Find out more about depression
'I am exploring statistical models that we can use to find out more about depression, together with other experts such as physicians, psychologists and epidemiologists. This makes the work pleasantly varied'.
During my Master’s programme I specialized in probability and statistics, which is obviously very useful for this job. Thanks to my mathematical background, I learn new techniques easily. What you don’t learn in Mathematics are skills such as meeting and communicating with other scientists. I don’t think you need to offer all these skills in a degree programme; you can learn them by participating in activities outside your programme. I was a member of a study association and a student association, where I learnt organizational skills, and also enjoyed the social side of student life. This was very important for my personal development and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!’
Stijn de Vos - PhD student with the UMCG's psychiatry
Talk to the people who are already working in the field
I like maths since I was a child. Unlike other subjects, it's more 'doing' and less memorizing facts.
At this moment. I’m working as a PhD candidate in mathematical statistics. I spend around 75% of my time on research: reading articles, trying things out, programming and appointments with my supervisor. 25% of time is spent on teaching: preparing exercises/solutions for the class, giving tutorials, and grading assignments/exams. I also often go to presentations/seminars/conferences.
As a PhD candidate, I daily use the mathematical and statistical knowledge that I learned during my study. But, I think the most valuable thing that I learned during my study is how to think critically and logically. In my Bachelor’s thesis, I analyzed social, geographical, and lexical influences on Dutch dialect pronunciations. For this, I used ‘generalized additive mixed model’ which is a flexible method that can be used to analyze non-linear relationships.
When I was a student, I wondered how it would be to work at a company/university and what kind of skills I would need. Now looking backwards, the way I imagined it was very different from how it’s really like. Try to get a real glance of things that you want to do after your study. You can for example talk to the people who are already working in that field.
Vinnie Ko - PhD University of Oslo
Mathematics fascinates me
'Mathematics fascinates me. I love it when a seemingly far-fetched relationship actually works in practice.
I enjoy the tutorials the most, because you can try things out for yourself. Learning mathematics is really a question of practice. Some of the theorems are very challenging, so it’s really satisfying if you manage to figure them out. We often work together on more difficult problems, which is a good way to get to know each other. I’ve also met a lot of people through the FMF study association and my student association. Although it’s not compulsory, I go to all the lectures and tutorials. This keeps you busy and helps you understand the theory, which makes the exam a lot easier.’