This Summer, Smith Institute partnered with Oxford and Cambridge universities to offer 5 mathematics undergraduates Summer Projects. Undertaking a Summer Project gave the students industrial experience and the opportunity to witness the impact of applied research whilst developing their technical and soft skills through project work and workshops. 

The Summer projects also provided the chance for Smith Institute staff to explore and develop a non-client-based mathematical topic that piqued their intellectual curiosity. They then advertised the projects and interviewed prospective students. Students also had sessions with a range of teams across Smith Institute to give them a broader understanding of how advanced mathematics is shaping modern industry. Throughout the project, they were supported by their Institute supervisor with regular catchups, meetings and advice to keep the project on track.  

After successfully showcasing the results of their work in a series of fascinating presentations and papers, we asked our students to reflect on their experiences. Here is what Gabriela van Bergen Gonzalez-Bueno, a student from Jesus College, Oxford thought of her Summer exploring explainable artificial intelligence at Smith Institute supported by her supervisor, Kieran. 

Gabriela Van Bergen Gonzalez-Bueno

  1. Why did you want to undertake a Summer Project?

I was interested in Smith Institute because it’s a company with a focus on mathematics. I was looking for industry work that included the favourite aspects of my mathematics degree. I saw case studies online where Smith Institute solved real-life problems using advanced mathematics techniques. After reaching out to Smith Institute, I was directed to the Summer Projects, and was very happy to see this opportunity.  

As a student interested in mathematical research (either in industry or academia), I thought this was a perfect way to learn more about these potential roles.  

  1. If you could describe your experience with Smith Institute in 3 words, what would they be and why?

If I were to describe my experience with Smith Institute in three words, these would be exciting, friendly, and fulfilling. Firstly, I found this project incredibly exciting due to its investigative nature. As I researched and developed a solution for one problem or question, more avenues opened up. I felt constantly excited and intrigued and never ran out of ideas. 

Secondly, I felt that Smith Institute was a very friendly company. At every stage of my research, I was fully supported by my supervisor, and all our meetings were enjoyable and comfortable for me. I also met several other members of Smith Institute through some planned workshops and progress meetings. My experience was that everyone was kind, welcoming, and ready to offer help or advice whether on the Summer Project, or simply on careers or mathematics questions. 

Finally, this has been a very fulfilling Summer. I was satisfied with the work that I produced with the guidance of my supervisor. Members of Smith Institute made me feel that my work was valuable and showed interest in the progress meetings, often asking insightful questions, and suggesting approaches to my research. 

  1. How have you developed personally and professionally throughout the project?

This project has allowed me to develop my independent research and work methods, and I now feel more self-assured about doing my Master’s thesis. I have also gained more confidence in my future, by seeing that I can contribute to real-life problems with my mathematics. I learnt a lot about working in a partnership with a supervisor, and I believe these skills are transferrable to a team setting. 

Furthermore, the workshops planned by Smith Institute gave me the chance to develop lots of skills from improving my coding practices to writing and presenting. These workshops have prepared me for a variety of different professional situations. 

  1. What was your personal highlight from your experience?

For me, the highlight was in coming up with new ideas and discussing possible solutions with my supervisor. I thoroughly enjoyed bouncing ideas back and forth and sharing the many stages of this project, from frustration at confusing papers, excitement at possible solutions, disappointment at dead ends, then excitement again at new ideas… The project was engaging through all these stages thanks to our common enthusiasm for the problem at hand, and our determination to progress. 

  1. What are you going to do next?

I am going to do my Master’s in Mathematics next. The Summer Project has directly help me prepare for my Master’s thesis by allowing me to practice doing a literature review, guided research, and investigation, writing a report, and presenting my findings. It has also helped me through the workshops where a lot of useful skills were covered, and whose lectures I now have for reference. 

After my Master’s I will be looking for a job that involves the application of mathematics to real-life problems. Smith Institute has helped establish this as my goal. Following this interview, we’re delighted that Gabriela will be rejoining Smith Institute as an Intern in 2023

If you’re a mathematically-minded undergraduate who is interested in undertaking a paid Summer Project next year, make sure you check out careers page regularly for updates on future project opportunities.

If you’re a postgraduate student, why not apply for an internship