Alan Walker - Senior Lecturer in Mathematics - UWS

Issued: Fri, 31 Jan 2020 00:00:00 GMT

Alan Walker has an undergraduate degree and Ph.D in Mathematics from the University of Strathclyde and worked in various posts there for almost 8 years. Alan took up a Lectureship in Applied Mathematics at the University of South Wales and became heavily involved in Outreach, an experience that helped him realise, upon returning to Scotland and working in finance briefly, that academia was where he should be! He is now a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of the West of Scotland, and the Programme Leader for their B.Sc Mathematics with Education programme.

Why did you decide to become a STEM Ambassador?

The learning journey of pupils from pre-school through to higher education is important to me, and I enjoy have a hand in all aspects of learner’s education. As a lecturer, who has spent some time in the “real world”, and who works in applied mathematics, I believe that I can awaken learners (and teachers!) to the vast world of mathematics and the places which mathematics can take you. Hence, becoming a STEM Ambassador was the obvious and natural step for me, once I had come back to Scotland.

Which area of STEM are you most passionate about?

I’m a sucker for mathematics, in all its forms. I particular enjoy relating mathematics to the myriad of other subjects and topics to which mathematics can be applied. For younger pupils, I enjoy playing mathematical games and giving them the opportunity to uncover little pieces of magic which they hadn’t seen before.

What is your favourite thing about being a STEM Ambassador?

Being in a university setting, many learners I come into contact with are far into their learning journey and think that they know what they want to do. Hence, by visiting schools as a STEM Ambassador, I get to advertise the wonders of mathematics and get pupils excited about the subject. Primary school learners are often so enthusiastic about mathematical games, tricks, and ideas that you leave the sessions feeling exhausted, but also reenergised!

Describe your favourite or most memorable activity so far:

One of my most memorable activities was a three hour session with secondary pupils on the “Curse of the Quintic”. This was essentially a historical tour around polynomials and the horrible things which happened to famous mathematicians through the years. It involved “Mathematics Duels” between opposing teams, akin to the days of Fontana and Del Fiore. It turns out that pupils love a bit of gore with their mathematics.

What STEM Ambassador activities do you have planned for the future?

I am currently writing an activity for late stage primary or early secondary which connects mathematics to internet security. After being taught about the wonders of prime numbers and factorisation, I aim to have pupils try to break each other’s codes using their knowledge of primes.

What advice would you give to new STEM Ambassadors?

Every session you run will be different, even with the exact same material. Younger pupils will throw you off your step at every opportunity – but revel in it and be prepared to go off-piste – the more flexible you are with your activities, the better!