Elizabeth Winstanley

Elizabeth Winstanley
Current Workplace
University of Sheffield
Current Role
Professor of Mathematical Physics
My Mathematics Success Story is...

The wonderful opportunities afforded by a career in mathematics and the support and encouragement of so many people along the way.

I’d always enjoyed mathematics at school but decided it was the subject for me after I attended a 'taster day' at what would become my Oxford college. The lectures captured my imagination and were incredibly inspiring. My school, and in particular my mathematics teacher, encouraged me to pursue mathematics and to apply for a degree in the subject.

During my time as an undergraduate, I was very fortunate to have two outstanding tutors who boosted my mathematical confidence and encouraged me to apply for doctoral studies. My DPhil supervisors were also fantastic and very encouraging although I am sure I tried their patience! After my DPhil, I worked as a tutorial fellow in Oxford for four very interesting and stimulating years, before moving to Sheffield. I owe a great deal to those colleagues and friends who have provided invaluable advice and support as my career has developed. I also have a debt of gratitude to my parents, who supported my education in so many ways. I wouldn’t be where I am now without you!

Of course the main attraction of a career in mathematics is the fact that you are engaging with the subject on a daily basis, whether that is grappling with your own mathematical research or teaching students. It is wonderful to be able to share a subject I love with others. Mathematics is in some ways a frustrating subject, as I spend a significant amount of time being stuck! I think it is very important when teaching to reassure students that it’s OK to be stuck and that in fact this is how mathematics is learned. In my experience, the reward when something clicks into place is well worth the struggle. I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had along the way to visit amazing places and meet fascinating people. A few examples: conferences in such diverse places as Niagara Falls, Amazonia (OK, I attended this one by skype) and Majorca; seminars in Dublin, Malta and Singapore; giving a lecture tour round Australia; and teaching a lecture course in New Zealand. Contrary to what you might think, mathematics is very sociable enterprise, and despite the ease of electronic collaboration, nothing beats discussing face-to-face. Committee work often gets a bad press: I must admit I’ve been on a few dull committees, but most have been rewarding and worthwhile.

I consider myself very fortunate to be able to be employed doing something I love and about which I am passionate. I wish you, the reader, every success in your own mathematical endeavours!