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News > Careers Spotlight > Making Maths Matter

Making Maths Matter

Tom Bury (1997-2010)
Tom Bury (1997-2010)

Current Job Title: Postdoctoral researcher

Employer: McGill University

A Levels: Maths, Further maths, Physics, French

Higher Education:  University of Cambridge – undergraduate and masters in Mathematics, University of Waterloo (Canada) – PhD in Applied Mathematics

Tom recently delivered a very inspirational virtual lecture to our budding mathematicians. Clearly passionate about his subject, he was full of extremely useful advice for young people entering the world of academia.

When asked about his time at Kelly, Tom reflects that his happiest memories were spending time with his friends in the beautiful Kelly grounds. He also believes that there were undoubtedly things he learned at school that have helped him get to where he is now:  learning self-discipline, perseverance and French.  “I need self-discipline as a lot of my research is done independently without instruction or deadlines set by a senior person. I need perseverance as research sometimes leads to dead-ends, even after months of work. And I need French as I currently live in Montréal!”

Tom currently works as a researcher in the Department of Physiology at the University of McGill, Montréal. Working in close collaboration with cardiologists and experimentalists, he is using mathematics and artificial intelligence to better understand and predict cardiac arrhythmias. A cardiac arrhythmia occurs when electrical signals that coordinate the heartbeat don’t work properly, which can be dangerous.

It seems a big leap from studying Maths at school to working on cutting edge research of the heart.  However, Tom was inspired when he was at a conference in Vancouver and he met his current advisor who was doing work in mathematical modelling of the human heart.

Tom believes that the most important decision he ever made was to pursue a PhD as it is such a big commitment, over four or five years, to doing research at the edge of human knowledge.  He weighed the pros and cons, and tried to visualise himself in five years from the time of making the decision.  His advice to anyone thinking about any career is to speak to as many people in that job as you can and if you can find someone who is willing to be a mentor, even better.

Tom would also encourage anyone going off to university to look for courses with co-op programmes, such as the University of Waterloo offers, where students take a term out each year to gain work experience at a company.  They then leave university with a degree as well as valuable exposure to various workplaces.

When asked what those in his industry should be doing but aren’t, Tom said, “Making their computer code available with publications. Reproducibility is key to good science. I believe that all publications should be accompanied with code that reproduces the findings of the paper. This also makes it easier to build upon the science, instead of other teams starting from scratch.”

One day Tom hopes to run his own research lab one day.  Watch this space!

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