“Somewhere overseas.” This was what I would say when people asked me where I wanted to do my PhD.
I was just about to finish my undergraduate degree in Australia and had decided that I wanted to continue my studies in the form of a PhD. The most common thing people would ask when I told them this (apart from, “Really?... In maths?...” ) would be “where will you do it?”
I hadn’t really thought about it too much, I guess I had assumed it would sort itself out. Unfortunately, as I soon realised, that wasn’t true at all, ahead of me was a mountain of decisions and application forms.
Once you have made up your mind to do a postgraduate research degree, deciding where you want to do it is really the biggest decision. This choice will influence who you will work with, what area you will be working in and where you will be living for the next few years!
For me there were two major influences on my decision. I wanted a university where the mathematics department was engaged in current research and a wider research community, and I wanted to go somewhere I would enjoy living, I was going to be there for at least three years after all.
Eventually I settled on Scotland. Partly because I found fantastic supervisors willing to take me on as well as some funding, but also because it fit the above description.
Scotland (at least compared to Australia) has a high concentration of research universities and is relatively close to both Europe and the US. This makes it easy to get to a large range of research conferences and other events and also means I feel connected to the rest of the mathematical world. It also means it is easy to interact with many of the world class researchers living and working in Scotland.
My introduction to living in Scotland couldn’t have made me more sure that this would be a great place to live. I arrived in Edinburgh mid August during the festival. The city has so much going on all year round. The fact that it is so easy to get around Scotland, particularly to Glasgow, means I am never bored from a lack of things to do on my days off!