Corpus Christi College Oxford

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Mathematics

We typically seek to admit 6 students a year across Maths and its joint schools.


Mathematics at Corpus is taught by Colin McDiarmid and Paul Dellar, assisted primarily by Florence Tsou. Within the Joint Schools, Computation is taught and overseen by Luke Ong, Philosophy by Ursula Coope, and Statistics by Colin McDiarmid.


Colin McDiarmid's research is in a wide range of discrete mathematics, particularly concerning random structures, with applications in operational research and theoretical computer science. Paul Dellar's interests include lattice Boltzmann approaches for modelling fluids and other physical systems, the fluid dynamics of the atmosphere and oceans, and mathematical problems in industry. Florence Tsou is a mathematical physicist whose research interests lie in the realm of geometry and relativity. She is currently co-editing the Encyclopedia of Mathematical Physics with Roger Penrose.


Admissions


We normally take six undergraduates a year. This often includes one or two in the Joint Schools (with Philosophy or Computation or Statistics). We welcome applicants for the three and the four year Mathematics courses. We are happy to consider candidates for deferred entry.


Most Mathematics applicants take double Maths A-levels, but this is by no means obligatory. Indeed, the differing backgrounds of applicants are something we weigh up carefully. Other A-levels taken by recent successful applicants have ranged from Physics and Chemistry to English, Music, and German. The main qualities we seek are commitment to mathematics and the potential to flourish.


Before you come up


What is essential in preparing for a mathematics degree is to be competent in basic technical mathematics. Thus, the best preparation is to know thoroughly the six modules of A level pure mathematics. Differentiation and integration need to be second nature, and you need to know about things like hyperbolic functions, because the course does not spend time catching up on these.


Mathematics at Oxford


One of the things you will find on starting Maths at University is that there is a change in style and emphasis from what you do at school. You will find that pure mathematics at University introduces new and more abstract and fundamental ideas in courses on algebra and analysis; and in particular you will realise the central importance of proof. A subject like differential equations is treated as applied, for example because the problems of mechanics may be framed in their terms. (Indeed, the study of many parts of mathematics was first couched in terms of applications to physical problems.)


The Oxford syllabus


The first year course gives you a broad grounding in the basics of the subject, in both pure and applied mathematics, on which to build your mathematical understanding. At the end of Trinity (summer) Term you will take Prelims, a series of five exams.


The first term of the second year continues with more core courses, and after that you will start to specialize in your chosen aspects of mathematics. At this point students have usually developed some preferences, and their mathematical style is beginning to emerge; so you head towards becoming an analyst, or an algebraist, or a probabilist.


Throughout your first two years you will have about two tutorials a week in college, typically as a pair and occasionally as a class of up to six. From the start of your third year you specialize further, and support for lectures is through classes of about 8 or 10 organised at a departmental level. All colleges have such a pattern of teaching.


Mathematics and Philosophy


Typical applicants have a mixture of A levels, often double Maths with at least one Arts subject, and they are committed to mathematics but also have a strong desire to retain a balance and explore the world of philosophy. You need to be good at both subjects to read Maths and Philosophy, and in particular to be comfortable writing essays that explore philosophical concepts.


Mathematics and Computer Science


The same applies to applicants in Maths and Computer Science as in Maths and Philosophy. You need to be good at both subjects to do this, though the computer science is mostly treated in a mathematical manner. Recent Corpus students have performed very well in this joint degree.


Mathematics and Statistics


This is a popular new course, which naturally prepares you in particular for statistical applications. The first year is identical to that for Mathematics. Because Statistics is more closely aligned with Mathematics, this course is more closely "joint" than the two joint degrees mentioned above.


Three year or four year course?


The main distinction between the two courses is that the four year course enables you to go further. The fourth year is akin to a first graduate year (or an MSc). Typically half or more of our students carry on to the fourth year. (If you are unsure about which is for you, it is best to apply initially for the four-year course.)


Beyond the degree


Many students stay on for a postgraduate year on one of several MSc courses, to do doctoral research. Many others leave for jobs, often in finance or actuarial work, or in teaching. A good degree in mathematics or one of the joint courses is great preparation for many other grduate careers that do not necessarily require specialist mathematical knowledge.

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