Student profile

Jessica Furber

"I am currently in the process of collecting my current results to create an academic paper, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of all my supervisors. I feel very supported by them."


Mathematics PhD

Entry year


Research project

My project is to explore the movement of the European badger. Badgers (in the UK) are known to be a reservoir for bovine tuberculosis (bTB), so we want to understand how the badgers move, in order to gain an insight to how bTB is spreading. We are using data-driven methods to explore this and, hopefully, what we find will be of use to the ecologists studying the animal and the disease. 

Why did you choose to come to Surrey? 

I mainly chose Surrey for my PhD because it was the only university that offered me a place with funding, and I felt like the academics here really wanted me on board to do the project. Location was also a big factor. Having obtained my BSc (Hons) and MSc degrees in mathematics at the University of Chester, which is close to home, I felt ready to travel further afield.  

What was your first impression? 

I first came to Surrey to look for accommodation a month prior to starting and fell in love from the start. On that first visit to Guildford I had a brief look round campus but not enough to take everything in. It was the induction day in September that made the biggest impression. Within a few weeks, I knew my way around and everyone I met was very helpful.  

Why did you choose to study for a PhD? 

Before going to university, I always liked the idea of doing a PhD, but I always struggled with the concept of having to think/create something new. As my BSc and MSc progressed, I really enjoyed learning new things and I thought, why be afraid of the unknown? I am passionate about my subject, which is the first step to choosing to do a PhD. What is there not to love about maths?! I think the more you study maths, the more you can see the importance of it and the great things that it is used for (such as disease modelling for Covid-19). 

"Do not be afraid to do what you want. There is always support from someone, so why wait?"

What have been the best things about studying at Surrey? 

The first two years of my PhD have been great. I’ve enjoyed the opportunities to travel and network. In my first year, I went to Berlin for two weeks for a workshop and summer school, which one of my supervisors was organising. I hadn’t travelled abroad by myself before and it really boosted my confidence. It was a great experience.  

I’ve also been a runner up in a poster presentation and won a five-minute lightning presentation.  

How has your supervisor helped you to achieve your aims during your PhD studies? 

I am very lucky to have a big supervisory team: Professor Dave Lloyd in the School of Mathematics and Physics, Professor Mark Chambers and Dr Giovanni Lo Iacono from the School of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr Stefan Klus (now in the mathematics department at Heriot Watt University). It’s very unusual to have so many supervisors, but my project is funded both by the School of Mathematics and Physics and the School of Veterinary Medicine. I am currently in the process of collecting my current results to create an academic paper, and I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of all my supervisors. I feel very supported by them. 

How much opportunity has there been for collaboration, either with researchers and academics at Surrey or with external organisations or companies? 

If you are engaged and enthusiastic, there are plenty of opportunities for collaboration. I have been in contact with external organisations, with the help of my supervisors, to see if we could use data that they have collected. Some emails have had successful responses and others haven’t, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. 

Are you part of any clubs or societies? How have they contributed to your Surrey experience? 

I’m a member of the Mathematics Society and the Postgraduate Society. I rarely go to socials because of how busy my schedule is, but I try and go along to quizzes and seminars that are put on. It’s a great way to meet likeminded people. 

What’s the best thing about life at Surrey? 

I absolutely love living so close to London! It has allowed me to see so many musicals (I’m a big fan) and really get to know the city. I am very much an outdoors person too, so being in the Surrey Hills has been great as there is so much to see and lots of routes to walk/run. 

When I’m on campus, I enjoy spending time by the lake when I can. It’s very peaceful and a nice getaway from the office environment. 

Do you have any advice for students thinking about postgraduate study?   

GO FOR IT! What have you got to lose? The thought of embracing the unknown can be scary and overwhelming but the challenge is part of the point. You don’t want everything to be easy – where's the fun in that?! You will have continual support from your supervisor and your peers.  

How do you think your time at Surrey has impacted your employability once you graduate?   

I think being a graduate of Surrey will really help my employability. I’ve had the chance to get involved in extracurricular activities, such as tutoring for the Maths and Statistics Advice service in the Library, which offers drop-in sessions for all levels and all subjects. Things like that can boost your CV as they show your willingness to help others and manage your time. I also plan to attend a career event organised by postgraduate representatives for mathematics, where a panel of people will be talking about what they've achieved since completing their PhD, which will be really helpful for future plans. 

What are your plans for the future? 

I really like the idea of lecturing and taking a lectureship in mathematics. I love teaching (and I have had experience in a secondary school) but teaching to students who want to be there and want to learn appeals so much more to me than those students who are doing maths because they have to.  


Find out more about our Mathematics PhD.

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