Student profile
Tom Oneill

Tom O’Neill

"Being at Surrey has allowed me to get the support I need from both my supervisor and other sources, and has made the transition into PhD life considerably smoother than it would have perhaps been at other institutions."


Mathematics PhD

"I was always someone who was keen in understanding maths at the highest level possible, and after my Masters I felt that there was still something missing. I needed to carry on in academia and research in order to answer some major questions I still had about various areas of mathematics.

I also felt that my potential had not yet been fully realised, and that I wanted to challenge myself in ways that I had not previously been challenged, hence the only logical choice was to study a PhD.

I studied as an MMath student at Aberystwyth University prior to starting my PhD. This gave me a good idea of what I wanted from an institution before I applied, and Surrey seemed to fit many of the criteria that I was looking for.

Surrey is a campus university, which is an environment that I am used to and comfortable with. Moreover, the project that I ended up taking was a very natural continuation of the work that I had previously done during my Masters. After attending an Open Day, it seemed that the staff were all friendly and willing to help with any difficulties that I may encounter along the way.

A PhD is a difficult thing, and when I started out I thought it would be easier than it actually is. The jump from Masters to PhD is huge and it takes a lot of getting used to, as it is a change of pace to anything you’ll be used to at lower levels of study. However, being at Surrey has allowed me to get the support I need from both my supervisor and other sources, and has made that transition considerably smoother than it would have perhaps been at other institutions.

My supervisor has been an excellent source of inspiration and communication during my PhD so far.

He has helped me in areas where I have struggled, encouraged me to develop my own ideas, even at this early stage, and regular meetings allow us to keep a frequent point of contact (aside from emails). He gives off a positive attitude, which is helpful for me, and he is also prepared to keep me from straying too far away from the task at hand.

I regularly use the Library, as it is an excellent place to find any relevant textbooks that I may need. Surrey Search is also helpful for tracking down some papers that may not be available to the general public, and getting access to them. There are also plenty of good food places around the campus, including the Students’ Union building.

Surrey is a university that prides itself on having good connections with other universities, and I have discovered that this reputation is not without merit.

There are regular seminars and talks held within the Mathematics Department, and I am regularly informed about conferences that are happening both in the UK and abroad, should I wish to attend them. I have also recently been over to the Met Office with my supervisor to discuss the project with a collaborator.

Something that I am proud of is being able to discuss issues with the project with academics not only as a student, but as somebody who is seen to be able to contribute in a constructive way to the conversation.

I have found that my academic ability has grown exponentially during my time studying here so far.

Guildford is a lovely town and the picturesque campus makes it easy to go out for a walk if you need to get away from the desk for an hour or so. It is also a pleasant place to live. Although I live just outside it, I can easily get into town by bus to do any shopping that I need or to meet up with friends. Places such as G Live provide regular sources of evening entertainment, and there are more than enough pubs and places to eat which is always a good thing!

During my time in Guildford, I have been to London on several occasions, either to go to a conference or a show, and have also been able to use Guildford station’s direct line to Gatwick Airport to be able to get away for the weekend to Vienna over Christmas.

My current plan after completing my PhD is to continue studying as a postdoctoral student, in the hope of becoming a lecturer at some point in the near future. I have also considered taking some time away from academia, possibly working as a consultant for the Met Office if the opportunity arose."

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