BSP Structured Projects (2019-2020)

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Dr Catherine Wilkins
General Prerequisites: 


Course Term: 
Course Weight: 
2.00 unit(s)
Course Level: 

Assessment type:

Course Overview: 

Students will be able to choose a project from a menu of three or four possibilities. There is likely to be a cap of between one to six on the numbers allowed to take any one project.

Learning Outcomes: 

This option is designed to help students understand applications of mathematics to live research problems and to learn some of the necessary techniques. For those who plan to stay on for the MMath or beyond, the course will provide invaluable preliminary training. For those who plan to leave after the BA, it will offer insights into what mathematical research can involve, and training in key skills that will be of long term benefit in any career.

Students will gain experience of:

  1. Applications of numerical computation to current research problems.
  2. Reading and understanding research papers.
  3. Working with new people in new environments.
  4. Meeting the expectations of different disciplines.
  5. Presenting a well structured written report, using LaTeX.
  6. Making an oral presentation to a non-specialist audience.
  7. Reading and assessing the work of other students.
  8. Independent study and time management.

Students will be expected to:

  1. Learn about a current research problem by reading one or more relevant research papers together with appropriate material from textbooks.
  2. Carry out the required calculations using Maple, MuPAD or Matlab. Students are not expected to engage in original research but there will be scope for able students to envisage new directions.
  3. Write up the problem and their findings in a report that is properly supported with detail, discussion, and good referencing.
  4. Undertake peer review.
  5. Give an oral presentation to a non-specialist audience.
Course Synopsis: 

In past years projects have included applications to biology, finance, and earth sciences. It is expected that a similar menu of topics, from which students will select one, will be available for 2019-2020.


At the beginning of the course students will be given written instructions for their chosen project.

Michaelmas Term

There will be a group meeting with the organiser (Cath Wilkins) at the beginning of MT to set out expectations and deal with queries. The organiser will meet again with students individually at the end of MT. Between these meetings students will read around their chosen topic and take preparatory courses in LaTeX and Matlab, both of which are available from the department and are well documented online. Individual contact with the organiser by email, or if necessary in person, will be encouraged.

Hilary Term

Week 1

Lecture on expectations for the term, and advice on writing up.

Weeks 2 to 8

Students will meet regularly with their specialist supervisor. In addition, each student will meet at least once with the organiser, who will maintain an overview of the student's progress.

Week 10

Submission of written paper.

Easter vacation

Peer review

Trinity Term

Week 1

Oral presentation


Students (and tutors) have sometimes expressed doubts about the predictability or reliability of project assessment. We are therefore concerned:

[i.] to make the assessment scheme as transparent as possible both to students and to assessors;

[ii.] that students who produce good project work should be able to achieve equivalent grades to students who write good exam papers.

The mark breakdown will be as follows:

[a.] Written work 75%, of which:

50% of available marks will be for general explanation and discussion of the problem

50% of available marks will be for mathematical calculations and commentary

[b.] Oral presentation 15%

[c.] Peer review 10%

Note on (c):

This may be a new kind of assessment for you. As with journal peer review, the anonymity of both writer and reviewer will be strictly maintained. Each student will be expected to read one other project write-up (from this or previous years) and to make a careful and well explained judgement on it. Credit for this will go to the reviewer, not to the writer, whose work will already have been assessed by examiners in the usual way.