Nickolai Berkoff (PhD Applied Mathematics)

Nickolai Berkoff

Where did you do your undergraduate degree?

I did my undergrad at Bristol. I did an integrated Masters.

Why did you want to do a PhD?

I enjoyed doing maths and I thought that it would be good to try and use maths to try and make the world a slightly better place. I could have done pure maths but I wanted something which was more in the real world and which would drag me out of bed in the morning. So I wanted something which would have a relevance to the world, even if only in a very vague way. 

What is your area of research then?

I have been looking at modelling the Sun. There are varied applications which might be applied but as it's maths, they are all a bit further down the line.

So why Leeds?

I liked the University and the supervisor. I also looked at Nottingham, Manchester and Bristol. I came to look round the University and I got on well with one of the supervisors and so I decided to come.

How do you find it here then? 

I think that with most subjects the supervisors can be very varied and you can have which is very keen and one which is not so. I ended up with a really enthusiastic supervisor. I have had access to the high level super computers and the computer clusters and all the facilities that I have needed to do applied maths. The library has been fine and most of the journals can be accessed online and I have had space and a desk which is good.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge of doing a PhD?

When you are doing a PhD you don't have any set time and nobody is watching you and so it's really easy to get distracted by lots of other things happening, especially when you are in a city with lots of other stuff going on. So, making sure that even when the work is not going well and it's a nice sun day that you do come in and work, can be hard. Motivating yourself has been the most difficult.

What advice would you give to somebody who is thinking about doing a PhD?

Make sure that you have a good supervisor, maybe chat to some of the supervisors or PhD students before you apply. If it's in a science subject the exact PhD subject probably doesn't really matter all that much. I'd say that of the three of us who started together, we could have done one another PhDs and I don't think that it would have made a massive difference in choosing the subject. It's not as set as you might think. In fact we have only just decided on a title just now and it didn't matter until now.

What would you say to another student thinking of coming to Leeds?

Leeds has got a really good Union and it's got a really good infrastructure and it's a good city to live in.