Gareth Hurst studied for a PhD in Applied Mathematics at the University of Leeds

Gareth Hurst

How far into your PhD are you?

I am coming to the end of my first year of a PhD in Applied Mathematics.

I am researching fluid mechanics, so it’s actually modelling tear flow on the eye. It has applications with contact lens use.

Most discomfort from the contact lens users comes from dryness. So, if you have a model for why that it is happening, you have the potential to capture the attention of the ophthalmic companies and get them interested. 

Has it been what you expected?

It has and it hasn’t. I haven’t really done many simulations as you might expect with a Mathematics PhD.

Most of my research has been with pen and paper, going back to the very, very basics and trying to build up a model from there. 

Why did you choose to do a PhD?

I initially got a job in London when I first graduated. Before I left I was talking to one of the professors and I had done a couple of modules with him which were really good and he mentioned that he had this project in mind and asked if I would be interested in it.

So, I went off to London for a couple of years and worked for a really good company, but it stayed in the back of my mind that I would quite like to do a PhD and so I made the decision to do the PhD. 

What would you say interests you about the subject which you are researching?

The area of applied maths which I am involved in, is basically physics, so explaining what is going on in the real world.

Everybody has an understanding of eyes and so for me it is interesting to be involved in that.

The fact that you are modelling something which you are so familiar with but actually tear flow is not something which many people have studied before, so that interests me.  

How have you found the academic staff support?

I was here as an undergraduate and when I came back people recognised my face and were friendly. 

Any advice for someone thinking of doing a PhD?

Yes make sure that you really want to do that subject because there are bits when you just get bogged down with the nitty gritty details which is not great.

So, make sure you love the subject and will be able to survive four years of “head down” work as it is pretty hard at times. 

What have been the greatest challenges?

I would say that for me it has been coming back to academia and trying to remember the stuff I had studied two years previously.

The reading around the subject is pretty hard, getting that in-depth knowledge is difficult. I spent my first month just reading papers and I still read a lot now.

What would you say to another student thinking of coming to Leeds to study for a PhD?

I would recommend it. I did my undergraduate degree here and enjoyed it so much that I came back for a second go!