School of Mathematics

Virtual forum held by Piscopia Initiative

Tiffany Vlaar, Isabella Deutsch and Mary Llewellyn, of the Piscopia Initiative, held a virtual forum between the 7th and 11th of September 2020.

The forum, PiFORUM 2020 (Piscopia Initiative - Female and Other Researchers United in Mathematics), featured four days of discussions detailing the life of a Mathematics PhD student and what the participants could expect if they did one. This culminated on the final day with a series of mock interviews where participants could take part as an interviewee and receive instant feedback.

The forum was developed to help participants who had enjoyed completing their maths degree and were considering applying for a PhD, but had questions and thoughts they wanted to discuss. It was also an opportunity to discuss what it was like to be a woman in mathematical research. During the forum participants had the opportunity to meet other women and non-binary students who had an interest in maths and could provide thoughts on PhD life.

Due to the ongoing pandemic this conference was held virtually via Zoom; each of the above members of the Initiative spearheaded a day of the conference, bringing in a variety of speakers. These included Academics, Professional Services Staff and current PhD Students; each gave a brief overview of their topics and followed it with a Q&A session.

Attended by 36 female and non-binary mathematics students from across the UK; the conference was a great success with an extremely enthusiastic audience. Feedback submitted after the event confirmed that at least 21 of the participants are now intending to apply for PhD positions. Those taking part also reported that their favourite moments from the conference included hearing from female academics and PhD students about their journeys and current research and meeting female & non-binary peers with similar aspirations.

Over the next Academic year the Initiative intends to expand UK-wide with local committees offering support and PhD information events to female and non-binary students at their universities; more information on this can be found here: Following this the Initiative aims to reach out to more PhD students across the UK to help them organise these events and to act as local committee chairs for their universities.

More information on the Initiative can be found here:


Some feedback from the participants of the event include:

"I really appreciated getting to know other female mathematicians; this applies to the lecturers/PhD students giving the talks, but also to the other students taking part. It really helped me feeling more comfortable with my passion for maths as I am not usually surrounded by many females in my lectures/seminars."

"I had such a wonderful time at PiFORUM2020! My confidence has gone up by about a billion times. I can't wait to start applying for PhDs because I know I'll be able to make an application that reflects how awesome I am. It's been so inspiring meeting others who are so similar yet different to me. I feel so well-equipped to pursue my dreams now :)"

"It has been a very rewarding experience and definitely a confidence boost I didn't even know I needed. I have been gifted with an amazing support group of people who understand the struggles I believed were mine alone."

"PiFORUM was an amazing experience! I feel equipped to tackle the PhD application process, met some wonderful people and had fun learning maths. It was a week full of encouragement."