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Winton partnership champions gender equality in STEM subjects

Birkbeck and leading British investment management firm, Winton, have joined forces to champion gender equality in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

Winton’s generous support of Birkbeck has taken a new step this month with the appointment of a female STEM PhD studentship funded by the company and a conference in spring 2017 which will seek to energise young people into pursuing a career in mathematics. The firm is also sponsoring a new annual monetary prize for excellent perfomance on Birkbeck’s MSc Applied Statistics programmes.

Introducing Aziza Sentissi: About the PhD studentship

The Birkbeck-Winton partnership, which began in 2013, is underpinned by a mutual drive to support the education journeys and career paths of women in STEM, as well as to find practical applications for scientific research in the finance industry. Both motivations are expressed in the newly funded PhD studentship which has just been awarded to a woman who has in recent years combined her international career in market risk management with a passion for studying mathematics and statistics.

Aziza Sentissi will begin her four-year PhD in Mathematics and Statistics in October. Under the supervision of Dr Brad Baxter, she will investigate an area of applied and computational mathematics with widespread applications including image mapping, investigating neural networks and learning applications.

Aziza, who already holds two Master’s degrees from Birkbeck – the first in Applied Statistics and Stochastic Modelling; the second in Mathematics – has had a talent and enthusiasm for mathematics since secondary school. She didn’t initially pursue studies in mathematics beyond the engineering school or university, instead choosing a career path in the finance industry. She explained that undertaking a PhD represents an opportunity for her to combine her practical experience with her passion for the science.

She said: “I am very grateful to Winton for their support. The scholarship has opened for me the possibility to pursue a full-time PhD in Mathematics. Indeed, it would be difficult for me to consider such a commitment in London without financial help. Beyond this, as I am interested in a postdoctoral research career, I would like to commit on a full-time basis to the PhD in order to achieve good results and drive value to the research field.”

During her time at Birkbeck Aziza, who has a four-year-old daughter, said she has been inspired by her female lecturers and advisers such as Professor Sarah Hart, and feels that the college is clearly invested in supporting the aspirations of women.

She said: “I believe there is a real willingness and concrete initiatives in UK to encourage women and increase their representation in the postgraduate and doctoral world in STEM.  It is obvious that it is not about intellectual differences between men and women but rather it is about opportunities tailored to women’s needs and circumstances. I believe that Winton’s scholarship is an example of such opportunities.”

She firmly believes that mathematics is a science that is open to all people, and hopes one day to help inspire future generations into it.

She said: “I believe that most people are ‘put off or scared off’ mathematics by the general belief that it is only for very intelligent people. I think that the mathematical logic and reasoning could also be learned and developed if we put the necessary patience and perseverance to it.”

Winton’s significant investment in the PhD studentship is the latest element of the partnership with Birkbeck. Other new aspects are:

The Winton prizes: Supporting excellence in applied statistics

  • Winton’s most recent prize scheme at Birkbeck, awarded annually, for the past three years for the Best Project on Birkbeck’s MSc Applied Statistics programmes will now be replaced by a new award for high performance on the programme. The Winton Prize for Excellent Performance will take into account the entire performance profile of the recipients, which includes both taught modules and the project. Like the prize for best project, awarded for both 1st and 2nd places, the new prize aims to motivate and reward talented students from a range of backgrounds in the field of applied statistics.

‘Winton Women Trailblazers in Mathematics’: Conference for young people

  • As part of the Winton STEM PhD studentship, in spring 2017, Birkbeck’s Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics will reach out to some of the most deprived areas of London to showcase the work of some of the college’s most successful female mathematicians. The Winton Women Trailblazers in Mathematics conference aims to encourage students from local schools to consider mathematics from an early age. There will also be sessions for undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as working mathematicians. This conference will not only raise the profile of the Department and the researchers themselves but will continue to encourage diversity in the field.


“We are immensely proud of our relationship with Winton, and grateful for their continued support of our students, programmes and initiatives," said Professor David Latchman CBE, Master of Birkbeck.

"Our partnership with Winton is important to our aims to produce high quality research and to empower under-represented groups such as women, in STEM subjects. This not only improves equality of opportunity at university but also supports a more representative talent pipeline for related professions.”

A spokesperson from Winton commented:

“We are proud to support the Winton STEM PhD Studentship at Birkbeck. We believe in the importance of gender equality in STEM subjects, and we hope this scholarship will give bright students the freedom to pursue a full time research degree without having to worry about funding”.

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Published: 03 November 2016