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Prestigious £10,000 MacQuitty Prize awarded to Mathematics student

This year’s prestigious MacQuitty Prize has been awarded to Thomas Atherton, a Mathematics BSc student.

Supported by Dr Jonathan MacQuitty (SCITECH 1974), the prize has been offered annually since 2008, and is presented to the best-performing final-year undergraduate across the sciences. With no constraints on how the money can be spent, the aim of the prize is, in Dr MacQuitty’s own words, “to provide the winner with sufficient financial freedom to consider more easily doing graduate work, starting a business or simply travelling”.

Tom, who is now going to study for a masters degree in mathematics at the University of Warwick, also hopes to undertake a PhD in the future.

In recognition of the significant value of the award, both financially and personally, Tom commented:

"The MacQuitty prize removes the financial concerns that I had about my Masters year, as the funding options for masters courses are extremely limited.

"The Mathematics department helped me achieve things I never thought possible and mathematics has given me a unique way of thinking that I am not ready to give up."

For Tom, the decision to come and study mathematics at Sussex was not a straighforward one. He explained:

“Quitting my job and returning to education was a scary prospect, I was certain of my choice but this feeling lingered. I knew why I had made this decision but I didn't expect it to turn out quite the way that it did.

“When I first applied to study mathematics at the University of Sussex, it was with the intention of furthering my career prospects whilst studying a subject that I had an affinity for. However, within the first few weeks of being at Sussex, my interest really grew and I discovered that the subject was so much more than I had previously thought.

“I found myself really diving into the material in a way that I had never done so before, either in an educational or professional setting. Moreover, I was working with like-minded students, each of us pushing each other to achieve the best results possible. This mentality continued throughout my three years at Sussex.

"All of the academics that I interacted with over the three years were extremely supportive. They took the time to answer my questions and gave me advice about further study. The department gave me the chance to experience individual research via projects undertaken during the summer breaks in my first and second years.

"I would like to give special mention to the following academics who supported me: Professor James Hirshfeld; Dr Filippo Cagnetti; Dr Nicos Georgiou; Dr Peter Giesl; Dr Vanessa Styles; Masoumeh Dashti; Konstantinos Koumatos; David McCormick; Dr Ali Taheri; and Vladislav Vysotskiy.”

Dr MacQuitty, who completed his PhD at Sussex in the 1970s, also kindly supports a second £10,000 prize – the MacQuitty Prize in Humanities and Social Sciences – which is currently in its inaugural year.

Dr Marina Pedreira-Vilarino, Director of Development and Alumni Relations, commented:

“Jonathan MacQuitty’s generous philanthropic support is a great example of the tremendous impact that alumni giving can have on the lives of students.”


By: Justine Charles
Last updated: Monday, 13 August 2018

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