During my undergraduate degree I mainly focused on pure mathematics – I loved the idea of devising an abstract world which obeyed certain laws, and was simultaneously the very basis of the real world we live in. My degree taught me how to think in a very logical way and I really enjoyed discovering the beauty of pure maths.
However, when the time came to choose an area of research for my PhD, the applied sciences seemed more applicable and thus attractive. I spend my day working by myself and in collaboration with colleagues on developing models for the evolution of viral genomes, which generally involves a lot of reading, programming and blackboard scribbling. I have even recently submitted an article as a first author!
I very much enjoy doing a PhD, since research teaches you a whole new set of skills: independent thought, communication, collaboration and most of all self-discipline. It allows you to manage your time and work layout yourself – I even took out two months to participate and subsequently win the Channel 4 reality TV show called The Search! We had to travel around the world solving clues and cracking codes, and having a mathematical background, I really noticed how my analytical training helped me enormously at winning.
Even though I will probably not continue in academia, I still think that the set of skills I have learned during my time as a mathematician is an invaluable asset for continuing in pretty much any career path. And it really is the most beautiful of the sciences, in my opinion.