As we continue our series of profiles of statisticians in celebration of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness month, we spoke to Dr. Jennifer Rogers, Director of Statistical Consultancy Services at the University of Oxford, Vice President (External Affairs), Royal Statistical Society and President, British Science Association Mathematical Sciences Section, about what drove her to pursue statistics as a career.
Q. How or why did you choose statistics as a career path/study area?
A. I am actually an accidental statistician/mathematician rather than someone who actively chose it. I absolutely hated maths when I was in high school and was convinced that I was no good at it. In fact, it was my maths teacher who convinced me to take up maths as an A-level. I had picked three subjects and was considering biology as my fourth, but my maths teacher talked me into choosing maths and I’ve never really looked back. Once I started my A-levels, that was really it for me, I completely fell in love with statistics and that was all I wanted to do.
Q. What inspires you about statistics?
A. My love of the subject stems from having tangible datasets that you can investigate and explore. You can see data, plot it, analyze it and learn from it. I also love the many applications that statistics has. My job as a consultant means that I am involved in all sorts of different projects in many different fields. But my first love will always be medical statistics. Knowing that the work that I carry out can help keep people alive longer, prevent diseases, or improve quality of life is hugely inspirational to me and I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to work on some really worthwhile and life changing projects.
Q. What’s been the most exciting thing about your career in statistics?
A. Seeing my work presented at big medical conferences and hearing the subsequent discussions around how my analyses will inform future clinical practice is incredibly exciting. There’s a real buzz from hearing world renowned clinicians discussing your work and how it might help individuals in the future. I am also lucky enough to be able to undertake quite a lot of public engagement and media work. Standing on a stage in a big theatre in front of 1000 or so teenagers, or being interviewed for radio or TV are really fun, exciting aspects of my job which constantly keep me on my toes as you never know what interesting question/problem might come up next!
Q. What would you say to students/Early Career Researchers who may be considering statistics as a field of study or career choice?
A. Do it! You won’t be disappointed and you most definitely will never be bored. Being a statistician is challenging, thought-provoking, rewarding and constantly changing. There has never been a more exciting time to be a statistician in my opinion! We now live in a data generation and so our profession is only going to get more and more stimulating as we need more and more statisticians to make sense of it all. Data is only a raw material, after all. It takes a statistician to turn that raw material into knowledge. Oh, and I would also say listen to your maths teachers. It worked out pretty well for me!
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