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REVIEW – YSS “Careers in Statistics” event on 26 Mar 2014


Alan Turing building, The University of Manchester, UK


Manchester RSS/YSS special meeting: Careers in Statistics

Review by Mark Pilling

On Wednesday 26th March the Mathematics Department at the University of Manchester hosted a special “Careers in Statistics” event, designed to broaden the horizons of career-young statisticians through showcasing the wide range of different statistical careers that are available. It was jointly organised by the University of Manchester School of Mathematics, and the Royal Statistical Society (Young Statisticians Section and Manchester Local Group).

Approximately 80 people attended, and there was a full line-up of 10 short talks on a variety of professional fields as diverse as medicine, finance, industry, environment, government and academia. The first session was mainly academic-related careers, and the second session was mainly industry-related roles.

Dr Matt Sperrin (Manchester University) opened the event with an introduction to the roles of the RSS and YSS sections, future events, and the practical benefits of becoming a member. Prof Chris Roberts (Centre for Biostatistics, Manchester University) spoke about the major employers of Statisticians in the UK and the applicable fields of study, “What does a medical Statistician do?” and an interesting example of responding to a topical issue in the media’s reporting of the claims for trials of an Anti-Ageing Skin Cream! This was followed by practical advice of career routes & fellowships.

Dr Jill Johnson (School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds) spoke about her career history with advice to new graduates. As an applied Statistician for first the Food and Environment Agency and now on a climate-modelling-related study, she explained how being able to learn new technical skills was a recurring feature of statistical work. Mark Griffiths (DWP, Government Statistics) spoke about his career trajectory & career paths within the government. This included the types of skills that are required, opportunities to influence policy, and section on “Myth-busting” about the Civil Service. The session closed with Dr Wendy Olsen (Senior Lecturer in Socio-Economic Research, University of Manchester) about roles in international organisations available to Statisticians, insights into her career decisions, and comments on consultancy roles & how best to correctly specify problems.

After a break, Dr Catherine O’Hara (North West Cancer Intelligence Service, Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust) resumed with a description of the roles available in Healthcare research, and the future need for Statisticians as healthcare needs evolve. Xin Wang (Discovery Statistics, AstraZeneca) spoke about Pharmaceutical Statistics, her career path, the impact of the role & the wide range of skills required by a Statistician – especially strong communication skills. This was illustrated by examples requiring experimental design, drug combination analysis and techniques for high-dimensional data. The CEO of Phastar, Kevin Kane, gave a detailed insight into roles with Clinical Research Organisations (CRO) and the fine distinctions between their Statistician & Programmer roles – sometimes based on temperament! Covering work-life expectations and also contrasting CROs to Pharma, Kevin closed by illustrating where value can be added with an example of a non-standard analysis.

Dr Jan Taylor (NowGen, Manchester Biomedical Research Centre) surprised the audience by explaining that Medical Statisticians were all Bioinformaticians! Her detailed talk on topical areas of research (Genetics & Genomics), the growing need in the NHS for data scientists and the “Fantastic!” career prospects met a responsive audience. The session closed with Dr Tim Dinsdale (Goldman Sachs) speaking about the ongoing need for “Quants” in the Financial sector, and the competitive application process required. He gave an explanation of the likely departments of employment as well as the growing opportunities for students from quantitative disciplines. The day finished with opportunities for further questions & networking over wine at the closing reception. Given the very positive feedback on the day, we expect this event to be repeated in future.

On behalf of the organising committee: Elizabeth Boggis, Christiana Charalambous, Peter Foster, Mark Pilling & Matthew Sperrin

Acknowledgments: The meeting was supported by Manchester University Mathematics Department, RSS Manchester section, YSS, & Special thanks to all the speakers for their time in helping to make a success of the day.





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