My interest in mathematics really took hold when I was studying for my A-levels. I had a particular interest in statistics and so when it came to choosing a degree, I wanted to choose a course that had a good statistical component. I settled on the Mathematics with Statistics course at Lancaster University. I planned to pursue a career as a pharmaceutical statistician and so decided to stay on at Lancaster and do a Masters in Statistics. Whilst undertaking my masters, I developed a love for statistical methodology and so decided that I would put to one side my plans to work in pharma and instead would enrol to do a PhD.
After spending four years at Lancaster University, I decided that it was time for a change of scenery and so moved to the University of Warwick. My PhD thesis focussed on the analysis of epilepsy data that were in the form of a pre-randomisation event count and multiple post-randomisation survival times. I developed methodology that allows pre-randomisation event counts and multiple post-randomisation survival times with cure rates to be jointly modelled. I also developed the associated software routines in R for the new methodology.
After finishing my PhD, I joined the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where I have been working as a research fellow for the last two years. My research here has been focussed on cardiovascular disease and has been exploring existing methods for the analysis of recurrent hospitalisations for worsening heart failure, as an alternative to composite endpoints. I am also developing novel statistical models for the analysis of hospitalisations where the associated time to death is a potentially informative dropout time.
Being an academic statistician allows me to take on many different roles. The thing that I enjoy the most about being an academic statistician is that it allows me to combine teaching with pursuing my own research interests and taking on consultancy roles. This means that on a daily basis, I have the opportunity to work with other statistical methodologists, practising clinicians, industry collaborators and students. I work mainly in medical research, which I find extremely interesting as it means that not only do I get to learn more about statistical developments, but I also learn about different medical conditions and how they are treated. Working in medicine also means that the statistical models that I develop find practical solutions to real problems and playing a part in the process of finding new treatments for life threatening/altering medical conditions means that my research output has a high impact.
Other good aspects of working in academia are: good opportunities for travel through attending conferences, flexible working hours and clear opportunities for progression through the academic pathway. It is my intention to have a career in UK academia and to establish myself as a biostatistical methodologist of the highest calibre. I feel that the constant development of new statistical methodology is essential in ensuring that data collected is utilised to its fullest so that important and meaningful clinical conclusions can be drawn. I would like to progress from Research Fellow to Lecturer in the near future and hope that this will lead to further progression to Senior Lecturer/Reader and Professor in time.
Potential disadvantages associated with a career in academia are: pressure to publish high impact papers in reputable journals, the fact that contracts are typically fixed term and the need to attract research funding. I would hope, however, that these would not discourage you from considering a career as an academic statistician, as these have never been problematic issues in my practical experience. In my opinion, the advantages definitely outweigh the disadvantages!
Take a look at our guide to becoming a medical statistician here.