James Curran on why choose statistics

April is Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, a timely opportunity to help raise the awareness and understanding of the field.

To aid this quest, a number of renowned Wiley Editors, Editorial Board Members and Authors have taken the time to tell us why they embarked on their journey in their chosen fields, what inspires and excites them, and why they’d encourage you to take the plunge!

This month The Wiley Network will publish some selected responses for you to read and share with your colleagues, students and friends. All responses will feature on StatisticsViews.com throughout April.

In continuing our series, Professor James Michael Curran, Head of Statistics Department, The University of Auckland and is Editor-in-Chief of Australian & New Zealand Journal of Statistics.  shares his story.


1. How or why did you choose statistics as a career path/study area?

I was inspired by a second year statistics class in data analysis, and in particular a lecturer (Peter Mullins) who also worked as a Statistical Consultant. He was the first person that made me realise how useful statistics was, and not just to other people in the mathematical sciences, but in industry and business.

2. What inspires you about statistics?

Again, it is sort of related to being about to find the signal amongst the noise. Statistics provides us with an objective way of evaluating information and deciding whether “something is really there.” I also love computing, and there is a natural synergy between the two.

3. What’s been the most exciting thing about your career in statistics?

I work with forensic scientists. My work has real impacts, in that it can be used to find someone innocent or guilty of a crime. Being part of that very important process is exciting.

4. What would you say to students/Early Career Researchers who may be considering statistics as a study option/career choice?

Go for it, but don’t overlook computing either. Statistics and Computer Science go hand-in-hand these days and having both the analytical tools and the power to use them will put the world at your fingertips.

Professor James Michael Curran is Head of Department, The University of Auckland and is Editor-in-Chief of Australian & New Zealand Journal of Statistics. His main interests are in statistical problems in forensic science. He consults with forensic agencies in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, and produce and maintain expert systems software for the interpretation of evidence. I have experience as an expert witness for DNA and glass evidence, appearing in courts in the United States and Australia.

In addition to my forensic interests, I have very strong interests in statistical computing, and in automation projects.