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 Walt Piegorsch, Professor of Mathematics, Public Health and Agricultural & Biosystems Engineering at University of Arizona shares his story.
1. Why did you choose Mathematics as a career path?
Specifically, I took “Mathematical Statistics” (and what we now call “Data Science”) as a career track: as an undergraduate, I took a probability and statistics sequence and I noticed that you could do something with mathematics that solved the problem right then and there. A data analyst can help a physician show that a pharmaceutical works better than a placebo, say, or help an environmental scientist identify heightened risks of natural disasters in specific regions. The ability to make those sort of impacts really enchanted me.
2. What inspires you in your chosen topic?
I get jazzed now by doing interdisciplinary statistics — we’re always evolving and incorporating information across disciplines, and that teaches you things you never thought you’d learn. My current focus with projects on environmental risk assessment, on precision medicine, and on gene-environment interactions are sterling exemplars of this concept: to be successful science must be more interactive and we need to keep talking with each other, as statisticians are trained to do.
The projects with the three teams mentioned above are challenging, and neither I nor my domain-specific colleagues can solve them on our own. By combining our efforts and learning from each other, however, we often uncover solutions that are greater than the sum of their parts. When that happens, it’s always exciting.
In the few decades since I was a graduate student, interdisciplinary statistics has grown enormously: to meet the practical needs for better and more advanced data science our society requires, we must continue to advance the training of that next generation. This is what gets me up and out the door every morning.
3. What’s the most exciting thing about your job?
Working with students to train the next generation of data scientists. In the few decades since I was a graduate student, interdisciplinary statistics has grown enormously: to meet the practical needs for better and more advanced data science our society requires, we must continue to advance the training of that next generation. This is what gets me up and out the door every morning.
4. What would you say to students/early career researchers who may be considering the topic as a study option or career choice?
Take the plunge! As I mention above, the need more and better-trained data scientists is only growing, so the opportunities are there (and they will be for decades to come). The kinds of knowledge discovery this job produces fills a career (or two, or three…) so you’ll never have a dull moment.