Case study

Statistician — Olivia Tuck

Olivia was keen to use her mathematics and statistics degree in the real world. Find out how working as a statistician allows her to use a range of mathematical applications to help customers

How did you get a job as a statistician?

While studying for a Masters degree in mathematics and statistics I worked in the Decision Science team of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), during my three summer breaks. I applied for a direct-entry role at NNL during the last year of my degree and was successful.

What's a typical day like?

The statistics part of our team covers everything from experimental design, to data analysis and prediction modelling. I meet with customers to understand their requirements, apply the relevant statistical techniques and write up my findings in reports for them.

For example, I've recently provided an experimental design to a customer for some cement rig trials. The design has cut the total number of runs down from 69 to 35, while still providing enough experimental data to do the analysis they require. The next steps will be to help with the data analysis once the experiments have been run.

We also work in large multidisciplinary teams across NNL, to provide the best results for our customers.

How is your degree relevant?

It's useful in all ways. I use a lot of the statistical skills I learned at university in my day-to-day work, and get to build on my knowledge even more as I work on different projects.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The variety - NNL has lots of customers in different areas, so the range of work we get to see is great.

What are the challenges?

The main challenge is articulating how useful my statistical skills are to prospective customers and other internal teams. I know I can help to reduce the number of experimental runs required by applying design techniques, or ensure the reports results are statistically significant, but for customers and teams who usually do that work themselves, it can be difficult to understand.

Where do you hope to be in five years?

I plan to still be in the Decision Science team working on statistics. In five years, I hope to be able to lead on statistics projects and provide support to other team members.

What advice can you give to others?

  • Don't let people at careers fairs tell you that a maths and statistics degree means you'll be an accountant or a teacher. Careers fairs are great, but do plenty of your own research to find out what's out there.
  • Start early. Plan ahead so you know when graduate schemes open and give yourself plenty of time to complete the applications - they're more time consuming that you might think.
  • Use your university careers service when applying for jobs. They can help with CVs, application forms, interviews and assessment centres, and can really make a difference to your success. It's always better to be prepared.

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