Applied Statistics in Health SciencesGraduate profile: Rosalyn Fraser

Why did you choose to study at Strathclyde?

I studied my undergraduate degree at the University of Stirling where I did a BSc in Applied Biological Sciences. At the start of my 4th year I decided that I was incredibly interested in continuing on to do Postgraduate study so began to research suitable courses. I'd undertaken a Statistical Techniques module during my degree, which sparked an interest in me to pursue this further. After gaining a wide range of knowledge that was applicable to the life science sector and undertaking an industrial placement, I concluded my strengths were more in data analysis as opposed to laboratory work.

"The course is also available to students who have not previously studied a statistics degree which was ideal for me coming from a biological sciences background." 

I was immediately drawn to this course due to it involving applying statistics to problems in the medical/health sciences. I've always had a great personal interest in medical research and a passion for improving the health and wellbeing of others. I believed that this course would enable me to develop my skills and interest in analysing data sets that are relevant to medical science, to come up with conclusions that will greatly affect individuals today.

The course is also available to students who have not previously studied a statistics degree which was ideal for me coming from a biological sciences background. I was also incredibly interested by the technical skills that I would gain from the course, as the programme offered both knowledge of modern statistical methods as well as experience of applying these methods to real life problems. I was also aware of how in-demand these particular statistical and data analysing skills are in the industry and in research today. Therefore, I was excited by the various new career prospects this course would provide me with.

How has the university and course lived up to your expectations?

Studying at the university itself has been a fantastic experience. Everyone in the department's been incredibly friendly and approachable and I feel that I have been well supported with my studies here. At the beginning of the year, I was worried that I maybe didn’t possess the required level of statistical skills required for the course. However, following a two-week introductory to statistics module I felt a lot more confident! The modules contained within the course were always well organised and varied, with each class focusing on a different applied element of being a statistician. Even at the end of the first semester, I couldn’t quite believe how much I'd already learnt and how many new skills I'd acquired.

"Studying at the university itself has been a fantastic experience. Everyone in the department's been incredibly friendly and approachable and I feel that I have been well supported with my studies here."

How have you liked studying in Glasgow?

Glasgow's an incredibly vibrant and friendly city and it's very true when they say “People Make Glasgow”! I am originally from a small town in a remote area of Scotland so thought that living in a city would be too loud and busy for me! However, there are always green spaces to escape to throughout the city and the beautiful countryside and highland wilderness of Scotland is only a short car/train ride away.

How has the course helped you with your career prospects?

Having always had a great interest in medical research, by the end of the first semester I was certain that I wanted to either go on to do a PhD or work in academia as a statistician. When starting to research jobs, I was shocked at how many different sectors within both industry and academia that the knowledge and skills from this course could be applied to. I found that the skill set I was building from this course was really taken seriously in the job world and how individuals with an Applied Statistics degree were in high demand! I found it a lot easier than expected to secure a job, and in a few weeks’ time I will be beginning a job as a Medical Statistician at the University of Oxford, where I will be working in clinical trials research and development. This position provides a fantastic opportunity to make a significant contribution towards primary care research using multiple statistical analysis methods. This will allow me to use my broad range of statistical and data analysing skills to develop and evaluate methods to help improve clinical practice.

"I remember going for the (job) interview and the interviewer being so impressed by the technical aspect of my Masters course and the high level of data analysing skills I'd learnt in such a short period of time!"

I remember going for the interview and the interviewer being so impressed by the technical aspect of my Master’s course and the high level of data analysing skills I'd learnt in such a short period of time! This course also involved a statistical consultancy module which I found particularly valuable. I worked on a group project with the Department of Psychology where I gained practical experience of attending meetings and interacting with other researchers to formulate hypotheses. This also enabled me to understand how to communicate my findings to non-statisticians, which is crucial when working in academic research. I only have this course and the lecturers involved to thank for this as they have equipped me with the necessary technical and practical skills to succeed in my career choice.

What advice would you offer potential students looking to study this course at Strathclyde?

If you're really passionate about pursuing a career as an applied statistician in whatever sector or organisation that may be, then I could not recommend this course enough! The skills, in-depth knowledge and real-life experience you'll gain are invaluable and will really set you up for a fantastic career. Not only this, but you will acquire problem solving and high-level numeracy skills that are widely sought after in any job that you go on to do.

"Throughout the course you're taught by, and in contact with, staff from the NHS and The Animal and Plant Health Agency."

Throughout the course you're taught by, and in contact with, staff from the NHS and The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) who know exactly what it is like to work as an applied statistician and therefore can provide expert career advice. They'll also work with you on your research project which will be based on real life problems and data-sets that they may be faced with while working in the health sciences.

I would say that this course is quite an intensive course as it requires you to learn various advanced statistical methods in great detail as well as how to perform statistical analysis in software packages such as R computing. Therefore it requires a great deal of dedication and hard work throughout the year and for you to be fully focused on your studies. However, I believe that no matter if you're from a statistical background or not, if you're keen to pursue a career as a statistician then this is possible. The multiple career opportunities that you will be provided with following this course will definitely be worth it!