Hello. My name is Stephen, and I’m six months into a masters in Medical Statistics here at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Over the next few months I’m going to be writing about my experience at the School as I prepare for my exams and work on my research project over the summer. I’ll also be looking forwards to where I want to go after I finish my Masters in September.
But as this is my first post, I should start by explaining a little about me, and how I ended up studying at the School. As an aside I should say that my route is hardly typical, one of the great things about the school is the variety of backgrounds of the students, and all the individual paths that led them to Bloomsbury. I’m very fortunate that I receive funding from the National Institute of Health Research and the Institute of Psychiatry, where I’ll go to work after I complete my studies.
This masters is a return to study for me after a long break – I completed my first degree back in 1997! A year after graduation I had started a PhD, also in Maths, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t the right thing for me at that time. However, I always hoped that one day I would be able to return to studying, it was simply a case of waiting for the right moment.
I’ve had two careers since those days. First, I worked as an IT consultant, and I’ve spent the last seven years working as a Communications Manager for charities who support prisoners and their families. In early 2011 I realised that the time was right for a change, and I started thinking about ways I could use my long-neglected numeracy skills. A friend of mine had taken this masters many years ago, and had often tried to persuade me to follow in her footsteps. I spoke to her, and did some research into the course, before deciding that I’d like to give it a go.
In both of my previous careers I learnt valuable skills which have come in very handy during my masters. My computer programming skills have helped me get to grips with the statistical software we use to analyse data. The writing experience I gained as a Communications Manager has taught me how to write for different audiences – as statisticians we have to prepare reports for medics and other non-statisticians, so it’s vital that we can explain complicated ideas in language which is clear and unambiguous. But the main thing I bring with me is an ability to problem-solve, and not to be daunted by seemingly impossible tasks, which our end of term assignments can sometimes feel like! I’ll write more about the course, and life as a student at LSHTM, next time…