After the exams, my life suddenly changes. No longer do I have a strict routine of classes and revision. There is no need to go into school each day, even if I, like lots of other students, find a reason. Officially, we should all be now making a start on our Summer Projects, the final piece of the assessment jigsaw (following our course assignments and the exams). For us statisticians, this generally involves analysing some real data from a clinical trial or epidemiological study, although it can also be a study into a particular statistical method. Lots of my friends on other courses have the excitement of going overseas for their project, where they’ll be involved in real research, often in remote locations in far-flung countries. They spend these days following the exams buying last-minute items, doing their project paperwork… and of course celebrating the end of the exams!
My project is based at the Institute of Psychiatry, where I work, looking at levels of violence on Psychiatric wards. It’s an interesting subject, an unusual trial design, and the dataset I’m using is larger than those I’ve used before, so I know it will be a challenge. The trial lasted five years, with the data collection ending just a few months ago, which means that I have some work to do to “clean up” the data before I can analyse it. This entails a lot of email questions to the project team as I ask questions about incorrect dates, badly-coded genders, and other inconsistencies in the data. Although it can be frustrating, it is a good example of the type of work statisticians have to do before they can perform formal analyses on trial data. Thankfully, I’ve now finished that stage and can start the real work. After a nice break, I’m ready to go again!