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Case Study: Peter Henrys

Personal details
Degree:M.Sci (HONS) Statistics Profile picture
School(s): School of Mathematics and Statistics
Year of Graduation:Jun-2005
LinkedIn:
National of: United Kingdom
Employment details
Organisation: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)
Job title: Statistician
Occupational Sector: Statistics
What has been your route to getting your current position?
Statistics MSci degree at St Andrews > Statistics PhD at Lancaster University > Statistician at private environmental consultancy > Statistician with CEH.
What does your job involve ?
My job involves both the design, analysis and interpretation of ecological survey and experimental data. I design nationwide surveys of the countryside to investigate stock and change of natural resources such as water quality, carbon storage and plant species diversity. I use novel approaches to analysis trends over time and investigate environmental, land use and climate impacts on biodiversity, seasonal timings and various other aspects of British ecology. I also provide guidance, support and statistical consultancy for a site of 130 staff and students.
What are the best bits of your job ?
The best part of the job is working with data that I have a genuine interest in. I enjoy working with ecologists on a variety of problems and questions they are interested in across a range of very diverse data sets. I also enjoy going out into the field to survey sites, test methodology and to inform my sampling design.

Working within a research environment also means that no two days are the same which makes everyday very interesting, challenging and rewarding.
Why were you successful?
I think that the main reason I got the job I have now was that I used my summer holidays during my undergraduate study wisely. I knew that I wanted to work in the area of ecological statistics so I got experience doing lots of different things and working on lots of different data sets, sometimes paid sometimes not, sometimes for a week sometimes for three months. This experience was pivotal in applying theory learned in lectures to real life problems. It also provides some examples of relevant work to discuss in interview, which new graduates can often find difficult.
What skills/ knowledge from your degree have you found particularly helpful in this role?
My degree at St Andrews could not have been a better foundation for the job I am in right now. The choice of modules allowed me to tailor my degree to exactly what I was interested in and what I have gone on to do. The added project component to the M.Sci degree also gave me some excellent hands on experience of applying theory into practice and following a project through from initial ideas and plans to analysis through to writing up. I still work in exactly the same way. Also, the statistics staff at St. Andrews were so friendly, helpful, informative and approachable that their advice, experience and work ethic has guided me throughout my career.
What advice would you give to students wishing to follow the same path?
My main advice is to use your time out of university hours. Don't waste the long summers, take the opportunity to get some experience, even if it's unpaid - it will be vital when applying for jobs and you may even forge some important relationships.

I decided fairly early on that I wanted to have a career in ecological statistics without really knowing if such jobs existed. You'll be amazed at the number of opportunities out there that you never knew existed, so don't decide on a job, decide on a career. Doing something you enjoy. That's what I did and as a result I have a job I love and where everyday is different and rewarding.