The Interview: Gabriel Rogers
Name: Gabriel Rogers
About you: I work for the Peninsula Medical School as a research fellow in health technology assessment, which means it’s my job to analyse the clinical effectiveness and value for money offered by healthcare interventions. Before that, I worked in medicolegal research and, before that, I played pop music for a living. Although my job is a relatively numerate one, I have no training in mathematics (unless you count the GCSE I gained more than half my life ago); my undergraduate degree is in English literature.
The most recent use of mathematics in your job was… Literally? Checking whether some numbers presented by a drug manufacturer added up to 100, as they should. The most recent remotely interesting use of mathematics in my job was writing some computer code to calculate Cohen's kappa coefficient, to quantify the extent to which two independent researchers agree about something (in this instance, which articles should and should not be included in a review of published evidence).
Some mathematics that amazed you is… I am always amazed when any mathematics I perform appears to give the right answer. I work with a number of people whose affinity for – and training in – mathematics is many leagues beyond mine but, every now and then, I surprise them – and surprise myself even more – with a moment of unexpected competence. Recently, I’ve been doing some stuff on time-to-event data that has helped illuminate quite a gnarly set of data from a clinical trial. Seeing the output from that, when it was first generated, was kinda cool.
Why mathematics? Well, you're not going to add things up with Spanish, are you?
Your favourite/most significant mathematics-related anecdote is… There's one I love, which is about how the back of an envelope helped us win the Second World War. There’s a great summary of it here.
A mathematics joke that makes you laugh is… sin(x) walks into a bar and asks, "Got any sandwiches?" "Sorry, sir," the barman replies, "We don't cater for functions."
Something else that makes you laugh is… the word "squabble".
Your favourite television programme is… The Wire. No, The Sopranos. No, The Wire.
Your favourite ice-cream flavour is… Finally! A question to which I know the answer. It's Langage Farm South Sea Sensation (coconut and dark chocolate).
Who inspired you? Mathematically speaking? I once had the pleasure of sharing a lengthy train ride with David Spiegelhalter whose name will be first on the Earth's team sheet if we're ever challenged to an interplanetary contest in Bayesian inference. He's an unnecessarily clever man. Because the game provided me with my earliest – and most long lasting – engagement with numbers, I’d love to be able to say that I admire a cricket statistician – perhaps someone like Bill Frindall. Unhappily, though, I think the game’s number-crunchers have scarcely scratched the surface of the ways in which cricket lovers’ understanding of the game might be enriched by a creative approach to its plentiful numerical data; certainly nothing to compare with innovators in baseball stats like Bill James. (Though recently, an Australian amateur called David Barry has begun to impress me a bit.)
If you weren’t doing this job you would… be unlikely to be asked to contribute to a mathematics publication.
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