ACEMS Statistician Getting the Best of Both Worlds as She Teams with ACEMS Partner Organisation

What is statistics? If you ask ACEMS Research Fellow Joanna Wang, it’s the art of data.

Joanna says she’s very lucky, because she gets to work with her ‘art’ in two very different ways.

The first is on a theoretical level at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Mathematical and Statistical Frontiers (ACEMS). The other is with ACEMS’ partner organisation, the Sax Institute.

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ACEMS Chief Investigator Louise Ryan with Dr Joanna Wang

Joanna works three days a week at SAX and is involved with several projects, including the institute’s highly-publicised “45 and Up Study.” The ongoing study follows one in 10 people from New South Wales, aged 45 and above. It looks into a variety of workplace, lifestyle and health issues, with the goal of helping the government make more informed decisions about health care.

Joanna is involved with the institute’s Analysis for Policy (A4P) team.

“We deal with government agencies to try to help them formulate a practical problem they might have into a research question, to see if data from the ’45 and up’ study can answer that question,” says Joanna.

Because the study’s cohort is so large, one of the issues is ‘no responses,’ or other missing data. Joanna works on the problem with ACEMS Chief Investigator Louise Ryan at UTS to see if that impacts any of the conclusions of the study.

“I take those issues and the two days I’m working at UTS is where I work with Louise on these more theoretical issues,” says Joanna. “So it’s like marrying the theory and the methodological aspect with the applied work into one coherent piece.”

So for Joanna, it’s the best of both worlds.

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Joanna visiting Chicago

Joanna studied applied mathematics and statistics at The University of Sydney. She also received her PhD there in statistics, focusing on financial econometric models. From there, she went to the University of New South Wales, where she worked as a lecturer, and with UNSW’s Transport and Road Safety (TARS) Research group.

She’s been ACEMS/UTS the last two years, and loves working with Professor Ryan.

“Joanna’s work with the Sax Institute is an excellent example of what I like to call the ‘virtuous cycle of collaboration,’” said Prof Ryan.  “Working on compelling real world problems has motivated Joanna to think about some interesting technical challenges.  Solving these has allowed her to not only contribute to the body of statistical theory and knowledge, but also to provide a better practical solution to the problem at hand.  This kind of problem-based research makes being a statistician fun and helps us to make real world contributions.”

Joanna was born in Shanghai, China but moved to Australia when she was 12.

Later this month, she returns to China for a Faculty seminar presentation at Peking University, where she will talk about the ’45 and Up’ study. It will be a great opportunity to share both aspects of her work.

She has also recently attended two different statistics conferences in the United States, including the Joint Statistical Meetings in Chicago four months ago.

ACEMS looks forward to seeing where her love for the ‘Art of Data” will take her next as she moves forward in her career.

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