Careers helping people

Careers helping people

Healthy humans

Making the world a better place for the people living in it (aka us!), takes a lot of number crunching.

Every year between October and December, the School of BioSciences at the University of Melbourne releases weekly forecasts of the pollen levels in the city’s air. The team behind the Melbourne Pollen Count take daily pollen samples and combine the results with weather data to create a forecast for the week ahead. This is just one way that maths is used to help community members manage their health.

Hayfever affects one in five people. With this kind of research, sufferers can avoid being outdoors on high-pollen days, and log their daily symptoms through the Pollen Count app to help improve the service. Yay for giving back!

Maths is vital when it comes to building healthy communities. Devising cost-effective solutions to chronic health challenges such as obesity, diabetes and skin cancer usually involves a deep dive into data from various medical studies and sources such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“For policy change to happen you need to show that an intervention is cost-effective,” says Jeeva Kanesarajah, a PhD student and statistician with the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health at the University of Queensland. This kind of work is often undertaken by epidemiologists, who study diseases in populations, and biostatisticians, who develop statistical methods to analyse data.

“We use mathematical techniques in epidemiology to determine which lifestyle habits might affect your health risk,” says Dr Julie Bassett, a biostatistician with Cancer Council Victoria. To get into the field, you’ll need a degree in mathematics, or a health sciences degree that includes studies in statistics.

“Working in research requires a combination of skills and abilities,” says Julie’s colleague, fellow biostatistician Dr Kara Martin. “We look for mathematical and problem-solving skills, but it’s also important to have good writing and interpersonal skills to communicate your results effectively.”

– Chloe Walker



YouTube: World Health Organisation

Twitter: @IEA_Epi

Facebook: @combine.australia


Health Science, Swinburne University of Technology

Public Health, Central Queensland University

Science (Computational Biology), University of Melbourne

Mathematics and Statistics, University of Western Australia


Sports statistician *$78,250

Meteorologist *$76,291

Biostatistician *$95,000

*median salary correct at March 2017 via Payscale


Bureau of Meteorology | Cancer Council Victoria | CSIRO | World Health Organisation | Australian Bureau of Statistics

Chloe Walker

Author: Chloe Walker

Chloe is a freelance writer and editor from Melbourne. She loves talking to people about their passions, whether that’s STEM, arts, business, or something else entirely!