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Dr Emi Tanaka

Agricultural statistician

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Statistics and agriculture might seem like apples and oranges, but University of Sydney statistician Dr Emi Tanaka is using agricultural statistics to help farmers yield the best possible crops and uncover the science behind food production.

Emi gathers information about the health of crops against variable environmental factors such as location or nutrient supply, to quantify the circumstances that produce hardy plants. But, it’s not as easy as breeding the strongest crop.

“Suppose we lose genetic diversity in a crop and only have ‘elite’ varieties,” Emi says. “There could be a deadly virus that they’re susceptible to, so the whole crop is wiped out. If you maintain genetic diversity, there’s a chance that some varieties are resistant to this virus.”

That, she explains, is the same logic behind why there should be more women in STEM and statistics. “Women offer important ideas that are essential for advancing science. Nature teaches us that diversity is important and it’s not any different for gender diversity in STEM.”

Emi completed a Bachelor of Science in Advanced Mathematics at the University of Sydney, and later a PhD in Statistics because of the employment opportunities on offer. “Society has never been equipped with so much information and everyone wants to make sense of it,” she says.

Now, she’s landed a career that grows more than just crops. “I get to do research I love, and at the same time educate the next generation in maths. I love helping them flourish and grow.”

Eliza Brockwell

To get there:


Dr Emi Tanaka’s pathway to agricultural statistics

> > Bachelor of Science (Advanced Mathematics), University of Sydney

> > PhD in Statistics, University of Sydney

> > Research Fellow, School of Mathematics and Applied Statistics, University of Wollongong

> > Lecturer in Statistics, University of Sydney

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“I get to do research I love, and at the same time educate the next generation in maths. I love helping them flourish and grow.”


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