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David Lambkin

Biostatistician

David Lambkin went from building parts for mining excavators to helping medical researchers as a biostatistician, all with engineering

With his obsession for Lego and building things, David always wanted to be an engineer, but as someone who also did extra subjects at school just to learn more, he was never going to have a one-track career!

At university, David specialised in mechatronics, a type of engineering that combines robotics with electrical and mechanical systems.

“University was an interesting experience, but I guess it wasn’t necessarily what I was expecting in that it was a lot of theory and maybe not so hands-on.”

But he persevered, and was rewarded with a job at a manufacturing company that did involve getting his hands dirty – making parts for big Caterpillar trucks used on mining sites.

When the 2015 mining downturn happened, David’s job, along with many others, was made redundant, so he got busy again with a Graduate Certificate in Innovation and Commercialisation.

“I thought if I could diversify my skills a bit it would help me, but the course had a statistical component and I was like, ‘oh, that’s actually quite interesting’.”

When David got talking to a medical researcher about his newfound interest in statistics, he realised it had very real applications in the health sector.

He later enrolled in a Master of Biostatistics and, while studying, got a job with the Primary Health Network in Newcastle working with data. “It got me used to some of the terminology that’s used in some of the medical fields.”

Today, David is a biostatistician at the Hunter Medical Research Institute, where he helps researchers use data to figure out if one particular drug or health treatment is working better than another.

His advice to people just starting out on their career journey? “Try to stay passionate about learning – when you’re still trying to figure out what’s going on and then it clicks, that’s when it becomes meaningful.”

And remember: there are lots of paths to doing what you love!

David’s STEM study + career path

  • Bachelor of Engineering (Mechatronics), University of Newcastle
  • Design engineer, Bradken
  • Graduate Certificate in Innovation and Commercialisation, University of Newcastle
  • Community Resources and Health Directories Officer, Hunter New England & Central Coast Primary Health Network
  • Master of Biostatistics, University of Sydney
  • Biostatistician, Hunter Medical Research Institute

This article first appeared in Careers with STEM: Engineering 2023.

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