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Helen Ramsay

Health reseacher & epidemiologist

Maths careers

The study of statistics provided Helen Ramsay with a gateway to an interesting career as public health researcher and epidemiologist

What single field can connect chemistry, the environment and health? According to Helen, the answer is statistics. Or, more specifically, epidemiology: the use of statistics to study the cause and spread of diseases.

Like many others, Helen wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she left school. “I didn’t think a gap year would give me any clarity, so I jumped into uni and did science because that was the area I was attracted to in high school.”

Helen initially enrolled in a chemistry degree at Macquarie University in Sydney, but later switched to climate science and, almost as an afterthought, added statistics. “I had room in my timetable for a second major and I thought stats would be useful,” she says. As it turns out, she was right.

Her interest in epidemiology was piqued by a subject called ‘epidemiology and biostatistics’ and solidified by a capstone project which saw her travel to Fiji to study the health effects of kava, a psychoactive drink.

One degree, loads of careers

Now, with a Master’s in Public Health, Helen works as a public health researcher and coordinates a network that brings together researchers to plan clinical trials.

Her classmates from Macquarie have gone on to apply their stats skills in equally interesting ways, working in everything from the energy sector, to consulting, coding and IT. “You’ve got so many options with statistics – it can be overwhelming,” says Helen. “Trying to pinpoint what’s a priority for you, what motivates you, helps in selecting a job.”

Eventually, Helen wants to help remote and disadvantaged communities to address public health issues, but for now she loves the autonomy and diversity that her current role gives her. “Work with people who want to make a positive impact and who are passionate about
what they do. It’s contagious.”

Helen’s pathway

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2022 in partnership with Macquarie University.

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