Why Statistics?

Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley NP.

When asked what he would like the general public to learn about his discipline, computer scientist Ian Parberry said the following:

We need to do away with the myth that computer science is about computers. Computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes, biology is about microscopes, or chemistry is about beakers and test tubes. Science is not about tools; it is about how we use them and what we find out when we do.

Similarly, statistics is not just about boring equations (for you intro stats students), models or the theory; these are just tools we use to solve problems. To me, statistics is the practice of using these tools to advance our understanding of critical real-world problems, not just of scientific importance but of societal importance as well.

My passion for statistics has never been about the tools. Although I appreciate mathematical & statistical theory more these days, I’m primarily motivated by what I can do with the tools in applied problems.

And the thing is, there is no shortage of interesting, important, and difficult real-world problems that statisticians can work on. Whether it’s public health, conservation, public policy generally, economics, social science research, or business, statistics is useful in SO many domains. It’s crazy! There’s a huge demand for statistical expertise!

Of course, not all problems and decisions in society should be data-driven. But I think it’s so cool that statisticians can transcend disciplines and contribute in so many different areas. As someone who is naturally curious about a lot of things, being a statistician is amazing because it gives me so many options! Statistical analysis an awesome skillset to have for people whose curiosity spans multiple disciplines.

If you’re one of my students, feel free to talk to me in office hours about this stuff!

Updated: April 2023.