In his second year of undergraduate studies at the University of Cambridge, Michael Wallace realized that statistics are everywhere when he discovered SIGNIFICANCE magazine. He’s since written a number of articles for the magazine as he believes in helping everyone understand statistics and the importance of the subject in our lives.
He began his post-secondary education thinking that he wanted to study pure mathematics, but his attention turned to statistics because he saw the practical applications. While much of his work is theoretical in the field of biostatistics, working with a lot of equations, Wallace is motivated by real-world questions that we are looking to answer.
While completing his PhD at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Wallace put his theoretical education to work with eye doctors at the University of London. Researchers there were completing a study with patients living with amblyopia, a condition where one eye experiences worse vision than the other. Common treatment includes the use of an eye patch over the good eye to retrain the bad eye through use. In this particular study, the eye patch gathered data.
This practical work taught Wallace about the importance of communication. This included learning how to ask the right questions (even if you think one may sound foolish), being prepared to admit that you don’t know what someone means, and being tactful. Helping the physicians – who are not statisticians – quickly understand complex ideas, such as measurement error, was very important. For example, although an eye doctor assesses your eyesight using an eye chart, measurement error may occur if a patient, unsure of a letter, manages to guess it correctly rather than acknowledge that they cannot see it clearly.