Padgate High School, Warrington; University College London
10ish GCSEs; 3 A Levels (Maths, Physics, Art); MSci Mathematics; MRes 'Modelling biological complexity'; PhD 'Theoretical biology'
Weekend job at IKEA; Internship at Pfizer; Internship at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; Teaching Fellow at University College London; Data Scientist / Head of Data at Wefarm
Head of Growth Exploration at Wefarm
Wefarm is the world’s largest farmer-to-farmer digital network, with more than 1 million farmers using our ecosystem in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania alone.
Our members can connect with one another to solve problems, spread innovation, and access the best best quality seeds and fertilisers — for free, and without needing an internet connection.
The CHRISTMAS LECTURE related to my work:
A mathematician who loves art, games, and reading
My name is Rob!
I grew up in Warrington, in north-west England. But I’ve mostly lived in London since I turned 18. I now live in Walthamstow, and take the tube every day to work near Kings Cross.
I have zero pets, though I’d be happier with a non-zero number of cats. To make up for that, I’ve got an uncountable number of houseplants!
I’m pretty good at art. In fact I considered doing art at university. Instead I’m trying to just regularly go to drawing classes.
Otherwise I enjoy reading (pretty much anything, though often science fiction) and playing video games (PS4 and Switch).
How I Use Maths In My Job:
Everyday I use statistics, percentages, and proportions to help us make business decisions. I have written computer programs that use probabilities to understand human language.
I used mathematics, data, and experiments to help my company grow in the right direction
I use statistics to help decide what is a priority for my company. These are often in the form of percentages or proportions. For example, I could run an experiment to get data which will let me find out if people are more likely to buy onion seeds (5%) or tomato seeds (30%). In this case I would recommend we sold only tomato seeds.
I’m often interested in how these numbers change over time.
I’ve also written computer programs that use probabilities to understand what language someone is speaking. For example, it could understand whether you are speaking Swahili or English. However, the program can’t understand language in the same way as a human!
I’m very lucky as I sometimes get to travel to East Africa. So far I’ve been to Kenya and Uganda. Hopefully I’ll get to visit Tanzania soon too. I visit to see my colleagues in Nairobi and Kampala, and to meet the farmers we support in the more rural areas of the countries.
However, I am based in our London office most of the time!
My Typical Day
My days normally are a mixture of meetings and focused work analysing numbers and data.
I get the tube (the Victoria line) to work. I get a coffee either on my way or first thing. I’m normally in by 9.30am.
My day is a mixture of meetings and focused work.
In the meetings I often talk to colleagues in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania via video calls.
By focused work I mean anything and everything. While this tends to include making numbers and data, I’ve also spent time doing graphic design!
I’ll tend to finish work by 6pm. Commute home. Then dinner, Netflix, and sleep!
My favourite CHRISTMAS LECTURES memory is:
Watching it with my dad when I was younger
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Extroverted and introverted
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
I had an amazing lecturer that made me realise that I wanted to use mathematics to study biology, which is why I did my PhD
What's your favourite use for maths in everyday life?
Getting the quickest route to my destination by foot or by tube
What did you think about Maths when you were in school?
I liked it, mainly because I was always good at it
What did you want to be after you left school?
I never really knew, I always just waited to see where I would end up
Were you ever in trouble at school?
Only very occasionally
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
I'd love to be an professional artist or designer
Who is your favourite singer or band?
The Go! Team
What's your favourite food?
What is the most fun thing you've done?
I did stand-up comedy a couple of times – it was nerve-wracking before, but fun when on stage
Tell us a joke.
The magic tractor turned into a field