Introduction

I am a data scientist at the Ministry of Justice, where I have worked in the Data Science & Personalisation Hub since 2017. Working in a large government department, I have had the privilege of presenting my work directly to Ministers and High Court Judges, reporting on a wide variety of subject areas including:

  • forecasting demand in the Crown Court system
  • quantifying regional variation in Family Court cases concerning children (see here)
  • analysing text responses to public consultations

As well as this diverse subject matter, I have benefited from the opportunity to learn new skills and develop myself, working mainly in R, Python and SQL, and producing data visualisations and webapps in Tableau and R Shiny. Coming from a background in academic research, almost all of these skills have been developed on the job, working in a like-minded team with a range of experience and supportive environment for learning (as well as the top-notch technical offering from the MoJ’s Analytical Platform).

Currently, I am one of three data scientists comprising the Internal Data Linking team for the Data First project, funded by ADR UK. This project involves linking individuals within and between the variety of large administrative datasets held by the Ministry of Justice and its executive agencies, for internal analysis, further linking with other government departments, and the sharing of linked datasets with academic researchers.

To achieve this task and assist other organisations in similar work, we have developed our own open-source data linking software Splink. This work earned the team an Analysis in Government Award for Innovation in 2020 and we continue to improve Splink and promote its use across government and beyond.

Professional

Qualifications

My PhD thesis, bound in purple in an attempt to make it more eye-catching on the shelf
  • PhD Astrophysics
  • MSci Physics with Theoretical Physics
    • Imperial College London (2005 - 2009)
    • Upper 2nd Class Honours
    • Modules including: general relativity, quantum field theory, group theory, cosmology, and advanced particle physics.

Employment History

Discussing the latest images of Pluto from the New Horizons mission on ITV News (July 2015)

After completing my PhD at the University of Hertfordshire, I continued my research into radio galaxies and the large-scale structure of the Universe at the University of Oxford. For more on my brief academic career, head to my Astrophysics page.

After being successful in applying for a SKA Research Fellowship at the University of Western Cape in South Africa, I made the difficult decision to leave academia and not take up what would have been a dream job in astrophysics. Rather than risk moving to South Africa for 3 years to continue a career without certainty or stability, I stayed in the UK and moved back to London, where I joined the Royal Astronomical Society as Assistant Editor and Deputy Press Officer, working in academic publishing and media.

After two years, however, I went back to my analytical roots and began a new career in the civil service as a data scientist at the MoJ in April 2017.

Date Role Organisation
April 2017 to present Data Scientist Ministry of Justice
May 2015 - April 2017 Assistant Editor & Deputy Press Officer Royal Astronomical Society
May 2014 - May 2015 Postdoctoral Research Assistant University of Oxford

Other work has included private tuition of 10-19 year-olds, tutoring University of Hertfordshire undergraduates in mathematics, and part-time work as a personal trainer and duty manager at David Lloyd Leisure.

Personal

I currently live in Charlton with my wife Issi, a Metropolitan Police Officer. While our professional lives revolve around crime, we both enjoy rugby and lifting weights at the gym. Aside from that, we are pretty much opposites - a quiet, scientist from the city and a convivial, country girl with a Music & Drama degree.

I grew up in Wembley (the “home of English football”) in North West London – ironic given my favourite sport has been rugby since I was about 11 years old. I was always a bit of a nerd (no surprises there), and while I always had a healthy involvement in sports (football, rugby, judo, tennis) I was never particularly good or passionate about them, as I am now.

Music

My teens were dominated by music, playing guitar and bass before I settled on the drums and joined a punk band at school. Not quite popular enough for our fellow pupils to take notice at the school’s Battle of the Bands (we defied convention and played original material), we thrived in the “alternative” scene we found in the wider world. Going to gigs at The Underworld, Camden in the evenings, playing acoustic guitars in school corridors at lunchtimes, and then band practice on Sundays made a wholesome enough timetable to keep me out of too much trouble. Thankfully, I’m old enough that “The Outer Limits” and our pretentious middle-class teenage ska punk seems to have disappeared into the aether with all the other early-2000s Myspace profiles and Geocities websites.

Rowing

My happy place on water: the stroke seat of a coxless four, representing Sport Imperial at Henley Royal Regatta 2010 in the Wyfold Challenge Cup

After my A-levels I got my first job, in the bar/restaurant at my local David Lloyd Leisure club which came with free gym membership. Within a year, I had suddenly found my athletic side and convinced the gym manager to pay for my course to qualify as a personal trainer - better pay, more comfortable uniform and getting people fit instead of serving them coffee.

With this newfound fitness (and being 6’5” tall) I was encouraged to try out rowing at the prestigious Imperial College Boat Club. There I finally found a sport that suited me, and a gentle introduction soon escalated, becoming an addiction (how else do you explain the 6am starts and 12 sessions per week, regularly pushing yourself to the point of vomiting). Between university workload, rowing training and still working 2 or 3 nights a week at the gym I was incredibly fit but at the cost of occasionally falling asleep standing upright on a crowded London Underground at rush hour.

After living for a year in the student accommodation above the university boathouse in Putney, I kicked the habit briefly at the start of my final year of undergraduate studies, and then again when I started my PhD. Then a friend from Imperial tempted me back on the water with Vesta Rowing Club, just two doors down the Putney Embankment from Imperial. I won fewer medals and trophies, but negotiated a far more relaxed approach to training around my PhD studies and enjoyed the thrill of racing at Henley Royal Regatta again in 2013.

Travel

(Almost entirely work-related)

A view of the Milky Way you only get in the middle of nowhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Sights like this in Chile are what let me to take up photography. Credit: ESO/P.Horálek
Our last night on honeymoon in Cape Town, taking in the sunset over the Lion's Head and Table Mountain.

Having gone to secondary school in nearby Hertfordshire, then Imperial College London as an undergraduate before the University of Hertfordshire as a postgraduate student, I am unashamedly attached to London. Before university I had only been abroad for a couple of school trips to France, before rowing training camps and holidays with friends took me to Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Germany and Malta (which felt relatively exotic, despite still being in the EU and largely English speaking). I was able to make up for lost time during my PhD, where one of the perks of astrophysics in particular is the opporunity to travel to exotic locations:

  • La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain – My first observing trip, working 8 nights on the Isaac Newton Group of telescopes at 2,334m above sea level, and my first taste of the beauty of a dark sky and no light pollution.
  • Cape Town, South Africa – First an October networking trip with my supervisor who was an adjunct professor at University of Western Cape, where we stayed in an apartment at the foot of Table Mountain overlooking the city, then a two-week cosmology Summer School in nearby Stellenbosch. The “Mother City” remains my favourite place in the world, and I was lucky to have visited twice at someone else’s expense.
  • La Silla Observatory, Atacama Desert, Chile - My second observing trip was a step up in every way – more responsibility over the observations and processing the data, more remote location with even darker skies, and more time in transit (3 flights via Sao Paolo and Santiago and a 2-hour bus). I only regretted not having taken up photography yet, and not extending my stay in Chile to do some travelling beyond a desert mountaintop.
  • Charlottesville, Virginia, USA - My first visit to the USA and it was for a conference in a small but picturesque Southern city with a less appealing recent history. Unlike Chile I made the most of my visit by extending my trip and travelling to New York for a few days for my first solo city break, armed with my Canon 600D and a newfound passion for photography.

Unsurprisingly, my long-haul travel has declined since joining the regular working world and having to pay for it myself. But I did return to Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape for my honeymoon in 2018, and fortunately my wife quickly fell in love with the place, the culture and the people just like I did.

Rugby

After learning rugby at school but never demonstrating any real competence, it was always my favourite sport as a spectator. I watched every England game and was always fond of Saracens as the club representing NW London in the Premiership. At university I discovered rowing was the sport I was made for, despite (or perhaps because of) the gruelling, repetitive nature of training. Ironically, I kicked the rowing habit for good when I joined the Physics Department of the University of Oxford - an institution with a famous rowing tradition. And after moving back to London to live with my girlfriend in Chiswick, the insane training time involved in rowing made it an unviable option, despite being so close to my old club.

Meanwhile, the Rugby World Cup was taking place in England that autumn, and Issi and I were at Twickenham as England were knocked out of the tournament in the group stages against eventual runners up Australia. The World Cup inspired me to attend a “Return to Rugby” scheme for those familiar with the game and looking for a gentle transition back into it, with the nearest host club about 15 mins away at Ealing Trailfinders RFC. Despite growing up just a few miles away and knowing Ealing fairly well, I had no idea they had such a big rugby club – in fact they had just been promoted to the Championship (the second division of English rugby) that year, and have been runners up in that league for the last 3 seasons. Their amateur rugby setup was pretty strong too with 3 senior teams and a “vets” team for over-35s, so after a few weeks of training with a bunch of beginners I couldn’t wait to jump into full team training twice a week.

Competing at the lineout against St. Jacques Vikings in Guernsey

Rowing for years had made me fit and hard-working, but with no hand-eye coordination or tackling technique I was grateful for the patience and support of the players and coaches. Given my height, aerobic fitness and general lack of flair, I was always going to be a lock forward (or second row), which probably worked to my advantage because it’s not the most popular position.

I averaged 25 games per year before the coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt, and after a first season between the 2nd team and the Exiles (the “social” team), I stuck at it and took over as 2nd team captain after 2 years. Eventually, I made my way into the 1st team as a regular, making the most of my “lineout nause” tag to show my worth in leading that part of the game.

Between the captaincy and a couple of Players’ Player of the Year awards, even after moving to the opposite side of London, Ealing rugby became almost an obsession of mine. Fortunately, my wife is also a big rugby fan, and very fond of everyone at the club. In 2019, as the amateur men’s teams at Ealing formed a new club called Ealing Trailfinders 1871 I took responsibility for the club’s largely neglected social media accounts, taking my obsession even further by combining it with a new hobby of creating social media graphics and establishing a “brand identity” or something. Even when I’m not playing, through injury or due to the pandemic, I have enjoyed the opportunity to show my creative side semi-anonymously on that platform. So of course I urge anyone reading this to follow us on your social media channel of choice – @ealingrugbymens!

Trying to increase player and supporter engagement with the club by posting regular content throughout the week on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.