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Nick Tierney's (mostly) rstats blog



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5 minute read

Last week (specifically, the 1st Feb) I got “the letter” from QUT that basically says “You, Nicholas Tierney, are a Dr.”. Well, specifically, it says:

The Queensland University of Technology’s Registrar has executively approved your degree and you are now entitled to use the title of “Dr”.

Woo hoo!

Now, for those who are wondering “haven’t you already been doing a post doc, why is this only happening now?”

There is a particularly long tail end of my PhD, here’s a rough timeline:

My thesis, “Statistical Approaches to Revealing Structure in Complex Health Data”, will soon be made available through QUT’s eprint system, which means that it is open to the world wide web. But, in the interim, I thought it would be nice to share the acknowledgements section below - there are a lot of people to thank!


This thesis simply would not have been possible without the support, guidance, and help of many people. First and foremost, I thank my principal supervisor, Kerrie Mengersen, for believing in me, being a constant source of calm in times of need, showing me how to be a great researcher, how to lead a team, run a meeting, for exposing me to the wonderful world of statistics, and giving me so many amazing opportunities to see the world and meet so many wonderful people. My world is different now, and definitely for the better. I would also like to thank Fiona and Maurice Harden for their support and encouragement, and for taking me out of the office and onsite to get a sense for where the data comes from.

I would also like to thank Antonietta Mira, for her mentorship, support, and boundless enthusiasm for research and statistics, I have learnt so much from you. Thank you also to the research team at Università della Svizzera and Fondazione Ticino Cuore. In particular Angelo Auricchio and Jost Reinhold, for making time to meet at early and late hours, across oceans and continents.

Thank you to my friends for listening, caring, and nodding along as I rattled on about statistical this and data that. In particular, I’d like to thank Miles McBain, for putting up with late night questions on regular expressions, going on many lunchtime adventures, and for being there when I really needed it. I’d also like to thank Jesse Roberts, for teaching me how to wrangle groups, and showing me how to ask good questions. Thank you to Sam Clifford, for sitting down so very many times, and carefully explaining the mechanics behind statistical and mathematical theories, for inspiring me to be a good teacher, speaker, and researcher. And also for the many excellent discussions about coffee, beer, and food. I’d also like to thank Jegar Pitchforth, for giving me the courage to pursue this degree in the first place. It’s turtles all the way down, man. Thank you to my outdoors and climbing friends, in particular Dan Gordon, Liz Cuskelly, Johnny Schwartz, Alex Turnball, Blake Stringer, and Neil Jenman. You opened my world to the freedom of the hills, and inspired me to push myself beyond my own limits.

Thank you to the Braggians, for the fortnightly meetings and many interesting discussions over the years. In particular, thank you also to Ben Fitzpatrick, Alex Simmons and Matt Sutton, for helping me understand R, C++, and linear programming. Thank you also to Matthew Moores, for your support and mentorship at critical times in my journey.

Thank you to the members of the fantastic R community. In particular, the rOpenSci collective, for welcoming me into an incredibly supportive community, making me a better programmer, and showing me how a great community is run. In particular, I’d like to thank Maëlle Salmon and Andrew McDonald, for checking in on me and for your encouragement from across the globe. I would also like to thank Michael Sumner for his late night assistance on difficult geospatial data munging.

Thank you also to my family, Garry, Judy, James & Tessa [and now little Sam!], and Luke. You have always been there for me, with advice, tea, roast dinners on Sundays, and unyielding support.

Finally, thank you to my love, Soph. You spur me on to be my best, and love me always, even when I am at my worst.

It has been an amazing four years, I look forward to seeing what happens next.

So, what IS next?

I’ve been (very much) enjoying a great post doc at Monash, working with Di Cook and Rob Hyndman. I get to work on developing R packages, publishing best practices for working with missing data, and making data analysis easier and more powerful. Honestly, there’s not many other places in the world I would rather be.

This year some of the big projects I’m thinking about include:

And (probably!) more. It’s going to be a really great year.