In 2021, the Institute launched a new video series called Scientist Stories where we highlight the scientists behind our world-leading research. In this series, we discover more about what they do and how they got to where they are now. In this latest edition, we chat to Anne Segonds-Pichon, a statistician in our Bioinformatics Facility, about how she found the career she has today, what a day in the life might look like and more. Watch the video on our YouTube channel or read the profile below.
Can you tell us a little bit about your role at the Babraham Institute?
I sure can. First of all, I don't consider myself a statistician, but rather a biostatistician, which implies that I have a biology background and I see myself more as a biologist who has learned to do stats rather than a really hardcore statistician. So I am the biostatistician in the Bioinformatics group, meaning that, like my coworkers, I interact with people's data. I would consider myself slightly less geeky than they are as I'm not as good as coding or at knowing obscure stuff about servers and all that. But still, I'm part of the team handling and dealing with data.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Well, I'm not sure there really is a typical day, especially since COVID. But it could be either that I am at my desk analysing people's data so it could be a big job and I spend my day on the particular data set I wish, so you are in the zone working on one larger project. Or it's more a lot of small jobs or even a bit of both where I am busy doing something and people come, well they I used to come and now they do it virtually, and they ask questions about how to handle their data or a variety of statistical analyses. On another day I could be teaching and training, which has become a much bigger part of our role as a bioinformatics team, but certainly for me. But there has been a huge increase in the of teaching and training, which I love to do. So it's either a group of PhD students or people from a wide range of ages from the Institute, or external to the Institute.
What is your background, your career route and your education to get to where you are?
I started out studying ecology, and then eco-epidemiology (or quantification of interactions between variables in a particular habitat). More on the animal side than the human side. I totally loved it! I loved my PhD very much, which was about host parasites and host/parasite relationships. So after that, I worked in epidemiology in Dublin and public health and my job there became much more on the analytical side of biology, rather than designing an experiment and actually collecting data. Instead the data was already there and my job became more about analysing someone else's data. Then I came to Babraham all those years ago and just kept on analysing people’s data, I don't think I made a conscious choice in that. I think it's partly life, partly family and also something I enjoy doing, which led me where I am now.
What interests do you have outside of science?
So outside science there are many things I like. I am a mother, so I, of course, enjoy my children. I try to interact as much with them as I can. They've grown up now which slightly breaks my heart, but there is nothing you can do about that. I like to interact with my friends around movies. I like pets a lot. I have two dogs; a young one and an older one, and a cat.
Being a scientist in an academic-like environment like the Babraham Institute, I am very lucky because I work with fabulous people, but also because we have a lot of flexibility in our time. So it means that you can have a super harmonious balance between life outside work and life inside Babraham!
What advice would you have for others considering a career in science?
It would be to not be afraid of stats because it is very important - genuinely it is! It is taught in a very scary, dry way which is still the case in many ways. That makes it hard, especially for a biologist or a life scientist, to connect statistics and the cool stuff that we are studying and as a result, people get scared about it, whereas it should really be about the confidence we have, or not, in our data.
Other than that, to be to be open. I think as much as possible, remember that it's a journey. So having your mind set on something too precise can mean that we miss opportunities, but we can also get a sense of our failure if we do not get what we want. If you think that way and it doesn't happen the way you intended, you might feel like you missed out on something and that's absolutely not true. It's just about doing your best and and enjoying the journey.
Image description: Anne Segonds-Pichon
Scientist Stories: Anne Segonds-Pichon video
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21 February 2022