Heading there

This is, in many ways, very old news — but last summer (sic!) I applied for and was made the new Head of Department of UCL Statistical Science (and I think — checks in place — for the first time since the department was founded in 1911, the post has gone to somebody who isn’t British or from a Commonwealth country, of which I’m very proud — again, pending checks…). I have been in talks about it for quite some time (the incumbent told me, more or less verbatim: “You’re probably going to hate it, but: would you like to be the next head?” — my reply was something like “You’re not really selling it very well, you do know that, don’t you?…”).

Anyway, it turns out he did sell it to me and I decided to go for it. The process we have in our department is to allow a huge lead time between being appointed and actually being in post (which I will be officially from September 2021). So technically I think it’s way too soon to start complaining or even moaning about what the job entails, although I found it very interesting that I received almost twice as many commiserations than I had congratulations for getting the job… In fact, I am finding the lead time very useful to learn the details before I actually have the power to screw things up… And I’m using some of it to photoshop images of the Oval Office with the inevitable (UCL) flag waving as well as massive picture of me (in this case, captaining Italy to World Cup win in 2006).

And, to be honest, I’m still in the phase where this is all very exciting and I’m getting into the job with enthusiasm and (kind of confused, but certainly well-meaning) ideas — some of which we’re already starting to implement. These include a podcast series with some cool formats for something like “In conversation with…”. I’ve watched the first one we recorded and I’m really excited about this and look forward to when we’re ready to release the series!

There’s lots happening right now — including quite some effort in establishing and consolidating our PhD studentships offer (see here, for example — the deadline is on the 25 April, so hurry, if you’re interested!). And, we’re looking into recruiting faculty members into our department, while the two newest recruit will join us formally (and, sadly, still virtually…) this coming week. This is all framed into a move to eventually link up very closely the UCL departments of Mathematics and Statistical Science into the “Institute of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences” (IMSS) — we’re hoping to make it the centre of aggregation for all maths & stats at UCL (with a view to actually dominate London first and then we’ll take it from there… 😉). We are making new and very interesting collaborations across the two departments, including with the CHIMERA group. And we’re launching new BSc programmes in Data Science. And we have ideas to improve our equality, diversity and inclusion strategy (this is very important to me, but I’m also glad one of our colleagues is so good and with her eyes firmly on the ball as to keep me on my toes and help me steer in the right direction).

Of course, in many ways this is just appropriation of lots of work being done by the “previous” (well… current, really) administration — but I feel a bit less bad in taking (some of the) credit, because in the interim period, I’ve been contributed work on several of these (so yes: I’ve not just spend my whole time photoshopping things in the past few months!…). And most importantly, I hope that when the time comes, “heading” won’t quite like the one below… (and to be honest, I am not really sure which of the two I mean…).

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