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Meet Professor Camila Caiado, Professor of Statistics and Director of Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Taught Programmes

Where it all began

Maths has been my favourite subject since primary school. By middle school, I decided I wanted to be an engineer (mechatronic). Organic chemistry was also something I thought about during high school but then we were introduced to statistics and that’s what I ended up going for. Like engineering, it was maths with real-world impact, but the probabilistic and philosophical aspects of statistics made it just a bit more interesting.

I went to do a BSc in Statistics at the University of Brasilia where I met lots of inspiring people across multiple departments. I took as many research opportunities as I could and decided that I wanted to continue in an academic career path. After considering all options in the UK and US, I decided to take Durham’s offer.

The Durham journey

I came to Durham in 2007 as a PhD student with a CeREES scholarship working with both the Maths and Earth Sciences departments on Bayesian methods for 3D seismic inversion. That was my first real interdisciplinary project; it was fascinating to see how the two disciplines interacted and often differed on their approaches to problem solving.

In 2011, I became a Post-Doctoral Research Associate in the IHRR Leverhulme-funded Tipping Points project, which gave me the opportunity to interact with academics in all faculties as well as industry. This was a great opportunity to sediment my interest in Interdisciplinary research.

In 2015, I became a Lecturer here in Durham and am now a Professor in Statistics.

Real-world problem solving

My main research interests are in Bayesian approaches to modelling and uncertainty quantification applied to real-world problems. Currently, my main collaborations are in banking, health and engineering, developing decision support tools for businesses and policy makers.

Creating a diverse and inclusive environment

I am currently the Director of Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Taught Programmes for the Faculty of Science. I’m primarily responsible for the Master of Data Science (MDS) programme as well as the review and development of other interdisciplinary Master's programmes. This is particularly exciting as it allows me to take the collaborative approach I’ve used in research into education. MDS has been incredibly rewarding; the students and staff come from many different backgrounds creating a very diverse and inclusive environment. We have all four faculties working together to provide high-quality training in data science for everyone.

Partnering with Atom Bank

When I became a Lecturer in 2015, I was asked to take over this newly awarded Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP). It was a unique experience to see a bank being born and be part of the development of their models; they are now a successful business with over 500 staff members and a flourishing data science team. They have an integrated approach to modelling and decision support that allows them to provide an optimal experience for customers. After two successful KTPs with Atom, the partnership continues via the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding; they often receive our students for their final-year projects, internships, and PhD projects.

Advice for women looking to succeed in Camila’s field

Don’t be afraid of asking questions. Take advantage of as many opportunities as you can even if they aren’t aligned with your career interests; it’s never too late to explore a new research area or a new career path.

During my BSc, I was focused on statistical theory and explored the option of doing another degree in mathematics or engineering. During my PhD, I learned the basics of geophysics and combined it with computational Bayesian methods. During my post-doc, I networked and looked for new applications for the methods I wanted to develop further; I learned about new methods including agent-based modelling and dynamical systems. During my first few years as a lecturer, I joined the University Council so I could learn how the University works and I focused on applied research with new industrial partners like Atom bank.

Between 2020 and 2022, I dedicated most of my time to the local and national Covid-19 response, as well as taking a major role in the University testing programme; I was still writing impact cases and teaching while monitoring outbreaks and supporting the testing sites and colleges. I then decided I wanted to learn about, and potentially make a difference, in education, so I applied for the Director of IPGT role and that’s where my focus is at the moment. It doesn’t mean I lost interest or that I stopped doing what I was doing before, it just means I found something else I’d like to improve and focus on.

Looking forward to the rest of 2023

In my current role, I’m looking forward to seeing the re-development of our data science provision across the University and the creation of new Centres for Doctoral Training. On a personal level, I can’t wait to see what Lumiere 2023 brings. I normally set up my window with lights and Lego as it’s on the usual Lumiere route (photo below).