Head of Department: Prof Tom Fearn
The Department of Statistical Science at UCL was founded in 1911, and is the oldest university statistics department in the world.
Karl Pearson, the department’s founder, was a key figure in the development of statistics as an academic discipline.
The scope of the department has expanded considerably since Pearson’s day, with work now covering a wide range of areas from the analysis of ‘big data’ to statistical modelling in the environmental sciences. This expansion has also seen sharply increased staff numbers, which have doubled in the last four years.
As progressively larger amounts of data are gathered, whether in science, business or government, a growing challenge is how to process this. Statistical analysis protects against the high risk of finding spurious relationships when “mining” large and complex data sets.
Another major area of research for the department is developing our understanding of probability and risk for environmental hazards.
UCL’s Dr Richard Chandler leads the PURE Network (Probability, Understanding and Risk in the Environment), a major multi-institution project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, dedicated to the statistical understanding of environmental risks.
The project is highly focused on practical goals, such as understanding seismic data in areas around nuclear power plants, or helping insurance companies model risks better.
As well as being a major research institution, UCL statistics teaches students, both at undergraduate and postgraduate students. UCL’s statistics degrees are popular with students, with over 100 accepted every year, despite very high entry requirements.
The department has a stellar reputation abroad, which brings with it large numbers of international students.
Many of the department’s undergraduate students study statistics alongside courses in economics and business.