A day in the life of a data scientist: a Q&A with Dr Simon “Jono” Tuke

The data scientist profession has been labelled as the sexiest job of the 21st century.

With a statement as bold as this, we wanted to explore exactly what it is that a data scientist does.

We spoke to Dr Simon “Jono” Tuke, a lecturer in statistics at the University of Adelaide, about the art of data science, and why every data scientist should be using R.

Q: What is it that a data scientist actually does?

Dr Simon “Jono” Tuke:
Data is everywhere, every time you click, like, snap, read, you are producing data. Even down to your very DNA, you are a data producing machine. Data scientists see the patterns in this data to explain and predict the world. As a data scientist, you are a collector of stories, you see through the noise to see the story under the data. You have to be the jack of all trades, part mathematician, statistician, coder, and scientist. We take the data, clean it, model it, check our assumptions and then communicate that back to the world. We are the modern data explorers discovering undiscovered tales in the digital world. How could you not want a piece of that?


Q: Why should every data scientist be using R?

Dr Simon “Jono” Tuke:
Because it is written by statisticians for statisticians. What makes it so great is summed up in one word – community. If you need an add-on to look at your obscure dataset, it probably is already there – go search the internet. Not sure how to do something – go search the internet. It continues to evolve and improve. We now have Rmarkdown, shiny, and Rstudio. Not sure what these are – go search the internet. Oh and did I mention it is completely free. I repeat, as it is so amazing – completely free. Don’t believe me? You know what to do.


Q: You mentioned that “a data scientist is a collector of stories”, can you elaborate on what this means?

Dr Simon “Jono” Tuke:
The great thing about being a data scientist is that we get to play in everyone else’s backyard. Everywhere there are great researchers with interesting datasets and great questions that they need data scientists to help with. They come to my door, story in hand, and I get to help continue the story. So far I have looked at chronic pain, buffel grass, Maoris history, the TV series Friends, and South Australian politics. To name just the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to Monday and seeing what story arrives in my inbox.


Want to hear more from Simon “Jono” Tuke?

Enrol in the Big Data MicroMasters online program.

Dr Simon “Jono” Tuke  teaches in Big Data Analytics and Computational Thinking and Big Data.

Find out more here.



About Dr Simon “Jono” Tuke

Simon “Jono” Tuke qualified in 1992 from the University of Adelaide as a veterinary surgeon. After 9 years in general practice, he returned to university to study mathematics and computer science at the University of Adelaide. He completed a degree, then honours and finally a PhD in statistics in 2013. Since 2007 he has been a lecturer in statistics at the University of Adelaide. Along with this eclectic mix of applied statistical collaborations, his primary research interest is in developing statistical methods to model random networks.























































































































































































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