From Wales, with love

26 June 2019

Charlotte Jones-Todd grew up in a village* in west Wales, and “like most Brits”, she says, she thought that one day she’d like to see New Zealand. Charlotte never imagined that she’d end up living here, but that was before she met a nice Kiwi and moved over in late 2017. The UK’s loss is our gain, however – Charlotte has joined the Department of Statistics as a Lecturer.

Charlotte comes to us from NIWA, where she was a statistician. In the Department of Statistics, she’s looking forward to developing her own research programme. Her main interest, which she investigated in her PhD at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, is spatio-temporal statistics, in particular point process models. These models are used to infer the spatial and temporal structure in point patterns.

“A point pattern is simply the locations of events or objects in space and time,” she explains. “For example, earthquake locations or the nuclei location of cancer cells in a tissue sample are both examples of point patterns. My research focuses on fitting models to these data so that we can better understand the processes driving their occurrence.”

Charlotte is also looking forward to helping students build their statistical and computational skills, and to that end she’s an instructor in international programme The Carpentries, a United States-based charity that teaches foundational coding and data-science skills on a platform of valuing diversity and inclusivity.

So far, says The Carpentries’ website, it has trained more than 1,600 volunteer instructors and offered more than 1,700 workshops in 46 countries – and yes, it teaches R, the language and environment for statistical computing and graphics developed in the Department of Statistics.

Charlotte attended a Carpentries course early in her doctoral study and found the experience so invaluable that she decided to become an instructor. Find out about The Carpentries in New Zealand here.

Charlotte also brings to her new role a skill that’s rare in New Zealand – fluent Welsh language. She was educated in Welsh until the equivalent of our year 11. Outside of Wales, she says, the only thing people want to know is whether she can pronounce Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which is the name of a village in Anglesey in Wales. The answer to that is yes. However, Charlotte, who has started learning te reo Māori, points out that a certain spot in Hawkes Bay, Taumatawhakatangihangakōauauotamateapōkaiwhenuakitānatahu, eclipses that – it has more letters.  

This is Charlotte’s second winter in New Zealand, and she confesses that she hasn’t yet got used to the back-to-front seasons. She remains unconvinced that Christmas Day should fall in summer, “although a champagne breakfast on the beach is nice!”

* The village is Llanddewi Brefi. Fans of the cult comedy series Little Britain will recognise it as the home of popular character Daffyd Thomas. And yes, Charlotte reports, Little Britain fans did steal the village’s road signs.