Department of Statistics

Gustavo Amorim, Brazil: Statistics PhD student


"I wanted international experience"


Gustavo Amorim says that biased sampling can be found in most data collection processes and is quite common in medical studies. It may arise by design, such as in the oversampling of specific subgroups in order to gain efficiency, or inadvertently if a subject refuses to respond. His research goal is to derive efficient estimators for response-biased problems; he hopes the methods he helps to develop will be used by applied researchers in order to obtain more precise and unbiased information for their own investigations.

Why did you choose to do your PhD study at the University of Auckland?
I always wanted to have some international experience, so during my MSc I decided to look for universities around the world. I focused my research not only on highly ranked universities, but also on those with a well-known department of statistics. I selected about five universities and did detailed research on each of them considering, for example, the quality of the staff, the size and quality of the department, the number of PhD students and the city where the university was located.

After sending lots of emails and talking to many professors from my previous university, I realised that the University of Auckland was the one that suited me best. Firstly, it is a well-recognised university offering top-notch education. Secondly, it has an outstanding Department of Statistics. And it is the birthplace of statistical computing and graphics software package R! This alone would be more than enough to come here, but fortunately that is not all.

The Department of Statistics has many professors who are leading researchers. I was sure that by coming to Auckland I would receive an excellent education and be part of a team that is constantly making a difference in the world.

The fact that the university is located in a very beautiful city, without harsh winters or summers, just confirmed that I was making the right choice.

Were you familiar with NZ before coming here?
New Zealand is widely known as one the best countries to live, with beautiful landscapes and friendly people from all parts of the world. I had not been to New Zealand before applying for the PhD, but now I can guarantee that everything that I had heard about this country before arriving is actually true.

Did you know anyone at this University before you arrived?
Not in person, but I knew some of the staff by name. I came alone, but it was easy to make friends here. The University of Auckland provides lots of social activities, helping you to find people who share similar interests. As soon as I arrived, for example, I joined the indoor soccer group and made very good friends from there. There is also an English programme offered by the University to those for whom English is not a first language. It’s a speaking programme that helps international students develop their English by interacting with other students, providing great opportunities to make new friends. Finally, the Department of Statistics also provides social activities, which help you to get in touch with other PhD students and lecturers.

How important was Auckland’s lifestyle, climate and amenities in your decision to study here?
It was important to choose a place where I would feel comfortable. Since I enjoy outdoor activities, climate was an important issue for me. I wouldn’t like a very cold place, but luckily Auckland’s weather is quite similar to what I am used to.

Has life in New Zealand been as you imagined?
It has been better, actually. Here in Auckland, for example, we have lots of entertainment, easy access to culture and friendly people, making life very pleasant. And although Auckland is a reasonably large city with more than 1.5 million inhabitants and so has all the qualities of a large city, in many aspects it is similar to a small city. It’s very safe and clean, with lovely suburbs.

Also, if you get stuck at some point with your research and need a break, you can always take your backpack, hop on a bus and see incredible landscapes as well as visiting paradisiacal islands.

What do you enjoy most about living in Auckland?
The best part about living in Auckland is its multicultural and multilingual aspects. Living in Auckland, you are not only experiencing New Zealand but also all corners of the world

What are your main interests outside your study?
I’m very into outdoor activities. I love cycling, running and, as a good Brazilian, soccer. And since Auckland has such beautiful parks, it is always a pleasure to go out and enjoy the scenery. Also, you can always find people playing soccer in of the many soccer fields across the city, so I am never bored here.

What questions do you think potential postgraduate students from overseas need to ask when making their decision about where to study?
Choosing a university to continue your studies is not an easy task and it is even harder if you are looking to study abroad. With so many universities available, a lot of research is necessary to find one that suits you most. And in order to do that, I believe that two main points should be considered: the quality of the faculty/university and the city in which you will live.

How have you funded your study?
I’m currently receiving a scholarship which is paid for out of a research grant.

Gustavo Amorim is from Minas Gerais, in Brazil’s southeast. He holds a BA in Physics and an MSc in Probability and Statistics, both from the Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil.

UPDATE: Gustavo is now in Belgium, working as a postdoctoral researcher in mathematical modelling, statistics and bioinformatics at Ghent University.