Beautiful figures, vital statistics

February 3, 2006

Name: Duncan Lawson

Age: The right side of 50

Jobs: Professor of mathematics education and associate dean in the faculty of engineering and computing at Coventry University. I am also Coventry director of Sigma, a collaborative Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, which provides university-wide support for maths and statistics.

I have a secondment to the Maths, Statistics and Operational Research Network of the Higher Education Academy, and I have just been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship.

Salary: Probably not as much as I would be earning if I had stayed in industry.

Background: I read mathematics at Oxford University, where I did my DPhil in numerical analysis, then worked for British Gas doing mathematical modelling of hazardous scenarios, before moving 18 years ago to what was Coventry Polytechnic.

Working hours: With three children at secondary school, I try to work regular hours so I can help with homework - and act as a taxi service for their activities.

Number of students and staff: One of Sigma's aims is to provide maths and statistics support across the university, so theoretically this runs into several thousand - in practice, not everyone uses our resources.

Biggest challenge this year: Sigma moved into refurbished premises this year. My biggest challenge has been getting the builders to complete work in time - I just about achieved this (but singularly failed on the refurbishment front).

Worst moment: A couple of years ago, one of the school's students committed suicide. The reasons were never really established.

What university facilities do you use? The library.

Do you socialise with people at university? We have a very sociable (in other words not very good) school cricket team that plays a few matches during the summer.

Who are the most difficult people to deal with? People who don't deliver the service you expect them to.

How do you cope with them? By repeated badgering and cathartic grumbling sessions with colleagues who have had the same experience.

Best excuse for bad behaviour you have heard? "But that is your responsibility" (when plainly it is theirs).

Do you interact with other parts of the university? Yes, that's Sigma's remit. In addition, I have served on many university committees over the years, so I know colleagues from all over.

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