Ken O'Neill

BSc and Ph.D Mathematics at University of Strathclyde
Assistant Statistician for the Input-Output Modelling team, The Scottish Government

Ken O'Neill

1. What you enjoy about studying or working in STEMM?

When I took a subject on Advanced Higher Mathematics (Scottish Qualifications Authority), this was when I began to enjoy solving mathematical problems. Hence, it was natural for me to continue my mathematics journey at the undergraduate degree level and beyond. Once my time at a postgraduate level came to the end, I was keen to apply my mathematical skills to real-life problems and this was one key reason behind my decision to leave my short academic career.

2. What you do day-to-day in your work or study?

After leaving university, I was offered a job at Scottish Government to join the Input-Output Modelling branch which relies heavily on mathematics (mostly matrix problems) and computer programming. More specifically, I am responsible for planning and production of raw data tables, maintenance of underlying SAS (statistical analysis system) and excel systems and production of Analytical Input-Output Tables which usually consists of six 111x111 tables running from 1998 to the most recent year. This includes ensuring data sources are up-to-date and pursuing methodological improvements in line with European System of Accounts.

3. What has been your biggest challenge and how have you overcome it?

Since I am profoundly deaf, I tend to not speak as well as hearing people in my entire life; especially in the area of mathematics when I do not have the luxury of engaging in deep conversations with colleagues who either have very little, or no, knowledge of British Sign Language. I am very fortunate to be bilingual thanks to excellent support from my family, friends, colleagues and supervisors. In the past my bilingualism was key to my understanding of written English provided alongside mathematical terminology. Unfortunately, this cannot be said the same for many deaf people in the UK due to various reasons, such as lack of support, misunderstanding deafness etc.

4. What are you hoping to go on to do in the future?

After experiencing great difficulties in communicating mathematical and statistical terminology firsthand, I am currently part of the team for a project that aims to expand the British Sign Language Glossary of signs and terms for mathematics so that it may help current and future deaf students to learn and communicate technical details. My role is to ensure validity, integrity, accuracy and suitability of mathematical and statistical terms and concepts.