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A bit about me

Our students sometimes say they would like to know a bit more about their lecturers and tutors, i.e., not just about our research areas but about us as people. This page tells quite a bit more about me than you'll find in my CV.


Why I'm an academic
  • autonomy; I decide what I work on (in research)
  • people (students; colleagues; collaborators worldwide)
  • chance to do something of permanent value, not just to one company or one country but to the world (my previous jobs included working in a shirt factory, and being a civil servant for a while)

Why I work in Statistics
  • because as a discipline it's both fascinating (mathematically and philosophically) and extraordinarily useful.
  • because many really good mathematicians find the concepts of statistics hard to understand. For me, though, it was the (tiny) part of my undergraduate maths course that I enjoyed most.
    (Note for anyone who has done some statistics as part of their GCSE or A-level Maths courses: don't be put off by that. Stats as taught in the current UK school curriculum is made to seem very dull, I know --- my own children have all complained to me about it. But at university level the subject is completely different; it's mathematically subtle, and has exciting contact with loads of other areas of science, social science, sports, ...)

How did I get here?

I grew up on a council housing estate in Wakefield, Yorkshire. My grandfathers were a coalminer and a joiner (which I think southerners would probably call a carpenter). My dad was a rent collector for the local council; he stayed fit by walking from house to house for the weekly rents on the large estate where we lived, and was greatly liked and respected by all of our neighbours. My mum had various jobs, the best one --- in my opinion! --- being as receptionist in a tenpin bowling alley. (In the summer holidays from school I was allowed to bowl, in return for polishing all the bowling balls.)

My dad had a moped bike for a while when I was small.
This is him and me dressed in our 'Sunday best'.

Nobody from my family had ever been to university before me. When I applied and got a place at university, the main question I got from my grandparents/aunts/uncles was along the lines of "But how much more maths can there possibly be to learn about?!"

I worked hard at university, was excited by the lectures and didn't miss a single one of those in 3 years! (Why on earth would I? I was there to learn. I realise now of course that missing the odd lecture wouldn't have been fatal; but at the time I would have felt that I was letting down my parents if I hadn't attended absolutely everything I was entitled to whilst away at university.)

After graduating I did a year as a civil servant, before the best move of all: taking a one-year MSc in Statistics. After that exhilarating tour of modern statistical thinking I finally knew what I wanted to do. I went on to do a PhD, then secured a job at the University of Texas to start my academic career as an Assistant Professor --- actually getting paid to pursue my interests and to "profess" about probability and statistics to rooms-full of students (who in Texas were kind, friendly, and often amused by my English ways, my use of quaint words such as "lorry", etc.)

Some of the things I enjoy when not working
  • football. Slow but dependable full-back. (but now retired, as the bruises were taking too long to go away!) My son and I go to matches at West Bromwich Albion, because that's the team my son supports. My own team is Leeds United; I rarely get to Elland Road these days though. Most memorable match: April 30th, 1969, when Leeds beat Nottingham Forest 1-0 to take the First Division title in record-breaking style --- I was there with my dad. (Johnny Giles scored yet another superb goal. It's because of Giles that I took my son to a match at the Hawthorns when he was small -- and my son is of course now an Albion fan for life!)
  • music. I'm not a musician, but I do enjoy all kinds of stuff. Most memorable gig was the Ramones supported by Talking Heads, at Leeds Polytechnic in 1977 (quite a few weeks ago now...). My phone ringtone is the opening of Marquee Moon by Television.

Election exit polls
David's research work is behind the accurate exit-poll predictions that have been made at the last six UK general elections (in 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015, 2017 and 2019). For more details see exit polling explained.
Far-reaching statistical theory!
What connects all these: nuclear weapons, rattlesnakes, coral, pneumonia, cancer, basketball?

Contact details:

Email: d dot firth at warwick dot ac dot uk
Voice: 44 (0)247 657 4855
PGP public key: df-key.txt

Postal address:
  Professor D Firth
Dept of Statistics
University of Warwick
Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Office location: MSB 4.08, new Mathematical Sciences building.

Zeeman building in October


@firthstat (no longer in use)