Florence Nightingale Day, January 2018

Thursday 11th January 2018, 09:30 - 15:30, Management School Building, Lancaster University

Our sixth Florence Nightingale Day is part of our continuing efforts to promote mathematics and statistics to young women in years 11, 12 and 13, who will soon be making crucial choices in their career paths. The Florence Nightingale Day will showcase successful women in mathematics at various stages of their careers, display information about the broad range of possibilities offered by a degree in mathematics or statistics, stimulate informal discussion between pupils and mathematicians and give an opportunity for participants to compare their mathematical skills with their peers in other schools via a quiz.  It is organised by Dr Nadia Mazza and Dr James Groves, with help from colleagues and postgraduate students.

While Florence Nightingale is well-known for her medical work as a nurse, she was also a pioneer in statistics, especially in the use of visualisation of statistical data. A description of this work may be found in her biography on the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, along with a large number of biographies of other female mathematicians.

Speakers will include Jennifer Rogers (Oxford), Katie Chicot (Open University) and Martina Balagovic (Newcastle).


  • 09.30-10.00: Registration
  • 10.00-10.15: Introduction
  • 10.15-11.00: Dr Jennifer Rogers (Oxford University), Yeah, But is it Significant
  • 11.00-11.20: Refreshments
  • 11.20-12.30: Maths QUIZ!
  • 12.30-13.15: Lunch
  • 13.15-14.00: Dr Katie Chicot (The Open University), To Infinity and Beyond
  • 14.05-14.50: Dr Martina Balagovic (Newcastle University), Geometry in 1, 2, 3, 4, 17 and 1.26 dimensions
  • 14.50-15.00: Quiz results and awarding of prizes
  • 15.00-15.30: Maths gallery


We are grateful to the Further Mathematics Support Programme for financial support.

Jennifer Rogers - Yeah, but is it significant?

You've just tossed a coin ten times and eight of them were heads. Crystal Palace win their next five games of the Premiership season. In clinical trials for a new treatment for chronic headaches, 40% get better within 24 hours. But so what, sometimes these things happen just by chance, right? As a statistician, it is Jen's job to decide whether any differences she sees in data are likely to be just by chance, or whether they are 'statistically significant'. But how much evidence do you need before you can say that what you see is significant? And what does statistical significance even mean?

We will also go beyond statistical significance and explore real-life risks, whether it's cycling without a helmet, travelling to a country with contagious diseases, or living in a house next to a river. Sometimes our perception of risk is distorted, making us think some things are more - or less - risky than is actually the case. Jen Rogers delves into the numbers to show you how statistics can help you to make better decisions about risky activities.

About Jennifer

Jennifer Rogers completed a BSc in Mathematics with Statistics and an MSc Statistics, both at Lancaster University, before going to the University of Warwick to do her PhD. She now holds the position of Director of Statistical Consultancy Services at the University of Oxford. She has a special interest in the development and application of novel statistical methodologies, particularly in medicine. Her main area of expertise is the analysis of recurrent events and her research has recently focussed on developing and implementing an appropriate methodology for the analysis of repeat hospitalisations in patients with heart failure but her research has many other applications in medicine such as epilepsy and cancer.

As well as her academic post, Jennifer is a highly active member of the Royal Statistical Society, currently sitting on RSS Council and being the Society's Vice President for External Affairs. Jennifer can also regularly be talking all things statistics in schools, theatres and pubs, as well as the odd TV and radio appearance. You may have seen her on the TV programmes BBC Watchdog, where she considered Ryanair's "random" seating allocation, and Mystery Map - in which she calculated the chance of dying from spontaneous human combustion!

Katie Chicot - To infinity and beyond!

The infinitely large and the infinitely small are mind-blowing concepts that have helped mathematicians to solve some very real, and finite, problems. We will explore the mysteries and misconceptions of infinity, from ancient puzzles to some of the very latest mathematical research, taking you to infinity... and beyond.

About Katie

Katie Chicot is a Senior Lecturer, Staff Tutor in Maths & Statistics for the Open University. Her interest in all things mathematical stems from a love of investigation and challenge. Tackling mathematical problems and encouraging others to engage with mathematical investigations are the cornerstones of Katie’s work. Katie has tried all sorts of means of communicating mathematics including co-creating the series ‘Patterns of life’ for OU iTunes, captaining the OU’s team on BBC2’s Beat the Brain, participating in Facebook events and more seriously as academic consultant to BBC Radio 4’s "More or Less".

Her most recent venture is the creation of a brain teaser app, Perplex.

Martina Balagovic - Geometry in 1, 2, 3, 4, 17 and 1.26 dimensions

'll talk about how to define dimension, starting from the fact that we all have some intuitive idea of what it is. Most of us would agree about which geometric objects are 1, 2, and which are 3 dimensional. We will discuss how to explore that intuitive idea and arrive at a precise definition of dimension, which then allows us to easily manipulate similar objects of any dimension. We will then talk about limitations and possible generalisations of such definitions - what if the geometric object is curved? What if it is very spiky, like a fractal? Along the way, we will meet geometric objects of interesting dimensions and unexpected behaviour, and talk about the importance of going from intuition to definition.

About Martina

Martina Balagovic completed her PhD at MIT in 2011, and is now a Lecturer at Newcastle University. Her research is in Algebra and Representation theory, where she studies algebraic structures representing symmetries. Problems in physics are rephrased in the more abstract language of geometry and algebra, then simplified using symmetries. These abstract algebraic structures are represented in terms of linear algebra, which allows one to do hands-on computations.

Martina loves puzzles and has become a mathematician in the secret hope that she can solve puzzles all day. She also loves all aspects of teaching, from popular mathematics talks, university-level courses, postgraduate teaching, YouTube lectures on linear algebra, to mentoring students as they start research. She believes a good mathematical education is a cornerstone for an every increasing number of successful careers.