From Oxford to Omaha: Swift continues to study numbers
Published: Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, January 26, 2014 14:01
Numbers have always fascinated University of Nebraska at Omaha statistics professor Dr. Andrew Swift, even from childhood. Swift hails from the United Kingdom and has a history of mathematics in his family.
“When I was in elementary school, my mother went back to college to get a teaching degree,” Swift said, “She then taught high school math before moving more into teaching IT.”
Swift got his master’s degree from Oxford University in England before getting his doctorate in Washington, D.C.
“It was inevitable that I would end up in a quantitative field,” Swift said.
The reason he chose statistics and probability, he said, was due to a probability and statistics professor in his undergraduate program who was “excellent at conveying the usefulness of statistics.”
He chose to come to UNO because “they seemed not only the best fit for me, but also were clearly a university heading in the right direction.” He’s currently working on several research projects involving probability and statistics.
One project has to do with the population cycles of muskrats. The others, however, are sports-related. Using statistics to fill out a March Madness bracket and the ranking of international soccer teams are a couple of these projects. Swift uses statistics to determine the most likely outcome of major sporting events.
“Usually it involves analyzing the data to estimate the strength or quality of each team,” Swift said, “then using that to predict future games by assuming the stronger team is more likely to win.”
Swift said that how often he’s correct “depends on what you consider right.” For a single game he’s usually right a majority of the time. However, for an entire tournament, it’s unlikely that he will correctly predict every single game, Swift said, “considering that there are billions and billions of different ways of filling out the bracket.”