Tim Frayling is at the forefront of using large scale data for genetic research into common diseases and also in providing the highest standards of postgraduate education in health data science.
As Exeter University’s Professor of Human Genetics he heads a team of 14 which has a worldwide reputation for its work on conditions such as diabetes. At the same time he heads the university’s HDR UK-funded MSc programme. He, and the leads from the five other participating universities, have already trained around 150 early career scientists in health data science.
Prof. Frayling has now taken his commitment to health data science education a stage further by becoming HDR UK’s new Chief Talent and Training Officer. It’s a role that will put him at the heart of our drive to nurture new talent from every part of the UK and fully realise the capacity of health data science to transform health and care for the better.
Around 15 years ago Tim realised that as well as people who were good at lab work there was a growing need for people with excellent data skills. Since then he has been identifying and training people (especially those with computer science and maths backgrounds) and bringing them into the biological sciences.
He has brought many talented people into biology, partly through the MSc programme. His new role gives him the opportunity to extend this work at a national level.
Right now HDR UK is offering training and education at many levels and in a growing variety of forms. This includes its rapidly expanding HDR UK Futures programme of bitesize learning from introductory to expert level. There are also apprenticeships, internships, joint academy projects, plus the MSc and PhD programmes.
One of the challenges Tim and the rest of the HDR UK Talent and Training team face is in raising awareness of health data science, what it is and the immensely rewarding and varied career opportunities it offers.
Tim aims to cast the net wide, so everybody who could potentially be a health data scientist is aware of what it means. He would like to see every STEM graduate to be as familiar with health data science as a career opportunity, as they are with the financial sector.
He also wants to make sure that HDR UK engages the people who are good at health, but don’t yet know they would also be good with data; that might be anyone from a healthcare professional to a biologist.
And the sheer range of what health data scientists can do is astounding – from working with data from the genomic readouts of single cells to analysing data from the electronic health records of millions of people.
Tim believes that health data science is incredibly powerful and gives people the chance to make a real difference to the world. That could be through helping discover how a particular disease works, perhaps a rare childhood disorder, or in understanding how illness and infirmity affect older people in order to shape the health and care services to better meet their needs.
With so much that can be achieved and he would like to see recognition grow so in the future people will identify themselves as a health data scientist with the same pride someone calls themselves a doctor or nurse, a teacher or an engineer.