I was born in Zambia and moved to South Africa at the age of 10. I majored in statistics, actuarial science and physics. I obtained my Masters degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in 2006 and my PhD from the University of Cape Town in 2010 (both my higher degrees were in Mathematical Statistics). I also have a diploma in Actuarial techniques from the Faculty of Actuaries, Scotland. I work as a lecturer at UCT and am a member of the AIMS Cosmology and Astrophysics research group.
What inspired you to study science, and astrophysics?
I remember reading a popular science account by Stephen Hawking on Einstein’s theory of Relativity. The article introduced me to a universe that, despite being overwhelmingly counter-intuitive, was thoroughly captivating. I still retain a sense of wonder at just how intricately and beautifully structured our universe is; even at the crude levels of our perception.
Do you have a role model in science?
Any scientist that has pursued the truth with humility and with honesty.
A quote that inspires you?
“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.”
— Bertrand Russell
Statistical methods in Cosmology
The analysis of diffusion processes is often difficult: the analytical solutions to diffusion processes are only known for a few special cases. I am interested in finding approximations to the probability distribution of diffusion processes and consequently using these approximations for statistical inference. Other areas of statistics that I am interested in include nonparametric statistics and clustering.
I am also very interested in the application of statistics to the fields of cosmology, astronomy and ecology.
A list of all Melvin’s papers can be found here.
Favourite reference papers:
- Maximum likelihood estimation of discretely sampled diffusions: a closed-form approximation approach – Y. Ait-Sahalia, Econometrica, 2002
Download from IDEAS
- Statistical modelling of environmental variation for biological populations – G. Marion, E. Renshaw, G. Gibson, 2000
- Bayesian estimation applied to multiple species – M. Kunz, B.A. Bassett, R.A., Hlozek