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Professor Rachel Hilliam

Profile summary

Professional biography

Rachel Hilliam is Professor of Statistics in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, where she is currently Head of School, having previously held the roles of Director of Teaching for Mathematics and Statistics and academic lead for the Mathematics and Statistics student support team. She has worked in a number of universities and as a medical statistician in the NHS before joining The Open University in 2011.

She has a strong interest in teaching statistics and has given the statistics workshop at the Induction Course for New Lecturers in Mathematics Sciences organised by the Institute of Mathematics and its Application. Rachel is a founding member of the Teaching Statistics Section at the RSS and is a founding co-organiser, along with Michael Grove (IMA and University of Birmingham) and Kevin Houston (LMS and University of Leeds), of TALMO (Teaching and Learning Mathematics Online).

During 2021-2023 Rachel was Vice-President of the Royal Statistical Society and the inaugural chair of the Alliance for Data Science Professionals


Research interests

Rachel's research spans three broad areas:

  1. Mathematics and Statistics Pedagogic research including: 
    • Ways of delivering statistics service teaching to multiple audiences
    • Enhancing the student experience, from induction to careers
    • Statistical anxiety
    • Changes to mathematical pedagogy due to the rapid shift to online learning in response to Covid-19
  2. Medical Statistics research including:
    • Collaboration with computer scientists and radiologists to build an expert system using machine learning to avoid costly MRI scans in addition to x-rays.
    • Designing quality of life measurement tools, most noticeably LYMQOL which is widely used in the UK and has been translated into a number of different languages for world-wide use. V. Keeley, S. Crooks, J. Locke, D. Veigas, K. Riches and R. Hilliam (2010) ‘A quality of 
      life measure for limb lymphoedema (LYMQOL)’ Journal of Lymphoedema, Vol 5(1), 2-13.
    • Infection control, including input into the development of a patented device to reduce surgical site infection. 
  3. Exploring the statistical aspects of multi-dimensional chaotic systems. This collaborative work with Prof A J Lawrance has applications in signal processing and involved research with engineers at the University of Bologna.  

Teaching interests

Rachel is currently deputy chair of M248 Analysing data which is a Level 2 module taken by students from a wide range of disciplines including Data Science, Economics, Computing and IT and Science as well as students studying degrees in Mathematics and Statistics.

Impact and engagement

Rachel was Vice-President for Professional Affairs, 2021-2023 at the Royal Statistical Society (RSS), and chaired the Professional Affairs Committee (PAC) which oversees all professional aspects of the Society's work. This includes conferring Data Analyst, Graduate and Chartered Statistician status to qualified members, accrediting university and training courses as well as continuing professional development for statisticians. 

She has been involved in collaborative work to develop standards and competencies for academic institutions and for use in the workplace since in 2020. This work resulted in the creation of the Alliance for Data Science Professionals (AfDSP) which Rachel chaired since its formation in July 2021 until Dec 2023. The AfDSP aims to define, promote and certify professional standards within Data Science. The standards recognise the range of roles and jobs involved in Data Science and build upon the codes of conduct of the associated professional societies. The initial members of the Alliance include: The Royal Statistical Society (RSS),The British Computer Society (BCS), The Operational Research (OR) Society, The Institute of Mathematics & its Applications (IMA), The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), and The Alan Turing Institute (ATi). The work has gained support from the Royal Society, the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Government where it is referenced in the National Data Strategy. 

She is a founding member of the RSS Section in Teaching Statistics in Higher Education which aims to promote good teaching practice in statistics in higher education and professional training.

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in an emergency move to online teaching throughout the world. To assist with these preparations and avoid wasteful duplication of effort Rachel, together with Michael Grove (IMA and University of Birmingham) and Kevin Houston (LMS and University of Leeds), co-created TALMO. From 2020-2021 the workshops and resources supported numerous Mathematics Sciences Departments around the world. In 2022 the focus of TALMO moved from teaching and learning mathematics online to an online seminar series which covers teaching and learning mathematics in all its forms. It continues to support a community of mathematical science educators with an active programme of seminars. 

External collaborations

I  have several collaborative projects with both Leicester and Derby Hospitals and am an Honorary Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Warwick. 


University Mathematics Assessment Practices During the Covid-19 Pandemic (2022)
Henley, Matthew; Grove, Michael and Hilliam, Rachel
MSOR Connections, 20(3) (pp. 5-17)

Can the same statistics module be used for service teaching by tailoring the support based on the student’s chosen qualification? (2022)
Calvert, Carol; Hilliam, Rachel and Steele, Emma
MSOR Connections, 20(3) (pp. 73-83)

Mathematics and statistics distance learning: more than just online teaching (2021-12)
Hilliam, Rachel; Goldrei, Derek; Arrowsmith, Gaynor; Siddons, Alexander and Brown, Cath
Teaching Mathematics and its Applications: An International Journal of the IMA, 40(4) (pp. 374-391)

When one size does fit all: Simultaneous delivery of statistics teaching to multiple audiences (2021)
Hilliam, Rachel and Vines, Karen
Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 18, Article 4(2)

Prospective Clinical Trial Comparing Trapezial Denervation With Trapeziectomy for the Surgical Treatment of Arthritis at the Base of the Thumb (2019-06)
Salibi, Andrej; Hilliam, Rachel; Burke, Frank D. and Heras-Palou, Carlos
Journal of Surgical Research, 238 (pp. 144-151)

Interactive statistics for a diverse student population (2019)
Hilliam, Rachel and Calvert, Carol
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-Learning, 34(2) (pp. 203-210)

Academic and pastoral teams working in partnership to support distance learning students according to curriculum area (2019)
Hilliam, Rachel and Williams, Gareth
Higher Education Pedagogies, 4(1) (pp. 32-40)

Enhancing the student experience with the use of a dedicated subject website (2019)
Hilliam, Rachel and Arrowsmith, Gaynor
MSOR Connections, 17(2) (pp. 39-45)

Creating an online mathematics and statistics community of learners (2019)
Hilliam, Rachel and Goldrei, Derek
New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 14(1)

A novel device for preoperative skin preparation to reduce the risk of injury and surgical site infection during lower limb surgery (2018-05-01)
Webb, J.; Hilliam, R. and Bainbridge, L.
Journal of Perioperative Practice, 28(5) (pp. 109-114)

The Triple Whammy: Gendered Careers of Geographically Marginalised Academic STEM Women (2018)
Herman, Clem and Hilliam, Rachel
International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 10(1) (pp. 171-189)

Student feedback to improved retention: using a mixed-methods approach to extend specific feedback to a generalisable concept (2018)
Calvert, Carol and Hilliam, Rachel
Open Learning: The Journal of Open, Distance and e-learning, 34(1) (pp. 103-117)

Interactive Statistics: can we use experience from a large diverse student cohort to provide professional development for a wider population? (2017)
Hilliam, Rachel and Calvert, Carol
New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences, 12(1)

Improving retention for all students, studying mathematics as part of their chosen qualification, by using a voluntary diagnostic quiz (2016-09)
Calvert, Carol; Hilliam, Rachel and Coleman, Juliet
MSOR Connections, 14(3) (pp. 32-38)

Effectiveness of a care bundle to reduce surgical site infections in patients having open colorectal surgery (2016-04)
Tanner, J.; Kiernan, M.; Hilliam, R.; Davey, S.; Wood, T.; Ball, J. and Leaper, D.
Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons England, 98(4) (pp. 270-274)

Mothers’ and grandmothers’ perceptions relating to causality, treatment and support for families of a child with a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: applying Enosis, an alternative mixed methods approach (2014-12)
Fakis, Apostolos; Hilliam, Rachel; Townend, Michael; Stoneley, Helen and Robinson, Gary
International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches, 8(2) (pp. 148-165)

Quantitative analysis of qualitative information from interviews: a systematic literature review (2014-04)
Fakis, Apostolos; Hilliam, Rachel; Stoneley, Helen and Townend, Michael
Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 8(2) (pp. 139-161)

Access to medicines by child refugees in the East Midlands region of England: a cross-sectional study (2014)
Alkahtani, S.; Cherrill, J.; Grayson, K.; Hilliam, R.; Sammons, H. and Choonara, I.
BMJ Open, 4, Article e006421(12)

A fresh look at preoperative body washing (2012-01)
Tanner, Judith; Gould, Dinah; Jenkins, Philip; Hilliam, Rachel; Mistry, Neetesh and Walsh, Susannah
Journal of Infection Prevention, 13(1) (pp. 11-15)

A quality of life measure for limb lymphoedema (LYMQOL) (2010)
Keeley, Vaughan; Crooks, Sue; Locke, Jane; Veigas, Debbie; Riches, Katie and Hilliam, Rachel
Journal of Lymphoedema, 5(1) (pp. 26-37)

A randomised controlled trial to compare postoperative pain in children undergoing tonsillectomy using cold steel dissection with bipolar heamostasis versus coblation technique (2009)
Parker, D.; Howe, L.; Unsworth, V. and Hilliam, R.
Clinical Otolaryngology, 34(3) (pp. 225-231)

Analysis of rewarming curves in Raynaud's phenomenon of various aetiologies (2009)
Salem, K. M.; Baker, M.; Hilliam, R. M.; Davies, S.; Deighton, C.; Bainbridge, L. C. and Manning, G.
Journal of Hand Surgery (European Volume), 34(5) (pp. 621-626)

Can a normal range of elbow movement predict a normalelbow x ray? (2007-02)
Lennon, Robert; Riyat, Manjeet S.; Hilliam, Rachel; Anathkrishnan, G. and Alderson, Gerry
Emergency Medicine Journal, 24(2) (pp. 86-88)

Statistical discrimination in the presence of selection effects (2005-04-30)
Hilliam, R. M.
Statistics in Medicine, 24(8) (pp. 1219-1232)

Chaos communication synchronization: Combatting noise by distribution transformation (2005-01)
Hilliam, Rachel M and Lawrance, Anthony J
Statistics and Computing, 15(1) (pp. 43-52)

The dynamics and statistics of bivariate chaotic maps in communications modeling (2004-04)
Hilliam, Rachel M. and Lawrance, Anthony J.
International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos (IJBC), 14(4) (pp. 1177-1194)

Reducing the effect of noise on chaos synchronization without capping (2002-10-07)
Hilliam, Rachel and Lawrance, Anthony
In : International Symposium on Nonlinear Theory and its Applications (Oct 7-11, Xi'an, China)

A statistical perspective on the dynamics of bivariate chaotic maps for communications modelling (2001-10-28)
Hilliam, Rachel and Lawrance, Anthony
In : 2001 International Symposium on Nonlines Theory and its Applications (28 Oct - 1 Nov 2001, Miyagi, Japan)

Levine-Katz (Boston) Questionnaire analysis: means, medians or grouped totals? (2009-12)
Storey, Philip A.; Fakis, Apostolos; Hilliam, Rachel; Bradley, Mary J.; Lindau, Tommy and Burke, Frank D.