Porträtt på Ottmar Cronie

Ottmar predicts the future

After having worked in Umeå, Amsterdam and Suriname, Ottmar Cronie has come home. Since February, he has been a Senior Lecturer at the Applied Mathematics and Statistics unit at the University of Gothenburg, where he also gained his undergraduate degree. “There is a long-term vision here that makes it easy to do what you need to do.”

ottmar cronie is a Gothenburger through and through. He feels the same way about mathematics. These days, at least.

“It was my secondary school physics teacher who told me I was good at maths. I wasn’t so sure myself, although I thought it was fun.”

So, after a few years of travel and other jobs, he studied the mathematics programme at the University of Gothenburg. Once there, he developed a taste for mathematical statistics, especially stochastic processes that deal with how processes evolve over time. His doctoral thesis involved developing models of how trees in a forest grow over time, with the intention of identifying patterns and relationships in such a seemingly random process.

What is your research about?

“I research point processes. Point processes can be roughly divided into spatial and temporal. By processing data based on these two measures, we can analyse events that help predict how things will turn out in the future. I create tools to analyse data in new and better ways. For example, I am helping researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy look at the spread of COVID-19. What patterns can we see and what factors play a role in how different parts of the population have managed to deal with the infection?”

Ottmar Cronie likes to find connections between data in time and space and create new statistical tools. These tools can be used to predict future events with high probability, for example.

Can you give any more examples of how your research benefits society?

“I’ve been looking at calls to 112, the emergency number. Based on when the calls come in and where the people are calling from, you can basically create a statistical model that tells you how likely it is that an ambulance will be needed on a Sunday evening, in a given month, in a given area. This can then be used to determine how many ambulances a hospital region needs to have on standby at any given time and where they should be parked to achieve the best possible care. This kind of societal application becomes more important the older you get. When you’re at the beginning of your research career, you’re so into it that you probably think more about making a career in your subject area.”

How is your research field developing?

“The difference from the past is that data volumes are so enormously much larger. Google’s data collection on what people search for on the Internet is huge and offers great opportunities. There’s a bit of the Wild West about data analysis at the moment. The commercial potential means that many people other than mathematicians are working on this. Some people take shortcuts in their models, but that’s only good, it sparks creativity. But then we more pure mathematicians tend to want to clean up and create rigorous models and systems that are connected to existing mathematical theory,” says Ottmar Cronie with a smile.

Why did you apply for the job as a senior lecturer at the University of Gothenburg?

“After my doctoral thesis, I spent a year teaching at the university in my father’s home country, Suriname, then I worked at the CWI research institute in Amsterdam, doing research around the clock. The next stop was a position as an Associate Senior Lecturer in Umeå. But then my wife and I were expecting triplets and I needed a job back home in Gothenburg, so I started working as a Senior Lecturer in statistics at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at Sahlgrenska Academy. I realised that I missed mathematical research. Here at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, I get to do more of that. And I get to teach maths. When I was a student, I didn’t think much about who worked here. But now I have realised that it is a well-run department with a good reputation in the world. The offices are big too. I have a daybed in my room. I haven’t had a chance to take a nap on it yet, but I’m looking forward to it!”

What drives you, Ottmar Cronie?

What is the best part of the job?
“Right at the beginning when I have a research idea and start working on it. Then I work day and night to make my new statistical tool work. Unfortunately, I’m not as inspired at the end when I have to write it all down and document it.

Why mathematics?
“It’s the eternal challenge. It never ends, there are always new things to discover. And I have a certain aptitude for it, I guess. Based on this, others can then develop the processes further for medical applications.”

What drives you?
“I like to create systems. Mathematicians like to see how things are connected. To be able to put together different models and methods into something new that works and provides answers to previously unanswered questions. There’s a lot left to do.”

Ottmar Cronie

Age: 42
Role: Senior Lecturer at the Department of Mathematical Sciences.
Leisure interests: “With triplets who are 3.5 years old, there’s not much time for anything else.”