Greetings from Amherst College

We know that the past few months have been challenging for everyone.
We’re pleased to bring this issue of the Statistics and Data Science Newsletter and hope that it brightens your day. As always, we look forward to sharing your updates. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch. In any case, we hope that you and yours are keeping well and safe.

Congrats to our graduates

It wasn’t easy, but the class of 2020 graduated after the transition to remote learning. We look forward to your in-person ceremony at some point when it is safe. Thanks to Sarah Hews for this congratulatory video.

Congratulations from the Math and Stat faculty


Our students and alumni have again received a number of awards for their academic and co-curricular efforts. Congrats to the following honorees:

Statistics Theses

Congratulations to this year’s thesis writers for their excellent work:

Summer Activities

There have been a number of activities happening this summer:

RLadies Amherst

Andrea Boskovic ’21 and Clara Seo ’21 worked to organize in-person and (since March) virtual meetings of the RLadies Amherst group. This spring, the following events took place:

Sara Stoudt zoom meeting as part of RLadies Amherst

Ron Wasserstein talk

Ron Wasserstein, Executive Director of the American Statistical Association gave a special virtual colloquium talk on April 9th entitled ‘Moving to a World Beyond P less than 0.05’. The recording is available here.

Faculty Updates

Brittney Bailey

I celebrated my first first-author publication in March (Multiple imputation by predictive mean matching in cluster-randomized trials) just as quarantine began. It was a tough summer, but I found a few moments to celebrate the transition from “Postdoctoral Fellow” to “Assistant Professor” in July. In the spring and summer, I spent most days on zoom working with Marc Edwards (Assistant Professor of Biology) and Chris Durr (Assistant Professor of Chemistry) to launch the first ever STEM Incubator, a six-week research preparation program for rising sophomores from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM (website coming this fall!). The goal of the program is to equip students with the fundamental research skills needed to work with STEM professors on campus and be competitive for future summer research opportunities. We successfully piloted the program with a group of 18 students, most of whom participated in Summer Bridge last year. Speaking of Summer Bridge, Kevin and I are co-teaching the Statistics course for the Quantitative and Social Sciences track this year. Outside of Amherst, I have continued my role on the Planning Committee for StatFest 2020, and I have picked up a new collaborator as I venture into the world of machine learning research.

Kat Correia

This unusual summer has helped me find joy in "little" things: 
the serenity of early morning runs,
where it seems just the birds and the bunnies and I are awake; 
the impossibility of my avocado plant budding, 
new life sprouting from old; 
the beauty of the wild flowers growing scattered throughout our yard, 
gone unnoticed in years past;
the warmth of a hot chai tea,
embracing me with treasured memories;
the chill of the ocean waves lapping at my feet, 
motion created by forces felt but not seen; 
the comfort of a hug from family,
don't let go.

As my artistic senses have expanded in new directions during this time of covid, I am at the very beginning stages of a cooperative venture on data as art. Work-wise, I’ve focused my research efforts this summer on submitting an R03 grant proposal to the NIH. If funded, the grant will support the development of a prediction tool that will help promote safer, effective, more responsible care for in vitro fertilization patients. Other research projects moving along include a study investigating the association between seasonality (temperature, day length, etc.) and in vitro fertilization success, and another study identifying predictors of failed fertilization during an in vitro fertilization cycle.

Nick Horton

This summer the Teaching Data Science blog has focused on aspects of data ethics. It’s been illuminating to explore questions of data ethics and data justice and how we can bring these into the classroom.

I’ve been appointed co-chair of the National Academies Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics. The committee advises stakeholders in government, academia, industry, and nonprofit organizations on applications for statistics and data science. As part of this work I’m serving on the planning committee for an innovative symposium with the goal of Imagining the Future of Undergraduate STEM Education.

The second edition of Modern Data Science with R (Baumer, Kaplan, and Horton) is coming out soon, with a version available on bookdown.

Pam Matheson

This summer I’m recovering from a total knee replacement and have enjoyed taking a couple of online SAS courses: Longitudinal Data Analysis Using Discrete and Continuous Responses and Multilevel Modeling of Hierarchical and Longitudinal Data Using SAS. It’s been interesting to see what kinds of examples they use and to become familiar with data that might be useful for projects in Stats 320 - Statistical Communication. If you have any ideas you think might be good for the Stats 320 students to hear about in terms of the working world, I would welcome the input. We are hunkered down here as well in Western Mass but I’m sending my daughter off to NYU-Tisch this fall. Sometimes the apple falls a little further from the tree than we expect. Having worked in NYC at the health department I have every confidence that they are proceeding with appropriate testing and contract tracing. Like Amherst, every precaution is being taken and safety is of utmost concern. I wish all of you well.

Amy Wagaman

I’ve been hard at work on a revision to Probability with Applications and R. We’re planning to submit this new second edition early in the fall semester. Many thanks to my various interns who have worked on different aspects of the project. This has been my main focus during the last few challenging months.

I also wrote a chapter on clustering for Data Science for Mathematicians, which comes out in mid-September! (Amazon, Routledge).

Alumni and Student News

Jonathan Che ’18 writes: I’ve been enjoying my (remote) internship with the data science applied research team at LinkedIn this summer - it’s been a good chance to switch gears for a little bit before the start of my third year of graduate school in statistics.

Ken Eliot ’17 writes: I will be starting my 3rd year of law school at the University of Chicago. If you have any math/stats students who are interested in law school and want to know more about it, they are welcome to contact me and I will try to answer questions to the best of my ability.

Glenn Farrell ’74 wrote (last August after hearing of the passing of Professor James Denton): As it turns out, I think I was one of only four or five math majors in the class of 1974; Prof. Denton was my advisor, and I had taken a number of stat/practical math classes from him and Prof. Starr. Jim advised me that my future as as statistician could be as an actuary, or as a teacher. I chose to go play basketball in France for two years, then graduate school at the UCLA school of management, where I studied accounting, later taking a position in that field. I enjoyed public accounting for 33 years, and was one of my firm’s leaders in the statistical sampling approach used in auditing.

After retiring from public accounting in 2012, I went on to be the CFO for a “sophisticated” start-up in the mortgage insurance industry. One thing I learned there–which I was just starting to realize at KPMG–was the importance of data analytics, and the growing field surrounding data. I find it fascinating to hear that mathematics is one of the most popular majors now at Amherst, but not surprising giving the explosion of job opportunities as analysts in the various private equity, venture capital, banking, insurance, academia and investment banking firms. I say–“right on”!

Thank you also for the memorial on Prof. Denton. While I wasn’t nearly as bright as Jim, and probably not the ideal math major, he made a profound impact on my life, and I am forever grateful. I knew he was in failing health, and in fact ran into his ex-wife at a seminar at Reunion this past June, but had not heard of his passing. Living on the west coast, it probably is not likely that I will be able to attend the memorial service next month, but I will definitely be there in spirit.

And thanks for the complete newsletter–it’s great seeing so much happening in the data sciences/math field with so many students participating. Good luck with the upcoming school year, and enjoy the Fairest College!

With warm regards, Glenn Farrell ’74

Stephany Flores-Ramos ’17 writes: Since the last newsletter, I moved from Boston to San Diego to begin my PhD in Biomedical Sciences at UC San Diego. Right now I am almost at the end of my first year in the program and will be joining Mohit Jain’s lab which is interested in finding novel healthy metabolites. I was drawn to this lab because it has given me the chance to utilize some of my statistical skills (creating mixed linear models, using R, some ML, etc) to perform these metabolite searches among microbes! Outside of grad school, I bought my first car! It’s a 2020 Corolla Hybrid and it has been very patient with me as I am learning to navigate through CA.

Jenn Halbleib ’18 writes: I’m working as a Junior Data Scientist at MassMutual in the Investments and Finance Division. Over the last year at work, I’ve built a sentiment analysis engine for tweets and spent a lot of time on a challenging numeric optimization problem. Outside of work, I’m taking courses toward a Master’s in Computer Science from UMass-Amherst. I expect to finish the Master’s this year.

Connor Haley ’17 writes: I am off to Cal Berkeley to study business and operations research this fall.

Jasmine Horan ‘19 writes: After graduation last May I began my job with the Yankees as an associate in their baseball operations department (here’s a short piece on my brother [rival Williams ’16] and I). But before long I was offered a job by the Cubs in late November and accepted shortly thereafter ( I moved to Chicago at the start of the new year and have been here since! I work as an analyst in the Cubs’ Research & Development department and I specialize in amateur scouting. Baseball has recently started up again and it’s great to cheer on the team (from a distance)!

Jocelyn Hunyadi ’19 writes: A relatively big update I have is that I’m switching from my Ph.D. program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology to a Master’s in Biostatistics at Texas A&M!

Azka Javaid ’17 writes: I am finishing up my work at Columbia University Medical Center as a Data Analyst in the Cardiology department to start a PhD at Dartmouth in Quantitative Biomedical Sciences (QBS), an interdisciplinary program in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Bioinformatics. I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to starting!

Jeffrey Lancaster ’18 writes: After graduating I moved to Washington DC and started working at a management consulting firm called Gartner, where I was able to put my Stats experience to good use through working with simple predictive models, survey design and analysis and, as always, plenty of data cleaning and manipulation. In March I took a new job at a cybersecurity company called Expanse, which focuses on mapping out the “digital footprint” of corporations and government organizations to identify and address potential exposures. Since I’m working in DC, I’ve been able to focus on helping secure National Security clients through projects with companies like Election Systems & Software - a company that produces voting machines. During Covid lockdown, I have been living at home with my parents in Northern California. Please reach out if you’d like to get in touch or re-connect!

Levi Lee ’17 writes: I am currently one semester away from graduating with my Masters in Statistics at Columbia University. This summer I have been spreading my time between two different internships and many more professional development workshops and certificate programs. It was a great opportunity to explore new topics–in areas of Statistics and entirely new fields altogether.

My first internship is a teaching position with the City University of New York. I am currently teaching undergraduate students the basics of R programming and data science. It has been an interesting experience creating lesson plans and assignments for students, and I have realized how much unseen effort professors put in to create their courses!

My second internship has been a mix between mentored research and course development. I am helping a new Statistics professor in Columbia’s Statistics Department in developing a special topics course to be offered in the fall that combines finance technology (FinTech), machine learning (ML), and fairness.

Tim Lee ’18 writes: I’m working UPenn as a Research Coordinator with the Behavior Change for Good Initiative, which is co-led by Angela Duckworth and Katy Milkman. I’ve used R and statistics on a daily basis ever since graduating–both here at Penn and at The Brattle Group

Bonnie Lin ’19 has returned to San Diego, where she works as an analyst at University of California - San Diego Health. She manages the databases for Dr. Abraham Palmer’s animal behavioral genetics lab. For her daily work responsibilities, she draws upon her favorite course at Amherst, Data Science, to extract and wrangle lab-generated data in R with various packages, like tidyverse, data.table, and PostgreSQL. She is excited to see how the future of data science will shape the healthcare landscape among many others.

Cassidy Maher ’19 writes: I’m chugging away at Capital One in a software engineering position in the TDP (Technology Development Program). I completed a six month program for technical non-computer science majors in February, which I feel like was an awesome choice after coming out of Amherst as a stats major. Since then, I’ve been working on a full team in the Risk Management space and am loving my team and the new technologies I’m learning. Life is as stable as it can be and I am enduring my first full southern summer in Richmond, VA. I didn’t know it could be over 90 for so many consecutive days but I’m loving swimming in the river that goes through the city.

Meredith Manley ’18 wrote in mid-July: I am entering my second season as a Football Analytics Assistant for the Arizona Cardinals Football Club in Phoenix. My responsibilities primarily revolve around player evaluation. This weekend we received word from our league offices that pre season, as of right now, will be taking place as scheduled, so I am situating myself for the regular season to start in about a month if we are able to proceed accordingly. Since accepting a full-time position in May 2019, I’ve had to do a lot of learning on the job both in the context of football and statistics. With a full year under my belt I have gained a lot, but more importantly, I have a better understanding of that which I do not know and a better frame of reference as I continue to seek answers to questions I couldn’t fathom this past year.

Melody Owen ’17 writes: I am very happy to say that I’ll be going to Yale University this fall to join their PhD program in Biostatistics. Out of all the schools I applied to, Yale and UMass were the only acceptance offers I received, but Yale was one of my top choices and I’m extremely excited.

Megan Robertson ’15 writes: I am still working as a data scientist at Nike, but in November I made an internal change in teams. I now work on the data science team that supports our SNKRs phone application. This app serves our sneaker-obsessed and collector communities. I spend more time working cross-functionally with other teams (such as product, design, marketing, etc.) so that they can use data and modeling insights in their day to day work.

Brendan Routh ’19 writes: I have spent the past year working at EY as a Cybersecurity Consultant. Specifically, I work on the Intelligent Cyber Automation (ICA) team. The shift toward working remotely has increased the need for secure environments and automating security controls simplifies that process for companies. I have been fortunate enough to work on several Fortune 100 companies and am enjoying continuing to learn new skills each and every day.

Eric Sellew ’20 writes: I am thrilled to announce my first full-time position at KartSmartr, an E-commerce solution for businesses. My role will include managing PPC Ads, Social Media and Operations/Logistics. I want to give a special thanks to the Amherst Statistics Department for always setting the bar high and challenging us throughout our 4 years!

Brendan Seto ’18 writes: I have been in Boston since graduation learning to cook, pretending to be in shape and organizing prospective, stratified sampled, multi-centered research assistant trivia trials to objectively determine the “Best RAs in Boston”. In my free time, I have taken advantage of a variety of lectures and seminars to expand my biostats knowledge, analyzed outcomes data for the Department of Surgery at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and attempted to help surgeons develop good statistical practices.

This fall I am starting medical school in Hawaii, moving home, and trying to recover my tan.

Maggie Shea ’19 writes: I am starting the MS in Applied Biostatistics program part-time at Boston University in the fall, while continuing to work full time as a statistical data analyst at the Biostatistics and Epidemiology Data Analytics Center.

Sarah Teichman ’18 writes: I’m two years into my PhD, so nothing has changed for a little while. I passed my qualifying exam this spring, so now I’m fully in the research-focused part of my PhD. Currently, I’m working on one project aimed at modeling worker and firm dynamics and decomposing wage variance, and I’m just starting another project about visualizing and comparing phylogenetic trees. I’m enjoying having a flexible summer schedule that leaves plenty of time for biking and hiking in Seattle!

Caleb Winfrey ’20 writes: I just started as a Program Analyst for the State of Nebraska. Work began three weeks ago, and it has been great so far. I’ve been learning a lot about epidemiology as a whole, plus I’m learning skills like ArcGIS, SPSS, etc.

Christien Wright ’17 writes: I just finished up my master’s at UMass and I took a job as a data engineer at a company outside of Boston. I also have been working with the University of Memphis Men’s Basketball since last September, helping them build out the analytics foundation for the program.

Robbie Zielinski ’19 writes: I have been working as a bioinformatician at the University of Rochester’s Center for Health + Technology, focusing mostly on developing models for the progression of Parkinson’s Disease. So far, this has involved working to cluster study participants into subgroups by their rate of progression. If we are able to predict which subgroup someone belongs to at the time they are diagnosed, then we hope this work can be used to improve the prognosis they receive, influence how they are treated, and improve the efficiency of clinical trials by screening participants more effectively.

Overall, I find the work challenging but very interesting, and it has been a very positive experience for me. I didn’t take any biology classes at Amherst so there was a bit of a learning curve when I started, but I definitely feel like I was well prepared from a statistics perspective.

Olivia Xu ’17 writes: As you probably already know, I’m getting ready to move to London to start my MBA at Imperial College this September. I’m really looking forward to the change and meeting my new peers. I’m leaving my current company, Lose It!, after a little more than 3 years. As far as I know, Lose It! is still hiring an operations intern for the summer/fall, which might be a good stepping stone for any recent seniors (

Amherst Statistics slack

We set up an Amherst Statistics slack channel and would be glad to have alumni join. Please contact Nick to get the link.

Other news?

Have other news you’d like to share? Please send it along. We’d love to hear about it.

Best wishes at this challenging time.

Last updated August 7, 2020

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