University of Washington School of Public Health
Graduate Student Profile
PhD student, Biostatistics
Hometown: Plymouth, Minnesota
Why did you choose UW?
The UW Biostatistics department has a very strong reputation. Faculty members are working on exciting research and are genuinely concerned with the well-being of students. UW seemed like a place where I would learn a lot, work hard, and still enjoy myself in the process.
Why did you choose Biostatistics?
I've always loved math, and I wanted to find a job that used math to serve people and communities in some way. Biostatistics seemed like the perfect way to use my training to work on important problems in public health. During my undergraduate degree, I spent a summer working as a research assistant in the field of statistical genetics, and after that I was hooked.
What motivates you about public health?
Both of my parents work in fields related to medicine and public health—my mom is a physical therapist and my dad works for a nonprofit women's health organization. Seeing how much satisfaction they get from their jobs, because they're able to use their work to help other people, has motivated my desire to do the same.
What kind of research are you doing?
My research focuses on using large genetic datasets to answer questions about human disease and population history. Much of my recent work has focused on inferring population structure and local patterns of inheritance of genetic material in admixed populations, such as Hispanic/Latino populations.
What is the focus of your Graduate Research Fellowship with the National Science Foundation?
The development of statistical methods to identify rare genetic variants associated with complex diseases. I am interested in developing methods to deal with multiple testing concerns that arise in genetics and other high-dimensional applications.
Do you have any extracurricular activities or jobs?
I work as a research assistant at the UW Genetic Analysis Center and I’m also lucky to be part of the Statistical Genetics Training Grant program. In my free time, I love to play and watch soccer, explore Seattle coffee shops and breweries, and go hiking.
What are your future goals?
I attended a small liberal arts college—St. Olaf College—in Minnesota. The professors and research opportunities I had there made a huge impact on my development as a statistician…and as a person. I hope to pay it forward by finding an academic position where I can help undergraduates get involved in research opportunities early in their careers.
Do you have any advice for students applying for funding opportunities?
It's important to start applying early and as many times as you can. I applied to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship program three times. Each time I applied, I was able to make further improvements to my application based on feedback I received from reviewers, mentors and peers. The review process also taught me that clear and effective communication of complex scientific concepts is an incredibly important skill to develop. I believe that any time spent developing those skills—no matter your field—is time well spent.
What do you like most about Seattle?
I love that Seattle offers access to all the exciting things a big city can offer, but it is a lot more laid back and neighborhood-centric. I especially like being able to walk to coffee shops and restaurants and cheer for a soccer team in the MLS.