Student Spotlights

Our Students

Hear what fellow students have to say about our graduate programs!  One of the best ways to learn about the Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics and Biomathematics is through the testimonies and stories of our students and alumni.

The profiles below give prospective students a look inside through the academic experiences of current and past students at Georgetown University.

Huiqi Zhuang, (Biostatistics, MS 2016)

Huiqi Zhuang - photo

Huiqi (Vicky) Zhuang graduated with an MS in Biostatistics in 2016 and earned a BS in Nutrition and Food Science from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2014.  Currently, she works as a Biostatistician and Data Analyst in Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in the DC Department of Health.

How did you get interested in studying Biostatistics? What was your background before Georgetown University?
My intern project was related to food science data. At that time, I felt it will be great if I could change my major into statistics because I found that I was more interested in statistics and data science. Thanks to a friend from Southern Medical University, I learned about Georgetown’s Biostatistics MS program.  After talking to Dr. Korostyshevskiy [Director of Graduate Studies], I decided to submit my application. The information provided from the program was clear and helpful. I believed that I could do it and that Georgetown will help my career.

What did you love most about the MS program?
The courses in the Biostatistics Master’s Program are great. The course setting is great for job searching after graduation. I have applied most of the knowledge from my Master’s study to my current work. The faculty members are friendly and helpful. The [Research] Practicum…was also a great opportunity for a student to understand research and communicate [one-on-one and learn to collaborate] with a faculty member. I also have applied what I learned from Practicum to my current work. 

Read more about Huiqi's experience...

What was challenging about the program?
Changing your major is never easy. My undergraduate major was [in Food Science,] not statistics. The first semester was the hardest time for me because I was trying to catching up. Thanks to the faculty’s help and the office hours, I did a good job in the second...and third semesters. 

Please describe your current work and job responsibilities.
I am working in the DC Department Health, Center of Policy Planning and Evaluation. The main goal is to understand the risk factors and disease rates in DC in order to prevent disease outbreaks and prevent death in Washington, DC. Therefore, I analyze the data from BRFSS records from DC and create fact sheets, reports and so on. Furthermore, I also work in data visualization to help the public to understand the BRFSS data easily. I am working on combining the BRFSS records and vital records to predict the death rates and prevent death. 

How do you use what you learned in our program in your current work?
Currently I am using the weighted chi-square-test, weighted logistic regression, epidemiology, and machine learning (random forests).  [What I learned in class from writing statistics reports, oral presentations, and teamwork [are skills I use in my work]. What I learned from Georgetown is the base and it has inspired me to create new methods to solve statistics problems.  It helps us to know the health status of the residents in Washington DC and to improve their health.

What advice would you give to current and prospective students?
1) Enjoy the graduate study and work hard. The courses are super helpful in your future job. 
2) Try to talk to Faculty members and Alumni to understand better which career path is the best for you.
3) Utilize the resources of Washington, DC. DC is a great city for Data Scientists and Statisticians. Not only are there [many] government agencies here, but also a lot of start-up Bio-companies and Hi-tech companies. Therefore, if there is any chance, sign up for a meetup in Data Science and introduce yourself to others.

Do you plan to apply for a PhD program in Biostats?  Why?
Yes, [I hope to] be in a part-time [PhD] program this year. Working on the government data [has been] a huge resource.  I feel PhD knowledge could help me better utilize the data and help my career development. 

Anything else you’d like to add?
A lot of government agencies love GU students. :)  GO HOYAS!

What is your favorite hobby?
I like outdoor activities, like kayaking under key bridge. Also, I like going to Foggy Bottom for Data Science Meetups and going to Metro-Center for Broadway shows (lottery ticket is the best thing in the world!).

Where would you love to travel to?
Bahamas

Any other interesting information  you'd want to share with us?
1) DC Department of Health and DC government needs a lot of public health analysts, epidemiologists, statisticians, and data analysts. Check our DCHR website. (OPT is fine)
2) DC government opens the Summer Intern Program every year. You can submit your application from Feb. - April.  [However,] you must be [available to work] from May 24th to the end of August (CPT is fine).
3) If you like Data Science, let's play Kaggle together! I have gotten into the finals before. 
 

updated 3/18

Philip Meacham, (Biostatistics, MS 2013; Epidemiology, PhD Expected 2019)

Philip Meacham photo

Philip Meacham earned a Master’s of Science in Biostatistics in 2013 at Georgetown University.  During his graduate studies at Georgetown, he worked at the National Institutes of Health as a research analyst with the National Institute of Child Health and Development.  He also earned a dual Bachelor’s of Science in Statistics and Applied Mathematics, summa cum laude, from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 2011.

Philip began his doctoral studies in Epidemiology in 2013 at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. While pursuing a PhD, he also works as a research assistant in the clinical trials office at the Wilmot Cancer Institute. His research focus is in cancer epidemiology, and he is particularly interested in prevention of second cancers, risk prediction modeling, and applying novel statistical methodology in clinical and epidemiological research. His current doctoral research focuses on characterizing the population that develops multiple lymphoid malignancies during their lifetime and evaluating the risk of developing a second after surviving the first lymphoid malignancy.  

Why were you interested in studying Biostatistics? What was your background before Georgetown University?
Before I started at Georgetown I got a dual BS in Statistics and Applied Mathematics. I wanted to continue my training as a statistician, but with a focus in the biomedical field.

What did you love most about the MS program?
​I really enjoyed my time studying biostats at Georgetown, and I was very impressed with the variety of courses offered by the Department. It was helpful to have a mixture of both theoretical statistics along with practical courses. Having the exposure to many different applications of biostatistics not only taught me a lot, but it ensured that I was armed with a great toolbox that I could use in any field once I graduated.  

Read more about Philip's experience...

What was challenging about the MS program?
​The most challenging aspect of the MS program was continuously managing my time efficiently and balancing my workload, especially in the last semester. More specifically, the two primary challenges I faced were:
1) working over the summer at the NIH as a research analyst while working on my practicum project, as well as
2) finishing my practicum in the final semester of the program, working at the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center as a data analyst, and continuing my course-load. 
Despite these [challenging] experiences, I am very grateful for the skill sets that I developed as a result, and it benefits me now as I work as a research assistant while working on my PhD.​

What are you doing now? Please describe your current work.
​I am currently a fifth-year PhD student in epidemiology at the University of Rochester and am planning on defending my dissertation next year [in 2019]. I am a cancer epidemiologist, with a specific interest in hematologic malignancies. My current research focuses on better understanding the risk of developing multiple lymphomas over a person's lifetime. 

How do you use what you learned in our MS program in your current work?
​My first introduction to epidemiology - ever - was at Georgetown. If it was not because of the epidemiology course I took as part of the MS program in biostats, I might not be pursuing a PhD in epidemiology now. All of the other courses I took significantly helped me better understand statistics and become proficient at data analysis, which are two integral factors in being a good epidemiologist.

What advice would you give to current and prospective students?
​I have two pieces of advice to current students. First, take full advantage of the resources offered by the Department, the Graduate School, and the University. These range from seminars and mentorship to study spaces and computer centers to writing centers and career development services. The second, and maybe most important, would be to enjoy your time at Georgetown; take full advantage of life and activities on campus. 

Why did you want to continue with a PhD in Epidemiology? What do you hope to do afterwards?
While working on my MS in biostatistics, and after being introduced to epidemiology, I had a strong desire to further my epidemiological training with the eventual goal of becoming an independent researcher. I do not want to simply consult on research, or be the assigned statistician, but rather I want to be the one designing and conducting the research. A PhD in epidemiology was the logical next step; I do not consider it ignoring my training as a biostatistician but rather using those skills to be a better epidemiologist. When I began the MS program at Georgetown, my career goal after graduating was to work as a data scientist for either the Census, the NIH, or the CDC. I still desire to work in the government, but now in the capacity of an epidemiologist. I want to use my quantitative and computational skill set to serve my country in some capacity as well as advance scientific knowledge as it pertains to evidence-based medicine.

What is your favorite hobby?
I love antiquing.

Any interesting information or updates you'd want to share with us?
It would be very difficult for me to get through my PhD program without the love and support of my partner, Eddie Sundquist. We support each other in our careers and ambitions. He is currently running for US Congress in New York's 23rd Congressional District, and I am proud to say that I am his biggest supporter.
Please consider learning more about Eddie and his campaign at eddiesundquist.com ​ 

updated 3/18

Dohoon Kim, (Biostatistics, MS 2012)

Dohoon Kim - photo

Dohoon Kim is an alumnus of the Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Biomathematics department at Georgetown University. He graduated with an MS in Biostatistics in 2012 and holds a BS in Biology from Seoul National University and an MS in Biology from Gwangju Institution of Science and Technology.
Dohoon is happily married with two adorable kids, living in Ellicot City, MD and a Data Scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

How did you get interested in studying Biostatistics? What was your background before Georgetown?
Biostatistics was a "hot" major [and still is a popular, high in-demand field] in the US.  Before the MS program, I was a field application specialist at Promega Corporation, a Biotech company. I was and still am working on my own biotech company foundation. Since I was living in Frederick, MD, the nearest prominent university to me was Georgetown University. I am proud of its repuation.  

What did you love most about the MS program?
I loved taking R programming with Dr. Li, Practicum with Dr. Korostyshevskiy, Quantitative Data Analysis with Dr. Makambi, and Epidemiology with Dr. Loffredo. I was very satisfied with the organized curriculum. The friendly staff and faculty were also very helpful.

Read more about Dohoon's experience...

What was challenging about the MS program?
Statistical programming—SAS and R—was tough for me.  At the time, I was just a beginner 

Please describe your current work and job responsibilities.
My working area is somewhere among Bioinformatics, Biostatistics and Computer Science. I was recently promoted to Data Scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland. I design and implement software systems for high-throughput data analysis in a high-performance computing environment. That includes autogating, clustering, COMPASS, and Next Generation Sequencing analysis using UNIX, R, Python, and Matlab. I build analytic workflows for automated deployment of bioinformatics tools for interpreting flow cytometry, NGS, GWAS or other immunological data sets. It is mostly bioinformatics and computational work, but there is alot of biostatistical analysis too as part of bioinformatics projects. 

How do you use what you learned in our program in your current work?
I learned clustering method, KNN, viSNE, bioinformatics, (non)parametric methods, linear regression, and FDR. R programming was the most useful for me, and I have used all of these at work.  [To gain] high level R skills, I searched many websites and forums and read many bestselling R related books.

What advice would you give to current and prospective students?
1) As an international student, my Visa status was the most important thing to obtain for a job.  As a foreigner, you are a underdog in the job market even if you have full potential to be a good biostatistician.  Therefore, if there is very small chance to get a H-visa at your current job, you must get it, no matter the cost.
2) Choose a difficult Practicum topic—it may [be stressful] in the final semester, but it could be helpful to get the right job [especially since] some companies care a lot about Practicum topics [and the data analysis aspects of the research project]. 
3) Get a strong recommendation letter.  Make your resume strong and concise.  Too many skills on your resume can make [potential] employers skeptical about your skill level.
4) Knowing one [software] program thoroughly is better than knowing lots of programs at the intermediate level!  Remember, some companies in the software field have their own programming tests for new employee candidates. 
5) Make a strong network with everybody, if possible.  Be kind to everyone you meet, it will make "magic" for you!
6) Lastly, HR staff members are always smarter than you! They have met many people like you, so they can see through you and you cannot hide anything in front of them. So, be relaxed at your interview!

What is your favorite hobby?
Tennis, golf, surfing, snowboarding.

Where would you love to travel to?
Cancun, Japan, Vancouver, Thailand, California, and Katmai.

updated 3/18

Tengfei Li, (Biostatistics, MS 2017; PhD, expected 2022)

Tengfei Li - graduation photo

Tengfei Li is a current graduate student and an alumnus of the Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Biomathematics department at Georgetown University. He graduated with an MS in Biostatistics in 2017 and earned a BS in Statistics from East China Normal University in 2010.  Tengfei is pursuing his Ph.D. in Biostatistics at Georgetown University.

How did you get interested in studying Biostatistics? What was your background before Georgetown?
My undergraduate background is in Statistics. The art of interdisciplinary cooperation inspired me a lot and guided me to the field of Biostatistics because it combines statistical methodologies and biomedical research needs. 

Before Georgetown, I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Statistics at East China Normal University in 2010.  Then for five years, I worked in Contract Research Organizations (CRO) as a Statistical Programmer supporting clinical trials. Specifically, I worked for 2 years at Tigermed Consulting (China’s biggest CRO) and 3 years at PAREXEL International (a Global leading CRO).

What did you love most about the MS program?
The Practicum is what I love the most, without which I may not have made my decision to apply for the PhD program. The faculty and staff are all very, very nice. I would always get helpful suggestions and instructions from them. They are more than happy to help. I am really grateful to the Biostatistics Program and the professors at Georgetown University.

The Biostatistics MS program at Georgetown...has become more and more competitive because it provides not only solid classic biostatistical knowledge, but advanced and popular techniques like machine learning in biomedical data sciences. The program also features a Practicum, an “appetizer” of research, which enables students to apply what they’ve learned into a real research project. Practicum is even more helpful when deciding whether to continue with a PhD program after MS graduation.

Read more about Tengfei's experience...

How do you use what you learned in our MS program now?
What I learned as a Master’s student is the basis of my current coursework in my Ph.D. program.  I review and refer to the textbooks from the MS program when needed.

What advice would you give to current and prospective students?
Take every opportunity to study hard!  Communicate [and get to know] your instructors and advisors.  Apply for Research Assistantships and/or Internships.

[With the]... geographical advantage of Georgetown University's location in DC, students can always find volunteer opportunities, research assistantships and internships at Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (LCCC) and National Institute of Health (NIH). These are fantastic experiences to have when looking for future jobs.

Why did you want to study for a PhD in Biostats at GU? What do you hope to do after?
I started the Ph.D. program in Biostatistics at Georgetown University in 2017. I wish not only to apply biostatistical methodologies in real-life problems, but to get a deeper learning in statistical methodologies and data analysis.  I hope to contribute to possible improvements. The Ph.D. program at Georgetown is quite new, however many opportunities are available to learn and work with faculty. The curriculum is attractive because it involves many fields in modern biostatistics.  After completing my PhD, I want to keep all possible options open [like doing research, or working in industry or government or maybe teaching].  We will see what happens in the near future.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Georgetown University is the safest place in the DC area, [in my experience.]

What is your favorite hobby?
Hiking! There are [many] places around DC area suitable for hiking, such as Maryland’s Sugarloaf Mountain, Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, and the popular Billy Goat trail.

updated 3/18

Ping Li, (BIOSTATISTICS, MS 2010)

BA in English and Law
Huazhong University, China

"My professors are very helpful and understanding. Even though I didn’t major in statistics or a related field during my undergraduate years, the courses are very comprehensive, and the professors are willing to take the time to explain things outside of class."

Ainsley Stapleton, (BIOSTATISTICS, MS 2012)

BS in Business Administration
MS in Accounting
George Washington University, Washington DC

"We are learning the application of biostatistics in addition to some of the theory, which really helps us to understand the whole problem. Professors always provide real life examples that allow us to see what we are learning applied to actual problems. We are learning different methods for approaching the issues we will face in our jobs. This program provides a very well rounded biostatistics education."

Patti Vegella, (BIOSTATISTICS, MS 2011)

BS in Psychology
Clemson University, South Carolina

"As a part-time student, I like that the program has classes in the morning so you can easily adjust your work schedule. I also like how the professors share their experiences and talk about what to expect when you get a job as a biostatistician. The theoretical concepts and data analysis skills I've learned in class have helped me better understand the research studies I work on and enabled me to collaborate on new projects at the Cancer Control Program at Lombardi Cancer Center."