Kathleen McClain, (Biostatistics, MS 2012; Epidemiology, PhD 2018)

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Kathleen McClain Massimino received her Ph.D. in Epidemiology in May 2018 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, an MS in Biostatistics in December 2012 from Georgetown University, and a BS in Mathematics in May 2011 from Hofstra University. Her current postdoctoral fellowship position at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is her first full-time work experience, as she continues her education straight from her doctorate. Her internship experiences included working at two pharmaceutical companies, doing both statistical and epidemiological work, and with working on specific research studies primarily aiding with data harmonization. Kathleen McClain Massimino is originally from South Jersey, and currently living in Virginia with her husband and six-month old daughter.

How did you get interested in studying Biostatistics? What was your background before Georgetown University?
As an undergraduate, I was a Mathematics major, [but] I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. I found Biostatistics by happenstance, through the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded summer Biostatistics program at Boston University. I was always interested in biology/medicine and [Biostatistics] combined my two primary academic interests. Once completing this summer program, I knew I wanted to explore where Biostatistics could take me.

What did you love most about the MS program?
The best part of the Biostatistics MS program is the faculty. Whether [being an] SRA (Student Research Assistant) for Dr. Valeriy Korostyshevskiy, or TA (Teaching Assistant) for BIST 510/BIST 511 for Dr. Valeriy Korostyshevskiy and Dr. Kepher Makambi, the professors were always helpful and available. 

Specifically, my practicum experience with Dr. Loffredo was the most impactful on my professional life. My favorite course was BIST 917/918, the practicum [research] requirement. This experience is where I was matched with Dr. Chris Loffredo… [became] immersed into the epidemiology field, and found what I wanted to do long-term.

What was challenging about the program?
The most challenging part of the MS program was that it was a condensed program [of]… 3 semesters. Courses went very quickly, particularly BIST 510/511 which were half-semester courses. 

Please describe your current work and job responsibilities.
Currently, I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch within the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Rockville, MD. My research interests are the associations between the components of energy balance (diet, obesity, and physical activity) and cancer incidence, with an additional focus on metabolomics.

How do you use what you learned in our program in your current work?
On a daily basis, I use what I have learned from the MS Biostatistics program. [It becomes invaluable] whether it is through deciding what statistical approach is most appropriate, running analyses myself, or reviewing scholarly articles.

What advice would you give to current and prospective students?
My advice for prospective students is to think about where you eventually would like to be career-wise (even if in only the broadest terms), and try to find the program that will best suit that trajectory. For current students, I would take advantage of all that the Biostatistics MS program, Georgetown University overall, and DC has to offer. To enjoy your time here and to take a break from scholarly tasks every now and then (especially when graduate school feels all-consuming).

Why did you want to continue with a PhD program?
I continued with a PhD program in Epidemiology. [From my experience at Georgetown,] I realized that I wanted to further build upon my training. Biostatistics provided a great foundation and a set of skills that not everyone within Epidemiology has.

Anything else you’d like to add?
General advice is to always put yourself out there [for] jobs, projects, etc. If you are interested, the worst thing that can happen is for someone to say “no”. Know your limits and do not overcommit your time.

What is your favorite hobby?
My favorite activity now is to go out to a local brewery with my husband and our daughter and spend some time outside (weather permitting) trying new beers.

Where would you love to travel to?
My husband and I have been talking about a trip to the Pacific Northwest forever, so we would love to go to Seattle and Vancouver. Internationally, I would love to take a couple weeks of vacation to go all over Italy.

Any other interesting information you’d want to share with us?
Over the last year, I have completed and successfully defended my dissertation, received my PhD, gave birth to my first child, moved back to the DC area, and started a new job. I am very much looking forward to the time after the holidays where things will slow down a bit.

Updated March 2018