Looking beyond data to ask the big questions
Data science PhD candidate Jessica Rudd blends technology and social science to forge her own path.
TOP 3 LESSONS
- Fundamentals are important, but accounting for certain biases is even more important.
- Find something unique that adds to the field you care about.
- If something is intimidating, be sure you know it well.
Bachelor of Science
from Emory University in anthropology and political science.
in public health.
working for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in biostats.
Candidate for PhD
at Kennesaw State University in analytics and data science.
SEE THE BENEFITS
ON FIRST LEARNING SAS®
I first learned SAS in a technology lab in 2007. I really caught on [to the technology], but my social science background was still relevant. It remains the most important part of my career goal.
Earning a PhD at Kennesaw State University typically takes four years.
average salary of a data scientist, according to Glassdoor.
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL SCIENCE
I encourage students studying data science to pick up some electives or a minor in a non-STEM field. That kind of learning is important. There are so many people who are excellent mathematicians or programmers, but they haven't had to answer questions that deal directly with people or the end results of problems.
I don't know what the next trends in data science are, but I think what's relevant will be the ethics and legality of data science. This represents a time when we have mathematical and statistical knowledge and other information we get from data, but we need to determine what's okay and what's not okay.
Q: How did you get started in this field? Were you always interested in technology?
A: I was into math and science as a kid. I really wanted to be an astronaut, and at the time it seemed like the best route would be through a military academy – in my case the Naval Academy. But I stopped growing when I was 10 years old, so I was too short for a military flight. I decided to go pre-med, and I got interested in having a career in STEM. It helped that I was president of my high school robotics team, which definitely pushed me in that direction.
Q: What types of technology courses did you take in college? Was there one in particular that sparked your interest?
A: I went to Emory University for undergrad. I was the dumbest smart person I knew because I skipped the intro classes and took calc 2 and organic chemistry my first year. I got my first C, and it about ended my plan to go into a STEM career. I ended up majoring in anthropology and political science. The department at Emory is tied to the school of public health. I went straight through and got a master's in public health and studied epidemiology, which has a lot of math and statistics, so I was re-exposed to that type of thinking.
Read more of Jessica's story
I feel like a data scientist is someone who can sit in the middle of a proverbial Venn diagram of understanding the math and statistics, and the program language, and the business needs – and be able to talk to the specialists in those areas so you can come together to produce some sort of change.