Melissa Jay Smith

Melissa Jay SmithPronouns: she/her
Graduation year: 2016 
Hometown: Sharon, MA 
Currently living in: Hoover, AL 
Current occupation: Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) 


What was your experience like at CC as a Math major? 

Fun, challenging, and highly collaborative are three things that come to mind when I reflect on my experience as a Math major at CC. I have fond memories of working on problem sets with other students in the math lounge, participating in the math modeling contest, and having dinner at my professor Beth Malmskog’s house at the end of a block on cryptography (to name a few!). Between the Block Plan format of courses and the great teaching in the Math department, my experience as a Math major at CC prepared me well to think critically, present difficult mathematical concepts both orally and in writing, and conduct research. These were all skills that helped me succeed in graduate school. 


Why were you interested in focusing on math as your major? 

In high school, I enjoyed my math courses, and I particularly enjoyed my AP statistics class. I learned that a math major is great preparation for a career as an actuary, which combines statistics and probability, economics, and other subject areas. This motivated me to pursue math at CC. However, through my statistics/probability classes, summer research programs, and my senior thesis project, I discovered that there were lots of other career paths involving statistics, including contributing to public health/medical research as a biostatistician. Ultimately, I pursued a PhD in biostatistics. 


How are you using your major in your post-CC life?  

I am now an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). My day-to-day work involves applying statistical principles to design research studies, conceptualizing statistical analysis plans, and collaborating with researchers in a variety of disciplines from environmental health to nephrology. Some of my research also focuses on developing new statistical methods (which involve derivations with linear algebra and calculus as well as lots of computer programming). I also spend a lot of time communicating statistical results to different audiences through writing and presentations. Many of the skills I use on a regular basis were emphasized in my coursework at CC.

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