Push Yourself to Explore: Video Transcript

David Friedenberg, PhD (BS Mathematics and Statistics, Miami, 2004) [Principal Research Statistician at Battelle Memorial Institute]: I became interested in math and statistics; it was actually in high school I took AP statistics, and I have always been a big science guy. I loved physics, I loved astronomy, I loved chemistry. And statistics was kind of an opportunity to work in all those different fields without having to focus solely on one.

My degree from Miami prepared me in lots of different ways. They gave me a good footing to move in when I went to Carnegie Mellon to grad school. I already had all the basics down, and a lot of my initial grad school classes I had already seen a lot of the material at Miami. I think I developed also a lot as a person at Miami.

One of my favorite classes at Miami was our honors astronomy class. We had Dr. [Douglas] Marcum; he was really awesome. He just had this enthusiasm about the universe that was really infectious, and we all really got into it, and that's still something that I did as part of my PhD thesis. We had some astronomy stuff, and that's always been something that has really fascinated me, is learning more about the universe.

One of the opportunities I had was the SUMSRI [Summer Undergraduate Mathematical Sciences Research Institute] Program, which was a summer math and statistics research institute program. I got to meet students from all over the country from a lot of different backgrounds, and it really helped me when I went to Carnegie Mellon and started teaching.

I think the liberal arts education is really valuable because no matter what your job is and what your area of expertise is, you're always going to have to be aware of the things going on around you. Our business is always impacted not just by what's going on at Battelle but what's going on in the world, what's going on in the government, what's going on with the political situations in different countries. I think having a solid liberal arts education really helps you be conversant in all those different areas.

My future career goals are to continue working on high-impact projects at Battelle, specifically in some of our neuroscience projects. Right now we are working on a project - we have a young man who was paralyzed in a diving accident, and in collaboration with Ohio State, we've put a chip in his brain, and we're trying to help him move again using some technologies that we developed at Battelle.

My advice to other Miami students would be to really push yourself to explore different things, try to go to different conferences, try to travel as much as you possibly can. One of my biggest regrets at Miami was that I never went to Luxembourg for a semester; it's something that I really wish I did. Really travel and try to get out there and see the world. Certainly study the classes that you'll see in your major, but I would also recommend that you take classes in things like computer science and learn how to program. Those are skills that are transferrable to any type of job, and also to get out there and, you know, study a couple different fields, and get a sense of some of the other areas that are interesting, because math and stats is great because almost every field, any academic field, they're publishing papers that have statistics in them, so they're going to be using statisticians, and so it is really helpful if you have even just a broad perspective on what's going on in other fields.

[September 2015]