Biology and biostatistics double major Jessica LeClair '17 headed south in summer 2015, enrolling in the six-week Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics (SIBS) at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and free for participants, the Institute is held at universities in eight states across the country and aims to address a disparity between the high demand for and low supply of biostatisticians.
Though there is a summer session held at the nearby Boston University, LeClair chose Emory as her site, due in part to advice from her faculty advisor, Professor of Mathematics and Department Chair Yulia Dementieva.
"My advisor, Yulia, actually earned her Ph.D. in mathematics from Emory and had nothing but great things to say about the school and her program," LeClair said. "It sounded like a great place to learn more about the field."
While LeClair was enjoying her mathematics and biology courses at Emmanuel, she was unsure about career paths and exactly how she could best utilize her growing skills in both disciplines.
With morning lectures led by faculty members and afternoon labs featuring case studies on real-world issues, Emory's program provided an intensive overview of biostatistics and research, focusing on the principles, methodologies, uses, and applications of statistical methods in biomedical and clinical research.
"It was a very well-rounded program, and we learned a lot about possible careers and graduate schools options," she said. "After completing the program, I am confident that it is a field I want to explore, and I am leaning toward applying for their Ph.D. program after graduation."
LeClair also enjoyed making friends from all over the country (she was the only participant from New England), staying in apartments on Emory's campus and participating in many excursions in the Atlanta area, including a trip to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Museum, the Georgia Aquarium, and to Turner Field for an Atlanta Braves game.
For the fall 2015 semester, LeClair is staying busy with her coursework at Emmanuel, and has enrolled in an additional mathematics class at nearby Wentworth Institute of Technology, which she was able to cross-register for through the Colleges of the Fenway.
"The program at Emory stressed that the more math classes I can take, the better prepared I will be," she said.
LeClair already has some hands-on learning experience through her work as a research intern at Boston Children's Hospital's Center for Endometriosis during the spring 2015 semester, which she said taught her a lot about managing a research study and another as a research trainee at Harvard Medical School during the spring of 2014.
An engaged student in Emmanuel's mathematics department, which she says is like "a little family," LeClair also a member of the Math Club, a founding member and the first secretary of Emmanuel's chapter of national mathematics honor society Pi Mu Epsilon and a Resident Assistant in St. Ann Hall.