Allison Quintana

ScM in Biostatistics ’22


Undergraduate Institution: Wesleyan University

Why did you choose the Brown University School of Public Health?
I chose Brown University SPH because of the overwhelmingly positive feedback from former and current students with whom I spoke. They consistently praised the school’s encouraging and collaborative community culture as well as the top notch and productive faculty. I did not get the chance to visit Brown before matriculating because of the COVID-19 pandemic; so my decision was based heavily on hearing about student experiences. From those conversations, I perceived in Brown a collaborative, interdisciplinary and intellectually curious approach to learning that I valued so much from my liberal arts undergraduate experience. I also wanted the chance to get to know and learn from some of the world’s experts in biostatistics and public health.

What makes Brown's program different from other programs you considered?
The ScM program in Biostatistics at Brown provides its students a fantastic mix of both theoretical and applied statistical training, whereas some of the other programs I considered seem to place a greater focus on applied learning. Among other things, this aspect of Brown puts students in a great position to prepare for PhD study, while also providing rigorous applied training to prepare for work in industry. Also, the student population in the biostats cohort is fairly small and, thus, allows you to more easily form close relationships with professors and peers, which is something I have always valued. I strongly feel that the support and comradery in our department is very apparent.

What do you enjoy most about your program?
The faculty in the department all want their students to do well, so they are always available for you. I have ‘cold-emailed’ several professors on several occasions during my time here and they have all been extremely gracious and happy to get to know me and answer questions. They will talk to you about their research interests, research and job opportunities, advice on course selection, topics from class, your interests, recommendations for food in Providence, etc. I have felt very comfortable reaching out to faculty and, therefore, trust them as my mentors.

What is your academic area of interest and why?
Although I find myself with interests in a wide array of biostatistics areas, I am generally most interested in predictive modeling for clinical decision-making. In particular, I am curious how Bayesian predictive models can be evaluated when they are built from various data-generating mechanisms (e.g., combining data from multiple studies). Bayesian methods are interesting and useful because they’re able to incorporate any prior knowledge about the matter in question, as well as account for predictive uncertainty. I think there are many intriguing questions to explore in this area and I am excited to delve into one of them in particular as part of my master’s thesis this year.

What are your postgraduate goals/plans?
I hope to spend some time doing research as a data analyst or statistician at a hospital or center researching diabetes and other chronic diseases. Long term, I aim to pursue a PhD in biostatistics or a related field. I am constantly impressed by professionals in public health and hope to join their ranks some day.

Why Providence?
I love New England and I was thrilled to move to Providence. It is an ideal size—an urban feel with just enough of a suburban backdrop, and not nearly as dense as the greater Boston area, which makes getting around much easier. The architecture throughout the city is beautiful and there is plenty of great food and great scenery. There are also many wonderful coffee shops at which to hang out or study.

What advice would you give to prospective applicants?
Do not hesitate to reach out to current students, alumni and faculty of the program(s) in which you’re interested. Get a good feel for how the people in the program feel about it. But maintain perspective on the different stories and thoughts that you hear, because it is important to keep in mind where you are coming from and what you want to get out of the program, which may be different from those with whom you connect. It is also helpful to see where former students have ended up and what kind of work they are doing, whether it be further graduate study, research or industry. This will help you make connections early on and see where the program tends to place its students. On a practical note, make sure you take a look at the courses required by different programs to make sure you’re getting the type of training (i.e., theoretical, applied, or both) you prefer. Besides all that, I would also say, come to Brown! It’s fantastic here.