Learning Data

I got my start in statistics during my freshman year in college. It was a required introductory course toward my unrelated electrical engineering degree. Unlike some of the horror stories I’ve heard, my professor was extremely enthusiastic about his teaching and clearly enjoyed the topic. He quickly walked up and down the stairs of the lecture hall as he taught. He waved his hands wildly as he spoke and got students involved as he walked by. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever had such an excited teacher or professor, and it’s undoubtedly something that drew me into the area of data and eventually what led to graduate school in statistics four years later.

Through all my undergraduate studies, statistics was data analysis, distributions, and hypothesis testing, and I enjoyed it. It was fun looking at a dataset and finding trends, patterns, and correlations. When I started graduate school though, my views changed, and things got even more interesting.

Statistics wasn’t just about hypothesis testing (which turns out isn’t all that useful in a lot of cases) and pattern-finding anymore. Well, no, I take that back. Statistics was still about those things, but there was a different feel to it. Statistics is about storytelling with data. You get a bunch of data, which represents the physical world, and then you analyze that data to find not just correlations, but also what’s going on around you. These stories can then help you solve real-world problems, such as decreasing ...

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