Making Numbers Count
Robert W. Woodruff Scholar
Biostatistics, MSPH ’19
“I doubt I would have been able to work with the Georgia Aquarium for my practicum and been given access to that data if I weren’t at Rollins.”
Allyson Mateja has always had a knack for numbers. After studying biology and math during undergrad, she started searching for a way to combine her two passions into a meaningful career. While doing SAS programming work as a contractor with the National Institutes of Health after college, she met a few biostatisticians who introduced her to the field of public health and she had her "aha" moment.
Now, as a second-year biostatistics MSPH student, Allyson’s passion for the field has only grown. "I really like that we have the data, but then we’re able to interpret it and express it in language that the general public would understand," she says. "Part of why I like Rollins and my core classes is that we’re really able to understand the baseline public health information that we can convey along with the data. In other words, it’s not just like, 'here’s a recommendation,' it’s 'here’s a recommendation based on data and here’s the exact reasons and numbers and the actual difference you can make.'"
Aside from her engagement in the classroom, Allyson has been an active member of the Rollins community, serving as a Rollins Ambassador and as a member of Rollins Student Government Association. Through the process, she has formed meaningful relationships with students and faculty across Rollins, including the former chair of the Department of Biostatistics, Lance Waller. Through Lance, Allyson has gained access to data from the Georgia Aquarium that she is using for both her practicum and thesis.
"The professors here really want you to succeed," she says. "They’re not going to hold your hand, but they’re going to help you out in whatever way possible, and go above and beyond for you," she says.
In addition to the data analysis she is doing with the Georgia Aquarium, Allyson has added to her knowledge base through a Rollins Earn and Learn position at Emory School of Medicine's Department of Human Genetics, where she works with metabolomics data in pregnant women. She’s also a teaching assistant for one of the classes in her department.
"Interacting with faculty is probably the best thing that you can do at Rollins," says Allyson. "They’re all amazing, and they have so many connections that they can help you out with, too. My other advice would be to get to know people outside of your department. You’ll be spending all of your time with those people, and they’re great resources who will become your colleagues, but, make sure you get to know what other people in the other departments are doing, because you’re going to be working with them eventually, too."