Linlin Wu began her undergraduate career envisioning herself as a biology major. Her parents had always wanted her to pursue a career in medicine and she thought she would at least give it a try and see how she liked it. It turned out she did not quite find her niche in the chemistry and biology courses she was taking, which was something made all the clearer to her when she discovered an area of study she unquestionably clicked with.
“It was clear immediately to me the connection I had with the field of statistics,” Linlin says. “Working with numbers and calculating probabilities was something I really loved doing. And then I started reading additional books on the side,” she adds, “books that applied statistics to psychology and human behavior, which is when I knew I’d found something that really fascinated me.”
After graduating with an undergraduate degree in statistics, Linlin went on to get a master’s degree in the field as well before landing a data analyst position at Siemens. While there, she used her training to analyze customer behavior and predict staffing requirements at Siemens call centers. By this point, however, she already knew she wanted to pursue her doctorate in statistics. Wanting to make sure her application was as strong as possible, she decided to take some additional courses before applying. That is how she discovered the Graduate Student-at-Large (GSAL) program at the University of Chicago.
“I took Distribution Theory and Math Computational Series A and B through the GSAL program,” Linlin says. “They were challenging but very rewarding and theoretical in a way that opened my eyes to new areas. And through my discussions with Esther Pandian-Riske, an advisor for the GSAL program, I learned about other courses I could take that would further help my application to PhD programs. I took a survey research course in the Sociology Department, for example, as well as a Little Red Schoolhouse writing course, which was extremely helpful when it came to giving me the essential tools one needs for writing research papers.”
In fact, Linlin says that Esther worked closely with her throughout her time in the GSAL program and was always ready to give her advice for what step to take next. It is a part of the program Linlin says she had not fully anticipated when she applied, but it is something that proved pivotal to the valuable experience she had while at the University of Chicago.
“The sense of community in the GSAL program is very strong and adds an additional layer to what one takes away from the program,” Linlin says. “I remember my excitement at orientation meeting all the different people who were there to focus on different fields of study. All of it together is what put me in the exciting place I am today as I prepare to begin the Research Methods and Statistics PhD program at the University of Denver.”