Member Spotlight Tasneem Zaihra
Well, here I am. Officially, I guess, I am well on my way to a career in the vibrant world of statistics. The word “statistics” has caused many a person to cringe when I have mentioned my background, as if it was worse than root canal. However, working in statistics has been an enriching experience for me. As clichéd as it may sound, my journey to achieve the best is proving a wonderful and thrilling ride.
I have a very humble background. I was born and brought up in a small town in India, in a place where few have the audacity to dream and to reach for the stars. And yet here I am today, freeing myself from all norms, striving toward a professional career.
My ideas and achievements are a mirror image of my parents, my teachers, and my education, especially with respect to my high school math teacher. She constantly reminded us that though we lived in a small town with only six hours or so of power supply each day, that would not be written anywhere on our transcripts. She inspired me with the courage to dream and reinforced my father’s preaching that it does not matter what kind of society we are born in or the lack of resources we may have: What truly matters is the kind of society we leave behind, and the people we touch.
Despite all odds, I completed my PhD in statistics at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, with a supervisor who has been an inspiration. My dissertation was titled, “Inference on Some Epidemiological Indices and Variance Function in Semiparametric Analysis of Count Data.” My research included the analysis of correlated and clustered counts, and proportions, which occur frequently in the field of biostatistics.
As I progressed toward my PhD, I was often unsure of my path, contemplating teaching, research, and the corporate world, with their respective pros and cons. I was leaning toward teaching, and it has now become my calling.
I work as an assistant professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. My first day of teaching found me excited but nervous, and a bit uneasy, not knowing how the students would behave, if I would be able to convey all the materials effectively, if I should be more of a mentor than a teacher. So much to teach—but also to learn.
I enrolled in diploma in university teaching (DUT) here at the university. It has been a great program for giving me a better insight to the world of teaching, in relation to an academic discipline, skills in educational design, and to the assessment of teaching-learning interactions. DUT has helped me in more precisely defining my teaching goals.
As a teacher, my goal has become not simply to educate students but also to give them a reason to learn and be a part of the learning. I want to encourage my students to achieve their true potential, so they can enter the real world armed with new knowledge, drawing their own conclusions, creating an identity and a new frontier for themselves.
I believe in an egalitarian classroom where both teacher and student are partners in a two-way process. As a teacher, I believe my role is to act as catalyst in their learning process by encouraging them to ask questions: the first step in the process of learning.
On the research side, with my supervisor I have co-authored a paper, “Interval Estimation of Risk Differences for Data Sampled from Clusters,” which has been published in Statistics in Medicine. Another paper I wrote, which is about to be published, concerns interval estimation of epidemiological indices.
I would like to strike a balance between teaching and research—the other essential part of my job function. Both the academic and the volunteer areas have fine-tuned my various abilities, enabling me with a strong work ethic. I hope that my passion for challenges and education will make some difference wherever I go and to whomever I meet. And there is one particular joy on this journey: my husband, my pillar of support and strength and the latest chapter of my life’s inspiration.
One thing I learned so far is to enjoy the journey itself and not to be blinded by the goal. Have fun, and don’t let any one thing take over your life. Always believe in yourself, have faith, and trust the decisions you make.