Home » A Statistician's Life, Celebrating Black History Month

Sydeaka Watson

1 February 2022 947 views No Comment

Affiliation: Senior Research Scientist, Eli Lilly
Education: BS, Mathematics, University of New Orleans
MS, Mathematics, Michigan State University
PhD, Statistics, Baylor University

I began my college education as a mathematics major at Dillard University and the University of New Orleans in my hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. The introductory statistics course I took to fulfill an elective requirement easily became one of my favorite courses. I appreciated the level of critical thinking it required, which challenged me in ways I had not experienced before. That experience led me to take graduate-level statistics courses as electives in my undergraduate program, which inspired me to pursue a PhD in statistics at Baylor University. 

In the 11 years since I earned my PhD, I have enjoyed diverse professional experiences as a professor, biostatistician, data scientist, and consultant, with jobs touching industries such as government, academia, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals. I have supported and led STEM diversity efforts as chair of the ASA Committee on Minorities in Statistics, co-organizer of the Dallas chapter of Blacks in Technology, and organizer of the Dallas chapter of R-Ladies Global. I have volunteered my data science expertise to tackle important social justice issues. And I have experienced the joys and challenges of starting my own data science consulting practice.

To keep up with emerging technologies and modeling strategies, I embraced the continuous learner mindset and supplemented my formal education with books, conferences, and online courses. I used these tools to work on exciting projects in sports analytics, topic modeling, and computer vision (e.g., object detection, color segmentation, and pattern/texture recognition) after earning a deep learning certification in a rigorous online program. Years later, these critical investments continue to create job opportunities and demonstrate my active engagement in the scientific research community.

As I reflect on my career journey, it is clear I could not have achieved these goals without the support of mentoring and networking programs such as the JSM Diversity Mentoring Program, ENAR Fostering Diversity in Biostatistics Workshop, and Conference for African American Researchers in Mathematical Sciences. Now, as a mid-career professional, I am proud to continue this important work as a mentor, adviser, and friend to statistics students and early-career professionals who are in need of the types of supports that were critical to my career progression. 

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