Home » My ASA Story

My ASA Story: Will Eagan, Biostatistician

1 September 2023 471 views One Comment

Photo of Will Eagon, Short hair, bangs and slight smile.

Will Egan

I am a biostatistician at Vertex Pharmaceuticals in Boston, Massachusetts. I joined the pharmaceutical industry after completing my PhD in statistics from Purdue University in 2020. When I entered the graduate program at Purdue, I was encouraged to join the American Statistical Association by my then-department head, Rebecca Doerge. I naively joined as a student member, unaware of how critical ASA membership would be to my professional development.

For my undergraduate studies, I attended a small liberal arts college as a mathematics major. Fortunately, I had some terrific mathematics and astrophysics faculty who encouraged me to pursue graduate studies in statistics. In my senior year, I formed the Statistics Journal Club and struggled to create momentum. For graduate school, I sought out a large statistics department with applied research in Bayesian methods, stellar teaching opportunities, and a vibrant statistical consulting center. Purdue University was a natural fit.

At Purdue, I was fortunate to be mentored by many outstanding statisticians like my adviser, Bruce A. Craig. One of my professors, Mark Ward (a current member of the ASA Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment), approached me about a new ASA initiative: student chapters. Eager to use Purdue’s STEM focus and unite both undergraduate and graduate students, I founded the Purdue ASA Student Chapter, serving as its inaugural president. It quickly became the largest in the country. To receive support from Purdue and the ASA was encouraging.

Through my student chapter experience, I became more involved in the ASA. First, I served on a working group on statistics education. As a graduate student, I was able to lead the Purdue team in the student leadership competition. We were coached by former ASA President Barry Nussbaum. Our team worked on data-driven membership questions and co-won the competition. The ASA then opened more opportunities for me. I achieved my GStat accreditation, participated in the Career Service at the Joint Statistical Meetings, and won an ASA Biopharmaceutical Section scholarship.

Building upon my experience in statistical organizations, I was honored to be invited to join the Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment as a graduate student. I have served for several years and now chair the committee. I truly enjoy conveying the benefits of the ASA to the larger membership and helping to brainstorm about how to recruit new members.

My proudest ASA moment was successfully organizing a JSM 2022 invited session. Long had I tried in different forms to make the highly competitive invited session program, but I found a topic that really interested me. Encounters with my peers at Purdue convinced me data science was transforming the career interests of ASA members, particularly among students and early-career members. Additionally, academic departments began renaming themselves and methodological and computation research questions shifted to the fore. A recent membership survey conducted by a peer organization confirmed the growing interest in data science. Ultimately, I wanted to understand what exactly data science was (in contrast to statistics) and what this meant for the future of statistical organizations.

I reached out to several top statisticians and data scientists at various career levels and from different sectors. They enthusiastically joined. As JSM 2022 was my first major in-person event since the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, I was concerned attendance would be low. To my delight, the room was packed and the discussion vibrant. Even better, our session chair, Xiao-Li Meng, gave a prize for the best question. The winner was a high-school student, a rare feat for the invited session program at such a large conference.

Building on the success of JSM 2022, I co-organized and chaired a JSM 2023 invited session more closely related to my day-to-day work in the pharmaceutical industry, titled “Estimating Heterogeneous Treatment Effects to Inform Decisions.”

My ASA Story is far from complete, and I look forward to future work on the Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment. For my own professional development, I look forward to applying for my PStat accreditation when ready. There are more people to meet, sessions to organize, papers to read and write, and conferences to attend in future chapters of my ASA Story.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

One Comment »

  • Ron Wasserstein said:

    Thanks for sharing your story, Will. I look forward to the future chapters!

Leave your response!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.