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Student Spotlight: Guy Cole

Guy Headshot7 October 2014—Guy Cole is a second-year PhD in Statistics student in the Department of Statistics & Data Sciences who is one of the first cohort of PhD students, our Graduate Student Assembly representative, and founder of DATA-Group. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself—educational background, previous work experience, etc.

I'm from Maryland, and studied environmental science and policy at the University of Maryland, College Park, completing a BS and MPP. I worked for a few years at the US EPA in drinking water regulation, where I found my true calling in environmental statistics. I left EPA in 2011 to study biostatistics at Columbia (completed an MS), and I'm now focusing on environmental monitoring statistics at UT.

What opportunities do you see in entering a doctoral program in its first year of existence?

A big part of earning a doctorate is defining and pursuing an area of research that is previously unexplored or unresolved. One of the biggest challenges to that is existing structure of many programs; the curriculum and expectations may have been static since before the doctoral student was born! Being in a new program offers the opportunity to be there as curricula and expectations are set and to take a role in their creation.

This also means that the program is as invested in us as we are in it. When interviewing with other departments, many shared an attitude of grad students being, frankly, expendable. With UT's growing program, I feel much more support from the department.

What are your long term plans? How does attending UT fit into those plans?

My biggest goal is be researcher tackling interesting questions. Without a doctorate, you can be involved in research (doing lab work, processing data) but it's hard to be involved as an actual researcher (proposing questions and solutions). UT, and especially SDS's interdisciplinary focus, is preparing me to fill that role.

What is DATA Group? Why did you create it? What do you hope the group will accomplish?

DATA Group is a forum for grad students involved in data analysis to connect, cooperate, and commiserate. It tries to serve two groups simultaneously: the statistics students who have a lot of theoretical background and few applied opportunities, and the grad students working in labs across the university who have to apply statistics but don't have rigorous foundations. I founded the group after meeting students from a variety of departments who are doing hands-on data analysis but have nagging statistical questions or are stuck on some data problem. Hopefully, this group will serve as a conduit for stats students to find research to get involved in and for other students to find help in the doctoral research.

Fun Facts:

- I'm raising a dog (adopted from Austin Pets Alive) that gets intimidated by toes.
- I find target shooting, especially with .22 rifles, so meditative that I try to shoot regularly to manage my stress.
- I'm a big advocate for treating video games as a modern art form, capable of imparting both emotions and ideas through gameplay and content.

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