This is the seventh of twelve installments in a column series. You can view past columns here: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh.
When one hears “Biostatistics” as a choice for graduate study, the term might still be considered a foreign concept in Indonesia’s education system. Unlike traditional science branches such as applied physics, pure biology or molecular chemistry, few are exposed to biostatistics due to limited choice of universities where the programs are taught, the job options, or simply because of its novelty. So as a good friend of mine built a success story on this field, we know this platform is a good opportunity to share the field with everyone.
My name is Alicia Kosasih and I am one of Indonesia Mengglobal’s columnist. For the past seven months I have been thoroughly dissecting the in-and-outs of transitioning between operations management into interior architecture, and for this month’s column, I got the opportunity to talk to Emelly Rusli, a Biostatistics graduate student at Boston University Graduate School of Public Health at Boston, USA. In the following interview, Emelly provides an interesting and thorough overview on why he decided to study a field that is still considered as a foreign subject in Indonesia as well as her opinions on how public health in Indonesia can further benefit from more Indonesians studying the subject. In case you’re wondering what this major is all about and what makes Emelly proudly call BU her second home, here’s what she has shared with me on a short interview:
A: Hello, Emelly! Do you mind starting out by telling us a little bit about yourself as well as your undergraduate experience?
E: Hello! Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share about my experience. I am a second-year Master’s student at Boston University School of Public Health with a concentration in Biostatistics. I went to Indiana University for college, and was pursuing a dual-degree in Marketing and Chemistry. Academics aside, I love doing Pilates, traveling, and visiting a museum.
A:What made you decide to study Biostatistics? How does it relate to your previous studies?
E: When I decided to double major in Business and Chemistry, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in life sciences business. Then I did a life sciences consulting internship during junior year of college, where I got an enormous exposure to public health. From that experience, I start to understand the importance of appropriately collecting and analyzing data to inform and influence public decision about their health. That’s what got me into Biostatistics — it’s exciting, challenging, and making an impact at the same time.
A: Some readers might not understand what the field is about yet. Can you do a quick introduction of what Biostatistics actually is?
E: Biostatistics is the branch of Statistics that focuses on biomedical and public health data. The theories we learn in Biostatistics are the same as general Statistics, yet we’ll apply those into studies in a medical/public health setting.
A: Why did you choose the school you are currently studying at?
E: I think there are couple reasons why I chose Boston University in the first place. Like others, I was also gravitated into the school because of its excellent reputation for its public health program. The other reason is due to the school location in Boston, which is one of the hubs for public health, which includes healthcare and life sciences.
A:Please give us a snapshot of how the program is structured, from day one to graduation.
E: The Master of Public Health (MPH) at Boston University can be finished in 3 semesters or 1.5 years, if you take 16 credits per semester. Like many public health graduate programs, each student must take core classes in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Health Policy and Management, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Environmental Health, and Health Law (although international students are exempt from this at my school). The rest of the credits are left to each concentration’s requirements. Students must also do a public health internship for 112 hours (minimum) and a culminating experience (similar to a final project) during the program.
A: How was your application process like? What are the requirements?
E: Like many graduate programs, the requirements are GRE, personal essay, three letters of recommendation, and college transcripts.
A: What kind of job does this degree will lead someone into? Can you share some of your internship experience as well?
E: The great news about Biostatistics is that there are plenty of job opportunities. You could do research in a hospital or university, you could work in the industry (i.e., pharmaceuticals, consulting, etc.), you could also work at public organizations. As long as there are data involved, there’s a job for Biostatistics folks. For a Master’s degree, the starting position is usually as a Statistical Programmer or Data Analyst. As you get more experience, then you can “officially” call yourself a Biostatistician, where you get to design, analyze, and write the results of the study. If you want to start as a Biostatistician, then you might want to consider doing a PhD in Biostatistics, at least that’s how it usually works in the U.S.
A: Last but not least, how do you see this job will help to shape Indonesia in the future?
E: I believe that public health in Indonesia can AND should be based more on science. While it’s true that we shouldn’t wait for the science to prove, we should NOT do an intervention solely “out of convenience” either. There has to be some evidence (data) to justify whether a specific public health intervention may/may not work. With the advancement of technology and the rise of public health issues lately, I believe that Biostatistics may offer lots of opportunities to improve public health research in Indonesia.
A: Thank you for the insights, Emelly! How can someone reach you if they have more questions regarding the program?
E: You’re welcome, thanks for having me! Feel free to reach out for more questions via email: firstname.lastname@example.org