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Developing the Next Generation

minute read

The Department of Biostatistics and Informatics partners with the Center for Innovative Design and Analysis (CIDA) and its faculty to employ student apprentices in the biostatistics Master’s and Doctoral programs on campus as Research Assistants. These Research Assistant positions are highly sought after for the educational and practical benefits they provide students. “You learn formally in a classroom, but in the real world the data are messy and [the apprenticeship] provides valuable, hands-on, work experience with real data that you don’t get in the classroom,” explains Luke Patten, MS, Research Instructor and former Research Assistant, Center for Innovative Design and Analysis (CIDA).

Training for Success

Apprenticeships with CIDA are geared toward providing Research Assistants with career growth and developing opportunities. The hands-on experience in the center allows students to develop their “understanding [of] how complicated things can get with real data: all the confounders and unaccounted for occurrences that you don’t get to experience as much within the controlled environment of a classroom,” Patten describes, based off his own experience as a Research Assistant with CIDA.

Working with real data allows students to develop and enhance their statistical understanding, but working as a Research Assistant provides more than that. Research Assistants are allowed to grow their collaborative skills while they partner with investigators on projects. Collaborating with investigators enhanced Patten’s career growth as a biostatistician because “most investigators…do not have [a statistical] background.

"Learning how to communicate, transfer knowledge to and from someone, with a different expertise is a new and important skill."

"Both parties have jargon and terminology that the other is unfamiliar with. Communicating and listening effectively is crucial for the success of any project,” said Patten, Research Instructor, Center for Innovative Design and Analysis. 

From Apprentice to Instructor

Luke’s experience as an apprentice was positive and valuable so he applied to work for CIDA full-time as a professional. Working for the center as a Research Instructor was a top choice of Luke’s after his graduation because collaboration and growth amongst the team members is encouraged. Luke Patten explains one of his motivations for pursuing a career with CIDA after his apprenticeship: "Everyone on the team is a willing resource."

Continuing the Legacy

With each semester CIDA welcomes new Research Assistants into the Center. Based on his success, Patten imparts some advice to students considering a RAship with the Center for Innovative Design and Analysis: “The [ideal candidate] should want to be challenged and be open to pursuing an area of interest outside of what you know and are comfortable with because they gain experience. If the work you do is challenging, then you will gain a lot in diversity and depth in the kinds of projects you can work with.” 

Topics: Data and Health