A Roundabout Path To Becoming A Statistician

April 15, 2013

in At Work With Statisticians

By Dr. Jacquelyn Pennings, Director of Non-Profit Research and Biostatistician, Elite Research

My childhood dream was to be a child psychologist. My pursuit of this dream continued into graduate school. It was after I had started a master’s counseling program that I realized it was not my passion. I was more intrigued by the research process itself than the final result. I was fascinated by the “how,” not the “why.”

At this point, I decided to transfer to the Experimental Psychology program at Texas Christian University to pursue a doctorate in child development. I always had an underlying interest in statistics, however, my interest flourished when I got in touch with an old friend from graduate school. This colleague had started a research consulting company and it made me realize that my career in statistics could come to fruition.

I started consulting at Elite Research, LLC during my final year of graduate school and became passionate about my work as a statistician. After earning my doctorate, I decided to pursue research and statistical consulting full time.

I enjoy my work because I am constantly learning about new fields and statistical procedures as I work with new clients on exciting and upcoming research. I’ve learned that quality research is beneficial in the research field, no matter the subject matter.

Sound statistical procedures, although there are different preferences in different fields, are also universal. I have found that throughout my work with nonprofit organizations, university faculty, graduate students and health care professions, they all have a unique and personalized approach to research. I have helped clients in all stages of the research process. From conception of their research topic to program evaluation, data collection or interpreting analysis, I find each step of the process to be unique. I particularly enjoy helping clients through the process and teaching them as they progress through their projects.

The applied nature of what I do and the variety of subject matter are two of the best parts of my job. I also appreciate the unique opportunity in my field to take ideas and concepts and turn these into interesting and useful reports, publications and dissertations that contribute to both my client’s field and possibly the community. My education in psychology research gives me an advantage in the field of research and applied statistics.

My experiences allow me to connect to my clients and walk them through all the real-world issues and difficulties that come with research and analysis. For instance, what do you do with the client who responds “too old” when asked their age? How about that person who skipped the last 10 items on a survey or answered every single item with option one? How do you deal with the advisor or reviewer who is convinced that a MANOVA is the only viable statistical option for you? What do you do when you need 145 participants but six months of data collected only has netted you 42?

For me, every day presents a new challenge and an opportunity to learn something new and help someone get one step further on their research journey.