Tag: profiles

Andrew Gelman is a professor of statistics and political science and the director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia. A student of math and physics at MIT, he developed an interest in statistics as a college senior and has gone on to become a leading educator and blogger in the field. His work has focused particularly on American politics, including research on the ability to predict elections, the power of the individual voter, and the benefits of redistricting. He blogs at andrewgelman.com.

In your blog, you regularly call out and discuss statistical misinterpretation and deception. What are some important statistical lies being propagated now?
The biggest lie, I think, is that certainty is easy to attain using routine methods.  This is a lie that many people tell to themselves.  As the saying goes, the first step in fooling others is to fool yourself.
You’ve described your successful projects as endeavors aimed at “big fat targets”, such as voting patterns and election incumbency. What targets interest you most now?
In political science I’ve lately been interested in studying polarization and the role of social groups.  We’ve been thinking a lot about what we call the social penumbra, which is the set of people connected to a group.  For example, the number of gays in America is about the same as the number of Muslims in America, but, in surveys, a lot more people report having a close friend or family member who is gay, than report the same of a Muslim.  Two groups that have approximately the same size, have much different penumbras.
What larger statistical questions, in general, will emerge in coming years?
At one extreme, there’s been lots of difficult statistical work on integration of large streams of data, for problems ranging from internet marketing to self-driving cars.  At the other extreme, lots of decisions are still being made based on whether a comparison is “statistically significant.” To consider one application area:  there’s lots of talk about personalized medicine based on each person’s genome; but new medical therapies are still being evaluated using crude between-person experiments.  How can this be?  If we can barely come to a consensus about what works in medicine, or what are the effects of different diets, how can we hope to design individualized therapies?  In many areas of applications, we need more local and relevant data and less reliance on statistical significance.

Know a student, staff, or faculty member that we should interview next? Let us know by sending a note to submissions@columbialion.com. Interested in conducting interviews on behalf of The Lion? Email operations@columbialion.com to join the team.

J.Y. Ping is the co-founder of 7Sage LSAT Prep, which is dedicated to making law school accessible to everyone through high quality and affordable online LSAT prep. He is also the co-founder of PreProBono, a non-profit that helps economically disadvantaged and underrepresented minority pre-law students acquire and utilize law degrees for careers in public interest law. He graduated from Columbia University in 2007 and earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 2011. We sat down with him to talk about his law school experience and how he is using that to help other students prepare.

What made you want to go to law school?

Maybe this is still true, but back when I was there, Columbia’s career services pushed investment banking and strategy consulting pretty hard. I didn’t want to work those kinds of jobs because it wasn’t clear to me whether they added value to society. The summers came and went, and I found myself about to graduate with no work experience and a lot of anxiety. Law school seemed like a convenient way to defer my career choice.

Did you always want to go to law school throughout all of your undergraduate years?

Definitely not. The first week of school, I flirted with pre-med until I attended the orientation and saw how heavy the course work was going to be. Then I grew interested in philosophy via Contemporary Civilization and thought I might want to pursue graduate studies in philosophy. I took an intro-level graduate class, Modal Logic with Achille Varzi, and found the subject matter abstruse (even though Professor Varzi was a phenomenal teacher). I ended up majoring in economics-political science with a concentration in philosophy, which prepared me well for law school.
Were there any professors that inspired you to go?
Many professors at Columbia did inspire me, however briefly, to follow in their academic footsteps, but no one professor inspired me to go to law school.

What about pro bono work captivated your interest for 8 years?
I immigrated to America with my mom when I was 7 and grew up poor. My mom worked very hard to make sure I got an excellent education. I really cannot imagine what my life would’ve been like without the opportunities I found in America. Education is not an abstract concept to me. I know from personal experience its power to improve people’s lives. That’s why I founded PreProBono with Jerone Hsu (also CC ’07) during our senior year. We wanted to help poor, minority, and immigrant kids the best way we knew how. For me, that meant teaching the LSAT, because that was what I could do very well. We targeted students in the CUNY system and gave law school aspirants not just free but the best LSAT prep. It was an incredibly rewarding experience.

[Note to Joshua: I worked with PreProBono through 2013, which would make it about 5 years. I’m happy to report that the organization is doing terrific without me.]

How did that influence your founding of 7Sage?
PreProBono is a non-profit that provides LSAT instruction, along with a few other services. I was the main instructor. I only have 24 hours in a day, and eventually I’d get tired or make mistakes—or I’d begin to get impatient when I had to explain a concept for the 7th time. There were physical constraints on how much service I could provide. Scaling up would have required a lot of fundraising, and even then we could have only scaled geometrically, not exponentially, because every instructor would have been subject to the same physical constraints. 7Sage, on the other hand, benefits from being online. By digitizing my instruction at its best, I was able to transcend the constraints on my time and scale my service exponentially. Now I can help anyone who needs it with free logic game explanations and comprehensive LSAT courses at a great value.

Can you explain what areas of law 7Sage covers?
We currently have LSAT courses and a course on how to get into law school. We’re working on a bar prep course due to be released in late 2017.

Why did you pick Japan as the location for 7Sage?

7Sage’s team is entirely remote. Alan, my co-founder and CTO, is based in Vancouver, where he is from. Our student services manager, Dillon, is in Cornwall (also Canada). Nicole, our community director, is in Texas. David, our editor and admissions consultant is based in Chicago. I’m nomadic. Currently, I’m in Kyoto. I’ll be here until August, and I haven’t decided where I’ll go after.

What advice would you give to someone considering law school?
Work hard to earn a high GPA. Take as many classes as you think you can handle. Admissions committees look hard at transcripts and are very discerning. Work with professors you admire. See if you can be a research assistant, or maybe even co-author a paper with one of them. Maybe you’ll decide to be an academic after all. If not, you’ll likely get a good recommendation letter at the very least. Study long and hard for the LSAT. It’s the most important factor in law school admissions.

How did you go about studying for the LSAT? Any tips?

I set aside a very long time: over a year. I think my background in economics and philosophy helped immensely. A lot of the successful strategies I came up with I’ve implemented in the 7Sage curriculum. My biggest tip is to sign up for a free account with 7Sage. You can access our logic game explanations, our tool to find real study buddies nearby (like at Columbia), our test proctor app, and more.


What would you say was the hardest part of law school?
The huge mismatch between what you do for homework and in classes and what’s required of you on the exam. It felt like a bait and switch to me. You spend all semester discussing cases, reading a lot of them in detail, and then your entire grade depends on an issue-spotting exam.

Meet Perrin. Perrin, a current first year in Columbia Engineering  from Saratoga Springs, NY is a prospective Computer Science and Applied Physics double-major also planning to study abroad in his time year. We sat down with him to learn more about him and his unique interests and passions.

What are you current passions? How do you think you’ll pursue them on campus?

I am a hardcore quantum computer scientist. I’ve worked with people in the field already within it. People get taken aback by the world quantum, but I wish they wouldn’t. It’s just a way to make really fast computers that are super useful. I took a lot of weekend classes and attended at the institute for quantum computing in Canada. They built the biggest quantum computer and I took a selfie with it. I learned all this math, physics, and quantum computing in a short amount of time. I was one of 3 from the US who got to attend and I made friends with other students from around the world.

I’m working to get a research position here with a person about to get their PhD. I would be working on quantum computing algorithms and simulations.

Of everything you’ve worked on, volunteered for, and studied, what are you most proud of?

I juggled four paid jobs at once in high school. Since they were all different days and I had my regular high school studies, this was something I was proud of. I lived on my own for about a year so I took the jobs to pay for my apartment and life. I worked at Starbucks, I was a software engineer for two years, IT intern at school, and a paid sound designer at my local theater. There were times they were all at the same time and then they started cycling.

I think I accidentally stumbled on computer science in 8th grade. I think I found a programming site online and started playing with it for fun. And then I really liked physics so I had an epiphany in 10th grade that the two blend together so nicely.

What are you interested in studying here? Why?

I am a double major in SEAS with a study abroad in London. I will be on a theoretical track in computer science and an applied physics major. In this I get to also be an applied math minor just by taking the two majors. I am planning to stay next summer to do my own research through CUSP and I think I will be able to take some classes over the summer so I never have to take more than 5 required classes. There’s a couple of classes that I have some experience in that I can take over the summer to make my life a little easier.

What are you most nervous/anxious about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

My school was good but not spectacular. Knowing I am going in against people with such an amazing amount of preparation is a lot. And I know it evens out after a semester or two, but it can be intimidating.

What are you most excited about (in regards to college, Columbia, NYC, etc)?

Not being bored.

The people. I came from a town where I never had a class with anyone who was Asian, Hispanic, etc.; I was the darkest-skinned person in classes. After doing diversity programs, I realized I loved genuinely learning from people of other backgrounds.

I am about to live on Broadway [plays/musicals]. I cannot imagine a better school for this. I really want to be a tour guide. I love this school so much and I want to show everyone else how amazing is. I low key convinced 10 people in the Class of 2020 to choose this school over others and I played off all of Columbia’s positives. I am still in awe of this dream place.

Any goals you have in mind? 

My biggest goal is to develop quantum computer algorithms that benefit the research aspect (like math could be used by this) but also for medical informatics. These could help with cancer research to compile more data and that would be really cool to work on. Applying it to an area that needs it rather than just building them for the hell of it. So finding the real-life applications for them. I think my dream is to be a professor who does Engineering without Borders (EWB) during the summers and some sound design at theaters between it all. I plan to join EWB on campus and the Columbia Musical Theater Society.

Why Columbia?

I first came down to visit Columbia and then went to Princeton with my friend as a joke to see how pretentious it was. I came in and went to an information session. It was so Columbia College-centric that I left afterwards. I went to the engineering experience first but I came and fell in love with it. I then applied ED and December 10th I was done. I was laughing as I watched all my friends because I was done.

There are a few professors here working on quantum computing here. One of the professors here passed away after I submitted my application, but I am happy there are still people here working on it.

I also love how small SEAS is. That’s really interesting and nice. I see NYC as the second biggest tech hub. What other schools are we competing against for all these opportunities?

Out of curiosity, what is the future of cryptography in your view?

All of our current cryptography will break, but quantum cryptography research is advancing fast. Knowing that this out there and it’s getting better compared to general quantum computing, I think that might save us (at least for now).

Throughout the semester, we’ll be featuring interviews from new students. To recommend someone for an interview or to become an interviewer for The Lion, email team@columbialion.com

Meet Katie Meili. Meili, a Columbia College alumna and competitive swimmer hails from Colleyville, Texas. This past summer, Meili won a gold medal for swimming the preliminary heats of the 4 x 100 relay and a bronze medal in the 100 meter breast stroke at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. We sat down with her to learn more about her background in swimming and how her time at Columbia has influenced her athletic career.

How did you originally get involved with swimming?

I started competitive swimming when I was 8. My older sister, Maureen, and I both did gymnastics but she had a bad ankle injury when she was 13 and I was 8. Her doctor suggested swimming for physical therapy and since I wanted to do everything my sister did, my mom signed us both up for the summer league swim team. The rest is history!
Did your time at Columbia impact how you swim?
Absolutely! I always say that I would not be the swimmer I am if I had not attended Columbia. Columbia made me into the person I am and I so loved and appreciated my time there. Swimming at Columbia set me on the path I needed to be on to get to where I am now. I met all the people I needed to meet, especially my coaches at Columbia – Diana Caskey and Michael Sabala, and I interacted with the sport the way I needed to – with joy and appreciation. My time at Columbia didn’t just impact the way I swim now, it created everything!
How do you clear your mind/focus before you compete in a race?
Before I race, I like my mind to be completely clear. When I step up on the blocks, I tell myself that all the work has been done and that my body knows how to accomplish the task at hand. I get to turn my brain off and race completely free. It’s an amazing feeling!
What were you most excited about getting ready for Rio? What was life in the Olympic Village and the Games Like?
I was most excited for small things that hold a big meaning to me personally. Wearing my Ralph Lauren opening ceremonies outfit (something I have wanted to have since I was a young girl); getting my American flag cap with my name on it; swimming in a pool with the Olympic Rings hanging above it. Those are the things that make you take a step back and think, “Wow, I actually made it here”, and those small moments are my favorite.
Life in the Olympic Village was amazing! I loved seeing and meeting people from all over the world, and getting to see a glimpse of their cultures and customs. To me, the Olympics are about the World coming together in a peaceful way to celebrate our similarities and our differences as human beings. It’s a beautiful event that holds significance in every culture in the World. It’s unique and important and I could feel that power everywhere.
How did you react/feel upon realizing you medaled in two different events?
I was so full of joy! I always dreamed of going to the Olympics and winning a medal but I never actually thought it would happen. It’s impossible to put in words what it feels like to have a dream of that magnitude come true. I smile every time I hold my medals in my hands. They mean so much to me… hard work and sacrifice, but also all the people that helped me along the way (and there are SO many). Those medals belong to my family, friends, teammates, coaches, and supporters just as much as they belong to me.
Do you think you will be swimming in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? 
I have not made a final decision on Tokyo yet. Right now, I’m just enjoying the experience from Rio!
What was the greatest challenge you faced as a swimmer?
When you’re trying to be the best in the World at something by the smallest of margins, you have to have an extreme sense on non-complacency. Every day in practice, you have to want to be better, do more, try harder, etc. Even when you do something great, you have to have the attitude that it’s not quite good enough and that you still need to improve. That kind of attitude and approach is necessary for any type of success, but too much of it can get exhausting and can be detrimental. For me, finding the right balance to use that attitude to my advantage was the greatest challenge I faced swimming at this level.
What advice would you give to current student athletes?
Stay focused and if you have a dream or a goal, even if it seems out of reach, don’t be afraid to chase it. Ask for help along the way!
 —
Interested in interviewing students and alumni about how their time at Columbia has shaped their experiences and outlook? Join The Lion Profiles team by sending an email to team@columbialion.com.

Photo Courtesy Columbia Political Union/Columbia Elections Board

As part of our elections coverage, The Lion is sharing responses from candidates about the following questions:

  1. What motivated you to run for this position?
  2. If elected, what would your goals be?
  3. What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?
  4. Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Below, you can find the candidate(s)’s unfiltered responses to help in deciding who you choose to vote for.  The Lion has yet to endorse any candidate at this time and the views below do not necessarily represent the views of our team. For more information, email submissions@columbialion.com.

What motivated you to run for this position?

I had no interest in running for the position until recently. Such things like the lack of communication with Bacchanal, the statue in front of Butler, and some unaddressed issues have illustrated that I need to spark some change, instead of hoping others will. For example, did you know Neil deGrasse Tyson was on campus? I figured out the morning of, and was not able to make it as such. The lack of communication there is unacceptable.

If elected, what would your goals be?

Cosmas, Akul, Natan, and I have 4 overarching goals: Improving social Senior events, increasing undergraduate lounge space, increasing programming for underrepresented majors, and building alumni connections. For example, ESC partnered with AIChE and BMES to host a Biotech Industry Showcase. We will work towards having more of those events next year, which are important for establishing connections. Bringing alumni towards the students will greatly improve the ability to attain internship and co­op positions. The plan that I will bring forward for this goal is called “Engineer­Me” Network, with the attainable goal of connecting one alumni from the same department with a current student at an one to one ratio.

What is something you want to fix at Columbia? How would you plan to address it?

One of the biggest things that I want to right is the lack of a booze cruise for the Seniors. It seems that every year, there is an aspect of social life that is diminished at Columbia, and I will do everything in my power to regain this. Out of the four running in my ticket, this was established as my area of strength. I believe and feel that Cosmas, Akul, Natan, and I have great cohesion and balance amongst ourselves.

Any additional comments you would like to share with voters?

Vote.