Why I Chose Data Science

Four years ago I had just completed my first semester at Pace University. Around that time I discovered my love for economics, which I then chose to major in. Before getting to college I didn’t have any classes that piqued my interest in the same way that economics did. I did enjoy math throughout high school, but my math classes left me feeling frustrated. I wasn’t frustrated due to a lack of understanding the material. I was frustrated because I didn’t understand what I was solving for. I’m sure you all remember the kind of math problems you were tasked with as a kid — here is an equation, now solve for x. During a math class in my junior year of high school, a friend of mine said to me “what is the point of finding x? We have to work so hard to find x and at the end of the day x is just a meaningless number.” I stab to the heart would have been easier than hearing that. That comment left me feeling very discouraged. I wasn’t particularly good at any other classes besides math, and feeling as though I was good at something meaningless didn’t sit well with me. When I got to college and started studying economics, those feelings went away.

Economics brought math to life for me. I started to realize the important role math played in economics, and how meaningful and impactful numbers can be. I finally realized that math can be used to solve real-world problems, what a concept. Learning and understanding this was crucial for the rest of my college career.

In my sophomore year, I participated in the College Federal Reserve Challenge, an academic competition on the Federal Reserve, central banking, and monetary policy. This was the first time I used data to tell a story, that story was about the current health of the U.S. economy. Not only did my colleagues and I use data to analyze the current state of the U.S. economy, but we also made monetary policy recommendations based upon our findings. Neat right? At least my friends and I think so. This experience helped me understand the importance of data in informed decision making especially at the national policy level.

In addition to this, while I was in college I researched the impact that state cigarette taxes have on the rate of maternal mortality for my senior thesis. Fortunately enough I was able to present my thesis at the Annual Society of Fellows Conference’s plenary session just a few days before Pace closed due to Covid-19. I attribute this experience to have one of the largest impacts on me and my decision to study data science. Presenting my thesis, and telling the story behind the data I analyzed felt very right. That day I saw the potential data science had as a very fulfilling career path.

Yes, math is one of my stronger suits, and the skills of a data scientist are currently in high demand, all things that helped motivate my decision to lean into this field. That being said, the biggest reason as to why I chose to study data science is because I like to choose things that make me happy. I didn’t end up studying data science because I was a star student throughout my whole life and was destined for a career in STEM. I landed here because I recognized the importance of choosing things that make you happy. When I participated in the Fed Challenge, I felt like I was a part of something that was so much bigger than myself. I remember feeling so happy and fulfilled because it had been one of the most meaningful experiences in my life. That is a feeling I want to chase in my life. While I was writing my thesis I was in the midst of a very challenging time in my life. At the time I was recovering from an unexpected major surgery, and because of it, I was missing out on a lot of experiences I was hoping to have as a senior in college. Recovering from surgery was both very physically and mentally challenging, and my confidence took a major hit. I had close to zero motivation to do school work, participate in the Fed Challenge, hang out with friends, and especially write my senior thesis. At this low point, data science helped to build me back up. I completed my thesis which was one of the best in my graduating class. I was then given the honor to present my thesis at the plenary session for the Annual Society of Fellows Conference, an experience that changed my outlook on my future and what I am capable of. Participating in the Fed Challenge and writing my thesis felt endlessly challenging, but the payoff was so worth it AND I would do it over a million times again because of the joy it brought into my life.

Both work and life are hard. However, I do think it can get easier if we just choose to follow the things that make us happy. Why did I choose data science? I want to have a happy life, and right now this is something that makes me very happy.

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Alexandra Bruno

Alexandra Bruno

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