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Mira Waller

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The Peer Scholars Program is a new series of workshops sponsored and hosted by the NCSU Libraries, and led by postdoctoral scholars and graduate students with specific research skills, such as design, programming, analytics, immersive technologies, visualization, and data analytics.  For more information, read the press release. My name is Mira Waller and I am here today with Jami Jackson Mulgrave, a doctoral candidate in statistics at NC State, to talk about her experience in being the first graduate student to teach a two part workshop on Git and GitHub in the Peer Scholars Program. Can you tell us a little about yourself - why you decided to pursue a doctorate in Statistics and what your specific areas of interest and research are? My background is a little different from most statistics graduate students. I graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Psychology with a concentration in the Pre-medical sciences. In the beginning of college, I thought I wanted to become a doctor, but towards the end of college, I started to think about alternative careers. I worked for five years at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in clinical research and while working there, MSKCC partnered with IBM Watson to use the technology to help oncologists make better treatment choices. They started an Analytics group to use machine learning and statistics for cancer research and I really wanted to be a part of the group because it sounded like an awesome opportunity to learn something cutting edge. However, I needed to obtain at least a Master’s degree in a technical field such as Math or Statistics, so I decided to attend a graduate program in statistics because I enjoyed AP Statistics in high school. I ultimately decided to attend a PhD program because I could obtain a Master’s degree along the way while also trying out statistical research. It turns out that I love doing statistical research! My specific areas of interest and research are Bayesian nonparametrics, graphical models, and machine learning. 2. What made you want to teach a workshop with the NCSU Libraries? I knew of a couple of other people who led workshops with the NCSU Libraries (Denae Ford and Brittany Johnson) and I thought that it was really neat that they were able to get involved and teach to the broader NCSU community. I also wanted the opportunity to practice my public speaking skills. 3. How did you decide what you wanted to teach and why? I am interested in open source software and try to attend workshops and conferences related to the open source community. I use Git and GitHub for my own research projects, so I thought it would be natural for me to teach those platforms to other people. It was also a good opportunity for me to learn more about Git and GitHub while I was putting the workshop materials together. 4. I really enjoyed working with you in shaping the two workshops. How was the process for you? Would you do anything different if you could do it over again? The process was perfect! I had a lot of time to plan for the workshops, which was what I needed. I also appreciated the control that I had over the content of the workshops and that it was a low-pressure process. You gave me a lot of great advice as well! You helped me to make the slides clearer and you suggested a lot of good ideas, such as creating GIFs for the demonstrations. I didn’t end up making GIFs after all, but I will keep ideas such as those in mind in the future. I wouldn’t do anything different. 5. How did you feel about the actual workshops? How different was the actual experience from what you thought it would be like? I thought the workshops turned out well. I didn’t know how the attendees would respond to my slides and exercises, but after going through the workshops, it seemed like they appreciated the content and learned the basics. I received good feedback at the end of each workshop that will help me shape future workshops. The actual experience wasn’t too different from what I thought it would be. I thought that I would get some difficult questions that I wouldn’t be able to answer and that the workshops would end too early, but I ended up getting questions that I could answer and the workshops ended on time. 6. Is there anything else you would like to share? I think teaching a workshop with the NCSU Libraries is a great opportunity for graduate students and postdocs to hone their public speaking and teaching skills while also providing a service to the greater NCSU community. I am glad that I was able to be a part of such a great experience.