Melissa Jay majored in Mathematics at Colorado College and has wanted to pursue Biostatistics ever since her participation in the Iowa Summer Institute in Biostatistics program in 2014. Under the guidance of her mentor, Dr. Jacob Oleson, Jay spent her summer learning how statistical methods could be developed and applied to hearing research. “We predicted Speech Intelligibility Index, a measure of an individual’s understanding of speech and language, for children with cochlear implants,” Jay explains. “It was really exciting to learn how I could use my quantitative background to help others.” After completing her research with Dr. Oleson, Jay returned to Colorado College to continue her studies. She was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship in Biostatistics in Spring 2015.

Applying for the Goldwater Scholarship inspired Jay to continue seeking out real-world situations that could be modeled using math. “A highlight of my undergraduate career,” Jay says, “was my participation in the Mathematical Contest in Modeling.” In 2015, Jay and two teammates developed a probabilistic search plan to find a lost flight, feared to have crashed in the ocean. Their work was recognized as a Top 10 paper submission and received the INFORMS Prize. This competition sparked Jay’s interest in probability modeling, which she continued to explore during her senior thesis project modeling the queueing dynamics of the kidney transplant registration list.

Upon graduation in 2016, Jay continued to pursue applied mathematics in a statistical analyst position at a healthcare analytics start-up. Jay and her colleagues predicted the onset of sepsis and patient instability in the hospital using machine learning. She was a co-author on several of their publications in medical journals and further solidified her long-term goal of conducting research at the intersection of statistics and health.

In August 2017, Jay will begin working towards a PhD in Biostatistics at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “My goals are in close alignment to when I applied for the Goldwater Scholarship,” explains Jay. “I intend to become a professor at a research university after obtaining my PhD and look forward to combining my deep interests in statistics and health research in graduate school.” Jay’s research will be funded through an NIH Training Grant in Quantitative Sciences for Cancer Research and through the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. She aims to develop new statistical methods for analyzing cancer clinical trial data.