Anagha Tolpadi, Statistical Science Major

Student Name: Anagha Tolpadi

Affiliation: I was a Statistical Science Major at Cornell, and I’ll be starting graduate studies at the University of Michigan in Biostatistics this fall.

Hometown: Niskayuna, NY

Why did you choose Cornell?

I chose Cornell for a myriad of different reasons. The academics are, obviously, quite good. The campus is beautiful. It’s relatively close to my hometown, which is about a 3 hour drive from Cornell. I, also, liked that it was such a big school because I liked the idea of being able to meet someone new every day. Additionally, partially because the school is so big, there are a lot of opportunities available, such as abundant research opportunities in various fields, eclectic classes, a number of foreign languages, and many many libraries.

The ice cream’s not so bad either.

Why are you majoring in Statistics? What attracted you to the field?

Perhaps it was the fact that it was the only subject for which I seemed to be willing and eager to wake up at 6:30 in the morning. Perhaps it was because it was the only subject that semester in which I felt genuinely confident. Perhaps it was because I was desperately trying to find something practical on which to focus my mathematical energy. I cannot tell you why my mind initially stumbled across the thought of pursuing statistics, but I can tell you I never looked back.

I simply love data and its analysis. I’m kind of a freak that way. I find myself smiling inexplicably when I receive new data – the larger, the better. I get excited thrills in that moment when my code works and has done what I wanted it to, and on the flip side, I find myself unable to tear myself away from the computer when it does not. There is something extremely pure about statistics that I am willing to spend my life trying to grasp.

I cannot really imagine a world in which I was not studying statistics, and I am incredibly grateful to Cornell for helping me find it.

What did you want to know about Cornell before you came here? What about the Statistics department specifically drew you to Cornell?

I wanted to know the standard things that most prospective students are interested in, such as classroom sizes and research opportunities, and the non-standard things that are more unique to me, such as whether or not I felt at home in any of the libraries and if studying Hindi was an option (because I really wanted to be able to understand Bollywood movies.)

Are you working on any research projects during your undergrad? If so, tell which faculty member you are working with and describe the project and your contribution.

I worked with Dr. Martin Wells on 2 research projects. The more recent one involved research in assessing coverage bias in online surveys, aiming to assess the coverage biases inherent in the use of Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and to investigate the magnitude of the bias relative to random digit dialing. The primary comparisons involve a contrast between the respective demographic and substantive opinion outcomes for Mechanical Turk, landline, and cell phone respondents.

Is there any particular faculty member in Statistics who has influenced your educational experience so far?

Yes! The entire department has been extremely good to me. In fact, every professor I have had the privilege of meeting has helped me in some way. To name a few, Dr. Martin Wells, who has been both my academic and my research advisor for the past few years, and Dr. John Bunge, Dr. Thomas DiCiccio, and Dr. Paul Velleman, all of whom I have previously worked for as a TA, have been extraordinarily helpful and are always willing to talk to me, advise me, and help me with my statistical endeavours. I am very lucky, both to have them and to have the opportunities with which they have provided me.

What other activities are you involved in around campus or around Ithaca?

I am a brother of Sigma Chi Delta, one of Cornell’s few coed fraternities, and as often as time will allow, I attend Paul Hyam’s weekly brunch series at Appel. I have also worked as a Teaching Assistant for a few statistics classes. I also enjoy taking naps on the arts quad on sunny days, going to the Farmers Market on Sundays, and trekking out to Cayuga Lake Creamery for ice cream (regardless of whether or not it’s sunny). Ithaca is a lovely place to be.

What has been your greatest moment or accomplishment so far at Cornell?

Working as a teaching assistant is one of the most rewarding opportunities I have been given, and seeing or a student truly understand something is a wonderful feeling.

On my last day a teaching assistant at Cornell, one of my students gave me a thank you note and a coffee card that qualified for a free coffee at CTB. That was my greatest moment and represented my greatest accomplishment at Cornell.

What do you like about living in Ithaca?

There is nothing quite like Ithaca. I think sometimes as we’re dealing with all the big and little things that come with college and classes, we forget to remember where we are. Ithaca is stunningly beautiful. In fact, sometimes, I walk around campus and am actually left breathless.

More importantly, I like how much of a free spirit you can be in Ithaca. You can walk nearly anywhere that catches your fancy, leave the door unlocked, just in case a friend feels like stopping by during the day, run around barefoot, or take a nap on a quad somewhere. It’s truly a gift.

In the past three years, Ithaca has become more of a home to me than I could have ever imagined, and I already miss it desperately.

What would you recommend about this program to students who are thinking about majoring in Statistics?

The statistics department is special. Since the department is relatively small, the professors make much more time for you than I suspect they might have had the department been larger, and there are more opportunities available to students. The major is also rather flexible, which is nice as there are many very different tracks that a statistics major can take. Through the electives and the specialization, the major can be nicely designed, so you get what you need out it.

My advice? Make a point of meeting with your advisor somewhat regularly. Each of the professors in the department is not only extremely qualified, but would make an excellent mentor. They are the best resource that I have found at Cornell. Additionally, befriend your classmates. There are not that many students in the program. You will likely be in many of the same classes with many of the same students. It helps to have a study buddy.

Have you done any Statistics related internships or projects with companies?

Last summer, I was a trainee at the Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics (SIBS) at the University of Pittsburgh.

I also work for Pearson Education editing and working with the datasets on Dr. Paul Velleman’s upcoming edition of Business Statistics.