“Students should take every opportunity to demonstrate their work ethic and eagerness to contribute value to any group they find themselves a part of.”
What is your current job/position?
My job title is Epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, Epidemiology Research Program.
What professional activities have you embarked upon since graduation from the anthropology program at GSU?
After completing my M.A. in anthropology in 2006, I worked as a young adult substance abuse counselor until returning to GSU in 2008 to complete a Master’s in Public Health with an emphasis on biostatistics and epidemiology. From 2009-2010 I worked at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health for a program evaluating the effects of social support on smoking cessation. In 2010 I began my current position as an epidemiologist and statistical programmer at the American Cancer Society. My work here initially focused on tobacco use and in 2013 I co-authored a New England Journal of Medicine research article examining the mortality risks over past 50-years of the American cigarette epidemic. Because of this project I have become closely involved in collaborations with the Office of Smoking and Health at CDC and a large consortial effort to understand the relationship between smoking and breast cancer. In addition to my ongoing tobacco research I have recently begun working with our Director of Genetic Epidemiology to better utilize our extensive biospecimen data. Going forward I am very excited to begin analyzing gene-environment interactions and cancer risk in our cohort studies.
What courses in anthropology at GSU or extracurricular activities enhanced your ability to qualify for your current job/position?
Most germane to my current position as a data analyst was my intense work in all of the biological anthropology courses. These were full of great opportunities and provided me with many of the quantitative skills that have served as a foundation in my work today. But perhaps more important was that these courses gave me a very solid introduction to the scientific process: how to ask a question, how to creatively investigate the question, and the importance of remaining critical when interpreting my results. More generally, I think that one of the most valuable assets of my degree is the ability to discriminate high-quality information and then distill and communicate this knowledge to an audience. These skills were emphasized and honed in every anthropology class through years of presentations, classroom discussions, and long research papers. Over time my appreciation has only grown for how flexible and applicable that experience is for my professional successes.
Do you have any advice for prospective students interested in anthropology at GSU?
My experience is that many of the best and most interesting opportunities and jobs come from professional relationships. With this in mind, I would tell anthropology students to approach their education with an explicit agenda and outline the specific steps they will take to reach their goals each semester. They need to distinguish themselves to their professors and mentors, proactively compete for opportunities within the department, and seek out the best internships outside the university. They should join and lead student groups and involve themselves in professional organizations.
In short, students should take every opportunity to demonstrate their work ethic and eagerness to contribute value to any group they find themselves a part of. My memory of the GSU Anthropology program is that students with an appropriate focus on their goals will find an enthusiastic faculty eager to engage them.