In This Story
For students who are good at math and want a rewarding, interesting profession, statistics offers a great deal of certainty.
“Statistics is about trying to find certainty in uncertain situations,” says Tae Song (MS Statistics, ’21). Song now works as a statistician for the Washington National Tax Office at Grant Thornton, a public accounting and consulting firm. He says, “Many of our clients want us to give them answers, but that’s not really what we do as statisticians. We’re more about interpreting data and saying, ‘Here’s what the data suggests, but you have to make the decision.’”
Several years after finishing his BS in accounting and finance and working as a data analyst in a Washington, D.C. law firm, Tae Song realized that if he wanted to be a statistician, he needed more education. He looked at a variety of different schools and found the best fit at Mason.
“I was an international student at the time, so I wasn't expecting any kind of financial assistance, but the department’s generous offer really surprised me, and I was very, very thankful,” he says. Beyond the financial support, the atmosphere of teamwork was also a big benefit.
As a teaching assistant in the department, Song appreciated the interaction with students and sharing his excitement about the field with them.
“Before the COVID lockdown, I really enjoyed engaging with the students helping them out, especially right before exams,” he says. “They would kind of swarm that room, and we would have four or five TAs helping 20-30 students. I miss that environment, it was very cooperative with a lot of energy. It was rewarding and respectful.”
“Tae was one of the best graduate teaching assistants in my nearly 10 years here at Mason,” says Kenneth Strazzeri, associate professor in the department. “He has the patience and ability to explain difficult concepts in a way that people can understand and use.” Song now uses this same skill set with clients at Grant Thornton.
Song says statistics is a practical and versatile field that he became interested in while pursuing an undergraduate degree at New York University Stern School of Business. As part of a student internship, Song and some other students worked for a local advocacy group, Scenic Hudson. One of their professors, who was also a consultant, had engaged in pro bono work for the group, and he asked some students to do some research.
“It was a great opportunity to do some good work,” says Song. “Scenic Hudson’s mission is to keep the Hudson River and its shorelines as beautiful and pristine as possible. They were concerned about railway tank cars that traveled along the riverside and potential spills. They wanted models about what would happen if there was a spill or leak. We didn’t actually build the models, but the research really opened my eyes to what is possible with statistics.”
Song believes that his degree in statistics has set him up for a great career. “With a degree in statistics, you are extremely marketable. It can be super academic if you want it to be, or super commercial. It’s used in government, finance, healthcare, economics, so many places.”