Meet Rick Presman, SM’20

How was your experience in the MS program in Statistics?

The MS program was a fantastic experience that allowed me to learn a breadth of theoretical and applied statistics and gave me the opportunity to explore my interests in related fields through my thesis research, the consulting program, and the many faculty who provided advice and guidance. The proximity to other departments only a few blocks away broadened my academic community seamlessly. The culture of the department, and the university as a whole, constantly challenged me to think about existing problems from new perspectives and in interconnected ways, which I have found invaluable during and after the program.

Do you think your needs were met within the department in that it accommodated your background and experiences both personally and culturally?

I found an incredibly welcoming community of students, faculty, and staff with a breadth of backgrounds and experiences in the department that cared about you as a person. My cohort built a strong bond during our first quarter, and we supported each other throughout the entirety of the program while finding time to explore Chicago together. We even stay in touch regularly years later!

Did you feel that you had enough support within the department from faculty and staff to assist in any needs you may have had?

There was a lot of support from the department during my time in the MS program. Mei Wang provided advice countless times throughout the program, and she would always remember where I was in my academic journey despite advising dozens of students simultaneously. My advisor, Lek-Heng Lim, was an endless source of guidance and always available to help. He recommended workshops and seminars that were aligned with my research interests, connected me with other researchers, and provided a lot of advice about applying to Ph.D. programs.

How were your job prospects after graduating, and what are you doing now?

I felt that the MS program prepared me very well to pursue both industry and academia given the combination of applied and theoretical coursework in the program. The rigor of UChicago inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. after graduation. I am currently a 4th year Ph.D. student in Statistical Science at Duke University, where my research focuses primarily on Bayesian methodology and constrained optimization.

Are there aspects of your degree program that have been particularly relevant or useful in your job hunt or current work?

I have found most aspects of the program have been invaluable during my Ph.D. degree. Coursework that introduced me to Bayesian methodology and convex optimization inspired my research focus and have introduced me to tools I use regularly. The thesis component of the MS program gave me the experience of working on an independent research project and the inspiration to undertake a Ph.D. The consulting program exposed me to the more practical side of statistical modeling which I’ve found useful in multiple applied research projects.

Is there anything else you would like to add for prospective students to know when applying to the program?

Having attended UChicago for my undergraduate degree, the thing that drew me back to UChicago for my MS in Statistics was the knowledge that the rigorous and in-depth curriculum would expose me to an incredible set of tools to tackle a wide array of problems. The UChicago community is like no other place. The program gives you great flexibility in what you want to focus on, and it will challenge you to work hard. However, you will be in a community of individuals who will work hard alongside you, and it will be a rewarding experience regardless of if you pursue industry or academia.