Mark Jonathan Aksen

  • Before Columbia: I graduated from Princeton University in 2017 with a degree in Math. I spent two years as a research assistant in a neuroimaging lab at Yale University.
  • My Interests: Outside of statistics and data science, I am an avid hiker and skier. I love watching basketball and football. I also enjoy visiting jazz clubs and going to Broadway shows.

“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to prepare myself as a professional data scientist by studying statistics and machine learning more deeply. I hope to pursue research opportunities and further graduate studies. I applied to become a Student Rep because I’d like to connect with as many students and faculty members as I can during my time here and be more involved in the department.”

Vaibhav Chandra

  • Before Columbia University, I was working in the Actuarial analytics division of Max Bupa Health Insurance Company. I am a part-qualified actuary and have been actively writing exams towards actuarial fellowship. Prior to that, I attended the University of Delhi where I graduated in B.A. (Honours) Economics. ­
  • Interests: Passionate about food (cheeseburgers!), solving the Rubik’s cube and I am an ardent soccer fan.
 “I chose the Master’s program in Statistics at Columbia University because of the flexibility to be able to choose courses from a wide pool of disciplines. I strongly believe that the courses in data science will augment my skills as an actuary. “

DongRyong (Joe) Choi

  • Before CU:  I graduated from Michigan State University in 2019 with a degree in Math.  I spent two years serving in the army as augmentee to the US Army in Korea.    
  • My Interests:  Going to the gym, meeting new people, Broadway shows, movies, theology and philosophy.    
“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to develop my computational skills and insights as a data scientist using my mathematics background. Now I want to explore different fields where statistics may be used and seek for the higher degree, PhD.”

Jaival Desai

  • Before CU:  I attended UNC Chapel Hill where I double majored in Statistics and Computer Science and also minored in Math.
  • My Interests:  In my free time, I like to play basketball or go for runs. I’m always looking for people to play basketball with, so feel free to reach out to me. I am also a die hard Formula 1 fan.   
“I joined the MA Statistics program at Columbia because of the wide selection of courses across different disciplines. I know Columbia will help me develop the necessary skill set to succeed not only as a student here but also in my professional career. I became a Student Representative because it would help me with networking and also provide me with the opportunity to help my fellow students out.”

Siyu Duan

  • Before CU: I graduated from North Carolina State University in 2019 with two degrees in Statistics and Applied Mathematics. 
  • My interests:  Outside of statistics, I enjoy traveling. I collect post cards and fridge magnets whenever I visit a new city. 
“I joined the MA Program at Columbia University to gain a better understanding of statistical theories, and receive training in practical topics to prepare my career in data science. Moreover, the diverse and inclusive campus culture appeals to me. I enjoy meeting and talking with different people!”

Steven M. Friedman

Part Time Student

  • Before CU: I graduated in 2017 from Washington University in St. Louis with a double major in Economics and Computer Science and a minor in German. Since then I have been working as a software engineer at Goldman Sachs in New York.
  • Interests:  Completing the New York Times crossword puzzles, playing chess, and attending concerts around the city.
“I joined the MA Statistics program to develop deeper knowledge to complement my programming background. The MA Program provides excellent opportunities to interact with faculty and students who share the same passion for statistics and to pursue one’s interests deeply, both in the Department and around the University. As a part-time student, the MA Program provides great flexibility for me to balance work and studies.” 

Chandan Garg

  • Prior to Columbia University, I had been working as a Data Analyst with Mastercard for over three years. I attended the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur where I majored in Civil Engineering.
  • Apart from Statistics, I am interested in applications of blockchain and discussing new ideas with friends and colleagues.
“I joined the MA Program to form a strong foundation in statistics and increase my proficiency.  I look forward to finding a data science based role either in industry or in academia.”

Nikoletta Giannopoulou

  • Before CU:  I graduated from Stonehill College in 2019 with a B.S. in Physics, a B.A. in Economics, and a minor in Data science.  I spent three summers assisting in teaching an astrophysics course at Harvard University.
  • My Interests:  I love learning languages; I am fluent in Greek and Russian and intermediate in French, Italian, and Spanish.  
“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to further develop my statistical skills and apply them as a future data scientist. I applied to become a Student Rep because I enjoy being the liaison between the student body and the Statistics department and making sure that there is good communication and support between the two.”

Chenpeng (Charles) Guan

  • I attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and majored in Statistics.
  • Outside the classroom, I like to play tennis and visit museums. I’m looking forward to making new friends and learning from each other in the MA Program!  
“I’m interested in learning how data analytics has been empowering decision making in different industries. Before the Columbia MA Program, I have interned in both HR Analytics and in Digital Marketing fields. I’m excited to explore more possibilities the MA Program can bring.”

Levi Lee

  • Before Columbia:  I graduated from Amherst College in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in both Mathematics and Statistics.  I spent one year as an English teaching assistant at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan and another year working in finance. 
  • My Interests:  I study Japanese Language and culture, and I occasionally do photography.     
 “I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to learn how statistics is used in a variety of fields—such as data science and finance. The hybrid program offered me the flexibility to work on my own schedule during the first semester and allowed me to pursue other interests as well, such as studying foreign languages. Upon graduation, I hope to become a data analyst and to make use of my interests and work abroad. I applied to become a Student Representative to connect with both students and faculty, build community, and create open discussions on how to constantly improve our program.”  

Erica Li

  • Before Columbia:  I attended the University of Waterloo in Canada and majored in Mathematics/Financial Analysis and Risk Management. I spent four years in the banking industry in New York City including Citibank and RBC Capital Markets.
  • Interests:  Hiking to Machu Picchu, cuddling koalas in Australia, and spending a day at the Blue Lagoon in Iceland.    
 “I joined the MA Program in Statistics at Columbia University for intellectual challenge and career development. I also joined it to meet and be inspired by fellow students, professors and alumni!”

Shujie Li

  • Before CU: I graduated from Stony Brook University with a double-major in Applied Mathematics & Statistics and Economics.
  • My Interests:  Classical Opera and Cooking. 
 “I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to learn how to apply statistical and analytical skills to the real world and to prepare myself as a professional data analyst in the financial area. I became a Student Rep because I enjoy networking and helping this program be the best it can.” 

Camilo Gutierrez Patino

  • Before Columbia University, I studied economics in Colombia (Universidad de los Andes) and then worked for almost three years in Washington D.C. as a Data Analyst for the World Justice Project.
  • When I’m in New York, I love going to the cinema to watch movies, going to Broadway, watching the Yankees, and watching Chess tournaments online (it’s way more exciting than it appears, I swear). 
“My dream is to work in academia, either by being a full time professor or a full time researcher. The MA in Statistics Program is the most appropriate way for me to prepare for a Ph.D. program and to be in the perfect position to achieve my goals.”

Michael Petkun

  • Before CU:  After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, I worked in the financial industry for several years, at Aksia and BlackRock. My most recent role involved evaluating systematic hedge funds.   
  • My Interests:  In my free time, I enjoy playing trivia and board games.
“I joined the MA Statistics program at Columbia in order to build the skill set to shift my career toward more quantitative and technical roles. It’s been great to learn alongside classmates who share similar intellectual interests.”

Kexin (Colleen) Su

  • Before Columbia, I attended Emory University and double majored in Applied Math & Statistics (AMS) and Sociology.
  • I am interested in singing (have joined choir, band, and a cappella), traveling, and reading detective novels (Favorite writer: Higashino Keigo 東野圭吾).
“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to learn more about how we can analyze and predict people’s behavior using big data and statistics. I appreciate how this program allows students to choose elective classes that are the most beneficial to them. I enjoy being a student rep because I love to communicate with people and use my experience to help others.”

Sneha Sachin Swati

  • Before CU:  I graduated from Montclair State University with a degree in Math and obtained a Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing (Licence to teach). I have taught grades 9-12 mathematics in the state of New Jersey.
  • My Interests: I am adventurous and I love to explore new places and try new food. My favorite pastime hobbies are listening to music, watching movies, cooking and painting.

“I wish to work in the Financial sector when I graduate. I believe the MA Program in Statistics at Columbia University can prepare me for my future career and provide me with the skills to succeed. Because the MA Program consists of distinguished faculty that have reputed academic and industrial experience in various fields of Finance, I learn more than just the basics: I learn applications.”

Henan (Jack) Xu

  • Before CU:  I spent my last three years studying towards my BSc degree in Business Mathematics and Statistics at London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • My Interests:  I do have quite a lot of hobbies besides Statistics. Soccer (Manchester City supporter here), League of Legends(I both play and watch A LOT) and custom mechanical keyboards (really fancy and cool ones) are my passions. I am really into Pokémon Go too. Please do hit me up if you share some of my interests!  

“The biggest reason for me to join the MA Statistics Program at Columbia is the opportunity to live, study, work and, most importantly, connect with people at this reputable institution in one of the world’s most charismatic cities. Serving as a Student Representative is for me a fabulous chance of reaching out and offering help to others.  I want to make the most out of my time at Columbia by getting more involved.”  


  • Graduated from George Washington University, majoring in Statistics. 
  • Most helpful course in the MA Statistics Program:  Multivariate Statistical Inference.
  • Summer 2019: Analyst consultant at Entercom, running all the analytics for the NFL season. 
  • Part-time student. 

“The statistics program at Columbia is a fantastic opportunity to expand the understanding of proper statistical analysis, and to receive exposure to excellent  employment opportunities.  The more you put in, the more you will get out of it.”

Sample Coursework For a PhD Focus

Khanh-Tung Nguyen-Ba (Keane)

  • Graduated from University of Iowa with degrees in Actuarial Science, Mathematics and Finance.  
  • Presently working at Numerix, a fintech company, as a financial engineer.  Previously in actuarial consulting at Milliman. 
  • Most helpful course:  Computational Statistics.
  • Summer 2019: Maintain my full-time job as a financial engineer, work on neural encoding with Prof Liam Paninski, and Kaggle hard if I have time.  
  • Part-time student. 

“I joined the program mostly for intellectual curiosity and career expansion, and I want to graduate with some research experience.  As a part-time student I can  pick and choose the right classes – thanks to the flexibility of the program.” 

Jingbin Cao

  • Before CU: I graduated in 2020 from DePauw University in Indiana with a double major in Music and Mathematics.
  • My Interests: Violin performance (professional), Strength training & HIIT, Music appreciation, Discovering global music cultures.

“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics program to develop deeper knowledge adding to my math background. I look forward to finding a role based on data science in the industry. I applied to become a Student Rep because I enjoy connecting with people around me, and I always want to participate in community engagement as well as improve the student experience.”

Jeremy Chen

  • Before Columbia:   I attended University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, and majored in Physics. I spent 3 years as an undergraduate researcher, modeling black hole accretion disks. 
  • My interests: Stargazing, watching Mukbang, anime & k-drama, reading books (recently got into Haruki Murakami and Keigo Higashino) and eating food.
“Joining the MA Statistics program at Columbia would allow me to meet other talented students and professors. Being in such a vibrant city, I will be offered numerous opportunities to demonstrate my knowledge in both industry or in academia. I became a student representative because I enjoy outreach, and meeting new people.”

Zhiqi (Ellen) Chen

  • Before CU:  I graduated from Ohio State University in 2020 with a degree in Mathematics. During my undergrad, I worked in the Math department for two and a half years as a Math tutor in Calculus and Algebra. 
  • Interests: I love trying different healthy diets and seeing how my body changes. If I didn’t choose to study Statistics, I would become an interior designer. I have a deep interest in design and aesthetics.

“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to enhance the foundational knowledge in Statistics before launching my job as a data scientist. I volunteered to be a Student Representative because I love meeting people and I want to improve students’ experience throughout their studies in our program.”


Stella Dong

  • Before CU: I graduated from Lafayette College with a double major in Mathematics and Economics with a Concentration in Statistics and a Certificate in Financial Policy and Analysis.
    My Interests: I love singing and sketching. Before I left college, I was one of the Soprano of the college choir. During the summer of 2020, I tried to sketch all the academic buildings where I have taken my courses over my undergraduate years, which turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

“I joined the M.A in Statistics Program at Columbia University in order to acquire more useful techniques and to prepare myself as a professional analyst working in the industry. I believe the broad course selection options, as well as the rich opportunity in communicating with the professionals, are the key reasons that I choose M.A in Statistics Program in the first place.”


Aiden Kenny

  • Before Columbia: I graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a BA in Mathematics in 2020.
  • My Interests:  Outside of statistics and applied math, I generally enjoy being active, including weight lifting, bike riding, and hiking. I also enjoy exploring and playing video games.   
“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics program because I wanted to not only refine my current statistical knowledge but also expand my understanding of how statistics is applied in industry. I also love NYC, so attending a top-tier institution in my dream city was a no-brainer! I became a student representative because I wanted to improve my networking opportunities and have a greater ability to give back to the program.”


Minhui Liao

  • Before CU: I graduated from Rutgers University in 2017, with a major in Statistics and a minor in Economics. Then I worked at TransCore, a diversified technology company, as a data analyst for 2 years.
  • My interests:  I love traveling, cutting paper, playing ukulele, and poker games. Under the pandemic, I’m a big fan of Pamela’s intense workout right now.

The reason that I joined MA Statistics Program at Columbia is the program not only provides students the flexibility to enhance their knowledge of advanced data analysis but also helps students to prepare for their future careers. 

As a Student Representative, I look forward to connecting with more classmates who have diverse backgrounds, especially under this pandemic situation. I will do my best to elevate student’s voices and to volunteer my support for our MA Program.

Michelle A. Strayer

  • Before CU:  I graduated from Connecticut College in 2014 with a degree in International Relations. I spent several years working in geopolitical research in the DC area. ­
  • Interests:  I love jazz and blues, and I’m a voracious reader.
“I joined the MA Statistics Program at Columbia to learn how to read and test data in order to better understand trends in international politics and global security.  I applied to become a Student Rep because I enjoy facilitating important conversations and fostering a sense of community.”


Weiyi Jiang

  • Before CU:  I graduated from the University of Maryland with a dual degree in Math and Computer Science.
  • My Interests:  I love cooking and singing. I enjoy going to karaoke and I try new recipes every week.  
“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to further develop my statistical skills and analytical skills and learn their applications. I applied to be a student representative because I want to improve my interpersonal skills, connect with students and the department, and help others.”


Gurmehar Singh Makker

  • Before CU: I graduated in 2020 with a BS in Applied Mathematics with extensive work in Computer Engineering and Statistics. During my undergraduate degree, I interned at various financial firms and did research at multiple universities.
  • Interests: I’m a certified pilot, so I enjoy flying planes and try to get a session in at least once or twice a month. I’m also a certified precision driver and love to go on track days with my friends. Other than that I really enjoy skiing and snowboarding.

“I see pursuing a Master’s in Statistics as a chance at a unifying career development step in my goal to be a quantitative researcher in the finance industry, although, my desire to make a significant contribution to mathematics and our understanding of the universe in general are, and always will be, the factors that form the impetus for a pursuit of an advanced degree. There is no better place than Columbia University, an esteemed scientific institution, to do that.”


Gabriel Alexander Rocha

  • Before Columbia: I graduated from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) in 2019 with a B.S. in Physics. I spent a year conducting Physics experiments in superconductivity and magnetism. I also worked full time as a Program Manager for the Migrant Program at my undergrad University.
  • Interests: I love meeting new people and hanging out with friends. In my free time I enjoy playing video games, visiting new places, and trying amazing new restaurants.

“I joined the MA program at Columbia because I wanted to expand on my education. I always wanted to pursue my grad degree and after I got my bachelor’s degree, I knew I wanted more. I worked full time for a year before applying to this program and when I got in I knew that this was an opportunity I wasn’t going to waste. I am proud to be at Columbia and proud to be a Student Representative.”


Sierra Vo

  • Before CU: I graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2020 with a BS in Finance and Math, and an MS in Finance, with a concentration in Financial Big Data Analytics.
  • My Interests: I love cooking and board games. I enjoy cooking Asian food, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine in particular, and baking. I sometimes try to recreate iconic dishes from movies. The first one I did was ratatouille. I like board games because it’s a great medium to interact with people.

“I joined Columbia’s MA Statistics Program to further my understanding of theoretical and applied statistics. In the future, I hope to work in quantitative finance, probably after a Ph.D. program. I applied to become a Student Rep because I enjoy working to benefit my community, listening to others, and helping them take actionable steps to improve their environment. I hope that I can be someone students can turn to if they need any help.”