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‘Leap of faith’ leads to data science studies

May 10, 2018
Anya KhalidAnya Khalid came to the University without having ever coded in her life. She graduates this spring as a double major in data science and economics. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Three questions

Favorite University tradition? “Yellowjacket Weekend! I always love coming back after the summer to enjoy the food trucks and carnival games with my friends. (And it’s still warm out!)”

How will you remember your time here? “Very fondly. I’ve made lifelong friends who are passionate, motivated, and supportive. The University community has made my time here especially memorable—my professors, the students I have TA’ed and who have TA’ed me, my coworkers at CEIS—are all amazing.”

What advice would you give to incoming students? “School is so much more than just classes! You can find or create really amazing opportunities for yourself at UR that will teach you things you can’t learn in class. Don’t be scared to go out of your comfort zone and try new things and do everything with an open mind and the desire to learn.”

Making their mark: This is one in a series of profiles celebrating members of Rochester’s graduating class of 2018.

Anya Khalid came to the University without having ever coded in her life—but she was eager to get in on the ground floor of the new undergraduate major in data science.

Granted, it was “kind of a leap of faith,” Khalid says. And never mind that women have had to fight hard to gain entry in computer-related careers.

“I have been really lucky to have parents who raised me to be very strong and to not care what other people think or say or whether they are trying to deter me,” Khalid says. “It’s like challenge to me; if you think I don’t belong here, I’m going to show you that I do and that I’m really good at it.”

Now the Washington, D.C., resident is graduating with degree in economics as well, bound for Seattle and a job as a data analytics consultant for Ernst and Young.

She’s confident her educational and experiential opportunities at Rochester have prepared her well. Not just for the immediate job that awaits her. But also for the prospect of eventually getting an MBA and using her insights in data science to “really drive a business”—perhaps her own.

For example, Khalid’s internship at Ernst and Young last summer gave her “real-world” experience and a chance to prove herself—so well it resulted in a job offer.

Her capstone project in data science involved more “real-world” experience—not only in dealing with large data sets but also with working as part of a team. Khalid and three other students found a better way to flag potential hackers for a Rochester imaging company.

She attended two of the renowned Grace Hopper annual conventions for women in computing, thanks to the Department of Computer Science’s participation in the BRAID initiative. This provided Khalid with ample opportunities to network with other women in the field, to learn about new technologies, and to hear advice on how to “position yourself in the industry as a woman and become a leader.”

Attendance at the conventions, Khalid says, was “one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”

She also found time to

  • fulfill a “lifelong dream” by studying aboard in Paris
  • serve as president of the Computer Science Undergraduate Council
  • advise her peers in data science
  • work as a program assistant with the Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences (CEIS), and
  • thanks to the unique Rochester Curriculum, pursue her love for art with a cluster of classes in architecture.

“I’m so glad that I ended up at the University of Rochester,” says Khalid, a Munves Scholar. “The classes I’ve been able to take, the experiences I’ve had, the lifelong friends I’ve made—I’m just so grateful this is how things ended up.”

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Category: Student Life