Charles South graduated from SMU in May 2016 with his Ph.D. in Statistical Science. He is currently working at the Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care at UT Southwestern Medical School, where the vast majority of his work involves analyzing data from clinical trials to help understand how major depressive disorder functions, the kinds of treatments that help reduce and/or remove symptoms, and whether there are underlying characteristics possessed by people with depression that make them more or less likely to respond to treatment. This is one of the great advantages of studying statistics – Charles has a toolbox of methods grounded in theory that he can use to analyze real data sets and help experts make decisions in a vast range of fields. In this case, that field happens to be healthcare at one of the cutting-edge facilities in the country.
As luck would have it, what brought Charles to SMU originally was not Statistics, but Engineering. “Ironically, the amazing engineering co-op program at SMU is what originally sold me. When I decided that engineering wasn’t the field for me, I found a home in the statistical science department. When it came time for me to pursue a PhD, there was nowhere else that I wanted to be!” In the Statistical Science department, Charles found a home where he was able to work closely with students and faculty to pursue his interests. “The world-class faculty, small teacher-to-student ratio, and atmosphere of comradery make the Statistical Science department at SMU one of a kind in my eyes. The faculty are always willing to help and take a great interest in student learning and student success.”
During his time at SMU, the Statistical Science program provided him with the tools he needed to succeed in his research and beyond. “I feel like I was constantly pushed to the brink of my intellectual capability throughout my time at SMU. High level peers and high level faculty constantly kept me on my toes and motivated me to push through challenging coursework. Through the Statistical Consulting Center, I was given ample opportunities to polish my skills while working with real life clients and gained the confidence necessary to succeed in a full-time position.”
How can you pursue statistics at the next level? “First and foremost, don’t be afraid to show weakness,” Charles advises. “I spent tons of time seeking help from my professors, and it made a big difference in my confidence and my grades. Second, collaborate and spend time with your peers. Graduate school is a struggle with many highs and lows; having people to share the struggle with makes it much easier to overcome. Lastly, be open to criticism. The best way to grow in any field is to be around people who are much smarter and more experienced than you are… and this means your work will be criticized early and often. While it may seem frustrating at times, it is also the best catalyst for growth.”