Looking back on her career, MScBMI alumna Harika Panuganty is grateful for the industry-relevant curriculum that taught her how to work with incomplete, imbalanced data to produce effective models.
Fascinated by biology and mathematics since she was young, Harika Panuganty, a graduate from the University of Chicago’s Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics (MScBMI) program, opted to major in biology as an undergraduate imagining a future in medicine. But her passion for mathematics and statistics came back with a vengeance after she graduated, particularly when a former professor told her about a field—biomedical informatics—that combined the two areas she was most interested in.
“I hadn’t heard about biomedical informatics before that,” she says. “It brought together two of my favorite subject areas so I immediately started looking for the right graduate program. Once I found the University of Chicago’s MScBMI program, I fell in love with it—everything from the prestige of the university to the amazing faculty and the exciting city of Chicago.”
Before starting at the University of Chicago, Harika spent time thinking about specific career goals that could orient her path through the MScBMI program. Such planning, she says, allowed her not only to focus on acquiring the informatics tools she needs to excel in today’s healthcare space, but she was also able to make lifelong connections as she worked alongside others completing projects in the program.
“Being associated with the University of Chicago provides you with an endless number of opportunities. By attending the events, students are exposed to the entire breadth of the field—from the variety of career opportunities to what’s cutting edge in the field right now.”
The MScBMI Graduate Experience
Looking back, she mentions two classes she enjoyed in particular—Intermediate Applied Data Analysis and Machine Learning for Biomedical Informatics, both taught by Anoop Mayampurath.
“What I enjoyed most about these two classes was their focus on applying algorithms and techniques using data to solve different types of problems,” she says. “I learned how to deal with messy data, incomplete data, imbalanced data—and all other types as well—to produce effective models. I’m also grateful to my instructors for reminding me that the end goal was not certifications and letter grades, but acquiring knowledge and experiences.”
In addition to classroom learning, Harika was particularly impressed with how the program went the extra mile to ensure that students were fully informed when it came to the latest industry trends and skillsets. Through the MScBMI Seminar Series, the Booth Healthcare Conference, and specialized career fairs and graduate conferences, the program provided experiences that put students in touch with professionals and experts working in the field today.
“Being associated with the University of Chicago provides you with an endless number of opportunities,” she says. “By attending the events, students are exposed to the entire breadth of the field—from the variety of career opportunities to what’s cutting edge in the field right now.”
Prepared for a Future in Healthcare Informatics
Now with her degree in hand, Harika anticipates finding a job as a data scientist/analyst working in pharmaceutical, technology, or consulting industry. One piece of advice she has for future students, which she wrote about in an essay she published recently, is that incoming students should take the time to think about their career goals before starting the program.
“My biggest tip to anyone joining graduate school would be to set a clear career goal,” she writes. “Be sure to select a program that allows you to be flexible when choosing classes and have a target job description in mind so you can take classes accordingly. Try to pick thesis projects, conferences, and organized talks to attend that align with your career goals; career advice and connections from established individuals in the field are invaluable.”