Student Stories – Will Townes

Will TownesWhat program are you in? 

Biostatistics Ph.D.

Tell us about the path that brought you to Boston and our Department, including how you became interested in Biostatistics and Computational Biology.

I’m originally from a rural part of North Carolina. Throughout college, my goal was to become a field biologist, because I love the outdoors and tropical ecology/ biodiversity is fascinating. I studied abroad in Costa Rica and did research for a year in the Philippines after graduation. I had a great time, but realized I liked being around people too much to survive in remote field stations. Back in the US, I randomly got a job as a software tester (it was during the recession) supporting the EPA’s air quality and “Energy Star” programs. It was a fun way to learn programming and software engineering practices like using version control. I took Bayesian Statistics as a night class with Dr. Mahlet Tadesse at Georgetown, who is an alumna of this program. She was a fantastic teacher and inspired me to explore Biostatistics. While in DC, I also met my wife Tina who is just a wonderful companion. Coming to Boston was a joint decision between the two of us.

What do you like best about the Department, School, and/or Boston? 

I love the diversity of academic interests in the department- the wide ranging seminars and mixing of theory and practice. I’m constantly amazed at the curiosity and innovation of my peers. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be here. I also appreciate the flexibility of the curriculum. It’s great to be able to go over to MIT or Harvard main campus and sit in on classes there to get a different perspective. 

What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?  In 20 years?

My goal is to just be around interesting people who can inspire me to learn new ideas for as long as possible. 

Is there something unusual about you that you’d like everyone to know? 

I like outdoors stuff- hiking, kayaking, biking, etc. OK, that’s not really unique. Maybe that neither Tina nor I use Facebook is unusual. But we’re happy to meet people the old-fashioned way!