Student Stories: Jaffer Zaidi

ZaidiWhat program are you in?

2nd-year 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 did my undergraduate studies in mathematics and then worked for a couple of years in HIV epidemiology in South Africa. While working as an epidemiologist, I became aware of epidemiologic and statistical methods that were developed here at Harvard. I never really got a chance to directly apply these methods to the datasets that I was working on, but the exposure piqued my interest to the research that is being developed here. My time in South Africa was great fun – their beaches are the best in the world, and South Africa is so culturally rich and diverse. As a result, leaving South Africa was difficult, but I feel very lucky to study statistics, epidemiology, and causal inference here and I¹m very humbled to study and learn from my classmates and teachers. 

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

South Africa, especially near Durban, was so warm, and the Indian Ocean is amazing. I made a habit of visiting the beaches every other week. The Atlantic Ocean is too cold! Boston is not the best place in terms of weather, but I guess we can¹t have it all in life! I am grateful to be in the biostatistics department; I particularly appreciate that my cohort is intellectually diverse. People have very different interests in computational biology, causal inference, study design, and everything biostatistics-related. My two favorite things about the department are (1) the chance to sit and think about things I find interesting and important, and (2) discuss research or non-research things with my classmates. I really like the exchange of ideas in statistics and epidemiology that occurs in daily life, which would definitely not occur elsewhere. 

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

Buy me dessert and I’ll divulge my 5-year plan! Buy me lunch, and I’ll tell you my entire life story. 

Is there something unusual about you that you¹d like everyone to know?

Nothing unusual. I speak in Russian, as a result of doing two years of schooling in a Russian-medium school. I read parts of Crime and Punishment in Russian. Maybe one day I’ll get a chance to translate a few Emily Dickinson poems into Russian and/or Hindi-Urdu.