Alumni Interview with Melody Goodman, PhD ’06

Melody Goodman, PhD ’06
Associate Professor in the Department of Biostatistics
College of Global Public Health
New York University

Where do you currently work and what are your job responsibilities?

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the College of Global Public Health at New York University. Similar to most faculty member I teach biostatistics courses for our masters of public health students, conduct my own research and collaborative research with other researchers, and do community and professional service. I am interim department chair so I am also helping to develop a new department. In this role, I feel most like a cruise ship director. I make sure everything is running the way it should be. People are where they are supposed to be, doing what they are supposed to be doing, and everyone is happy.
What do you like most about your current position?

I like the flexibility I have. For the most part, I get to set my own hours and don’t spend much time in the office unless I have meeting.

Why did you choose to study biostatistics and what led you to Harvard?

I knew I did not want to be an investment banker my first job after undergrad was as a financial analyst on at a top tier investment bank on Wall Street. I had no control over my hours (hence my response to the previous question). I knew I was good in math and wanted to work in health so I googled math and health and found biostatistics.

What was the most rewarding part of your degree program? 

The most rewarding part of the degree program is the friends (classmates) that I made. My classmates are super smart and successful people. We were called the “golden” class because there were so many brilliant people in my cohort. It was a privilege to learn beside them, I know it enhance my learning. My best memories are in our weekly grant group meetings. These support sessions focused on professional development but was instrumental to my success in the program. My favorite course was called measuring health status taught by Fran Cook. Many years later and my work focuses on development survey measures.

What was the most challenging part of your degree program?

I think the written qualifying exam was the most difficult part of the degree program, but thanks to the support of my study group, we all made it through successfully. I think all of the theoretical biostatistics courses are tough but what doesn’t kill you… makes you a solid statistician. Not sure I would do anything different, maybe complain a little less.

How did your experience at Harvard prepare you for your career?

I felt extremely well prepared for an academic career. I think Harvard really taught me how to stand by my work, no one knows this stuff better than me. It also made me conscious of making sure to clear of the limitations of any study.

What advice would you give to current or prospective students?

Don’t try to be an island getting a PhD requires team work. Build the best team you can knowing that different people have different things to bring to the table. Your study group should be diverse in their skills. I didn’t know much about doctoral studies before I started but sometimes I think it is best if you don’t know what to expect it requires you to be at the top of your game.