Octavious Smiley: Strength in numbers

Octavious Smiley

Extremely proud to see our own Octavious Smiley, PhD ’23, featured in the school’s student stories this month! Check out the featured story which traces his path from a child fascinated by negative numbers to a PhD candidate in biostatistics on the verge of graduation!

The story also outlines the origins of StatStart, brainchild of Smiley and fellow PhD student, Alex Ocampo, who with the support and guidance of Professor Marcello Pagano developed the program to offer miniority high school students coursework on the fundamentals of biostatistics and computer programming as well as an introduction to the field of public health through presentations from researchers.  The program drew from Smiley’s experiences with two summer programs that combined math skills building and hands on projects, but which also showed him the value of early exposure to mathematical concepts and mentorship, values which are also guiding principles for StatStart. For his doctoral research, Smiley is working with his adviser JP Onnela to study contact networks in HIV transmission and how the use of multiple time points can improve the prediction of how individuals form connections. While his future may be in statistical research, Smiley remains dedicated to inspiring the next generation of minority students to enter the field. From StatStart to the possibilities of teaching and mentorship in an academic setting, he maintains, “I definitely want to be in a position where I can help those coming after me.”