Meet Our New PhD Students!

We’ll be featuring mini-profiles of our new PhD students over the next few weeks. We look forward to welcoming them into our community!

Nick BirkNick BirkHello! My name is Nick Birk. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and I studied Mathematics and Biology at The University of Texas in Austin. During the summer between my second and third years of college, I participated in the Colorado Summer Institute in Biostatistics, which ignited my interest in the field and led me to pursue biostatistics as a career. After college, I completed the SM60 in Biostatistics at HSPH, and spent the following two years living in London, UK and working at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

I am thrilled to be back in the Boston area this year to continue my journey as a statistician in Harvard’s PhD program! My previous statistical experience has given me opportunities to work on projects related to many facets of public health, including food insecurity, intimate partner violence, Long COVID, gestational diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. I am interested in applying statistics to a wide variety of public health topics, and in furthering my understanding of how we can build quantitative evidence for the effectiveness of health interventions. This has previously included the opportunity to work as a statistician for two clinical trials while in London, set in multiple sites across the UK, India, and Uganda. Further, my thesis for the SM60 involved an exploration of machine learning techniques to develop screening algorithms for diabetes in rural India. I hope to further explore the statistical challenges related to clustering and missing data while in the PhD program, and I hope to gain experience in developing methodology that can account for these pervasive challenges in a variety of contexts.Beyond my interest in statistics, I like to spend my time running, hiking, and exploring different parts of New England (often via the commuter rail weekend pass). I’ve also been rediscovering my love of reading and developing a new love for cooking over the past year, so I’m always interested in discussing a good book or great recipe. I’m very excited to meet all of the students and faculty in the department this year (and to see some familiar faces again)!

Martha BoaheneMartha BoaheneHello, my name is Martha Boahene, and I’m originally from Ghana, a country in Western Africa. At a tender age, I figured Logic in mathematics is binary, true, or false, yes or no. The fact that there is always a correct answer is what I appreciate most about mathematics. My interest in Mathematics encouraged me to pursue and earn a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT). I applied to Ball State University to obtain a master’s degree in statistics because I grew up in a high- HIV prevalence area and wanted to use my mathematical expertise to aid in the fight against the virus.

After working together with Dr. Munni Begum on a project using survival decision trees in the presence of competing risk events, I developed a greater interest in the field. The application of machine learning techniques to survival data made me appreciate the significance of statistics in advancing public health. At HSPS, I hope to fill my knowledge gap, improve my research skills, and aim to become a biostatistician, focusing on HIV/AIDS research and other infectious diseases. I am excited to explore a wide array of research areas and methodologies.In my free time, I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending quality time with my family.