Spotlight on Bryn Burns

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If you don’t mind, start by telling us a little about yourself.

I’m from Salem, VA, and I wanted to come to Tech because it has always felt like home! My dad is a VT alum, and Salem is only 40 miles up the road, so I’ve been coming to Tech events since I was a baby. I’ve always loved the atmosphere of campus and Blacksburg, and I felt like going here would make the transition to college much easier. Outside of academics, I am the treasurer and a full company member of The Contemporary Dance Ensemble, a student-run organization here at Virginia Tech.    

Do you have a major other than statistics?

Recently, I added a minor in Mathematics (my former major before changing it to Statistics).

What was it that brought to you to the statistics department?

I’ve always enjoyed doing math, but I felt a little lost in being a mathematics major. I still wanted to do math, and I felt like Statistics could give me a more focused application of it. 

What has surprised you about the statistics program?

I’ve been really surprised by the size of the statistics program. Compared to other disciplines at Virginia Tech, it is a smaller program which I think is great. I see lots of familiar faces in my classes each semester and we really get to know the faculty.

"I think I’ve grown as a critical thinker and am able to come up with more than one solution to any problem. Statistics keeps you thinking on your feet, but has also taught me to be really thorough and accurate in everything I do. " 

Could you describe an experience you had in the program that stands out?

For our final assessment in my Methods of Regression Analysis class, we were split into groups and had to do a full regression analysis on a real data set of our finding. This project was a really good experience because we were able to put together all of the material we learned that semester and apply it to the real world.

Is there an experience you have had in Statistics that has shaped the way you approach problem-solving?

I can’t think of a specific experience, but I feel like Statistics as a whole has shaped the way I approach problems now. I think I’ve grown as a critical thinker and am able to come up with more than one solution to any problem. Statistics keeps you thinking on your feet, but has also taught me to be really thorough and accurate in everything I do. 

Have you had the chance to intern anywhere?

I interned in Blacksburg over the summer with a Silicon Valley-based company called Chartio. Chartio is a big name in the data visualization software industry, and I helped them kick-start their new, free educational website called The Data School

The Data School’s mission is to show people how to understand and use data in practical and impactful ways which is important to me as a Statistics major. As an intern for The Data School, I wrote tutorials about anything and everything data related and helped make the site a well known and trusted place to gain new knowledge. I loved my time as an intern with Chartio and really felt like my statistical experience was utilized to make an impact in our data-driven world.

Was there a skill or approach to problem-solving you learned in statistics that helped you succeed in your internship?

My analyzation skills and knowledge of basic statistical concepts were really useful during my internship. As a data visualization company, we used lots of charts and graphs to monitor our progress and successes, so it was helpful to be able to interpret and make meaning out of the visualizations we used. I was also able to write technical tutorials because of my deep understanding in both statistics and mathematics.

Has studying mathematics and statistics at the same time deepened your understanding of the disciplines?

Yes, I think statistics helps me understand math in a different way. Math and statistics go hand in hand, and I think studying both has really deepened my understanding of numbers and calculations in general. 

What career path do you hope to follow?

I’m a little unsure of my career path right now. There are so many opportunities with a statistics degree, but I can see myself being a data analyst or a teacher in the future.

Barring any and all obstacles, what impact do you ultimately hope to have on the world?

Ultimately, I want to make the world a smarter place. Whether it be working on a project that leads to new technological developments or teaching basics statistics, I want to help people learn and be better. 

What has been the highlight of your Hokie career so far?

The highlight of my career as a Hokie so far has definitely been meeting new people and making awesome friends. Hokies are genuinely good people and I know I’ve made connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Lastly, what advice would you have for students considering a degree in statistics?

Go for it! Statistics is becoming so important in today’s growing world of technology and data. It’s a fascinating field that has so many opportunities. 

Bryn Burns with VT's Contemporary Dance Ensemble
Statistics major Bryn Burns (center) performs with Virginia Tech's Contemporary Dance Ensemble.