September 21, 2023
Annie Xie grew up in Guilford, CT. She’s in her third year at UChicago as a PhD student in Statistics, where she has been working to develop statistical methods for analyzing and identifying patterns in genetics data. Annie completed her BS and MSE in Applied Mathematics and Statistics at Johns Hopkins University in 2019 and has worked in data support for MIT Admissions in Cambridge, MA.
We interviewed Annie about her experiences at UChicago.
Why did you choose the University of Chicago?
I really liked the people I met during my virtual visit day. All the professors were incredibly nice and supportive—one professor even offered to give me a tour of the school if I was ever visiting Chicago. The students were also very kind and helpful. Along with the people, I liked the abundance of opportunity that UChicago offered. For the Statistics PhD program, you are allowed to work with anyone in the university. With that, I saw a lot of opportunity for collaboration across fields, and that excited me.
Please describe something you are proud of accomplishing at UChicago.
I am proud of the breadth and depth I have gained in my statistics knowledge since coming to UChicago. One of the reasons I wanted to go to graduate school was to expand my knowledge of statistics—at the time, I felt there was still so much more for me to learn. After completing two years of coursework, I feel that I have been able to accomplish this goal (and I’m still continuing to expand my knowledge). I now have a better appreciation for the various areas of statistics, and I think my statistical intuition has grown a lot.
What has been your most memorable class and why?
Matrix Computation, a.k.a. 309, with Professor Lek-Heng Lim. I really liked Professor Lim as a teacher—I liked his lecturing style, and I felt he did a good job relaying the information in an organized and understandable way. Additionally, the material I learned in his course has been very useful in my graduate career thus far.
What is your favorite restaurant or food truck in Hyde Park? What is your favorite dish?
My favorite food truck that frequents campus is Chicago Lunchbox. My favorite dish to get is the Vietnamese pork rice bowl.
What is your favorite campus spot and why?
Prior to it being under construction, my favorite spot was Botany Pond. Oftentimes, if I ever needed a break from my work, I would take a walk around campus and stop by the pond to look at the ducks and turtles (and in the springtime, baby ducklings). [A partial opening of the pond is expected this winter, with a full reopening planned in 2024 in time for Convocation.—Ed.]
What’s something you love to do outside of the classroom or lab?
I love to watercolor paint. I particularly like painting plants and scenic landscapes.
What’s the coolest thing you’ve done in the city so far (tours, concerts, parades, games, etc.)?
One thing I love about Chicago is during the summer, there are tons of free concerts. Last summer, I went to the “Lights on Broadway” concert hosted by the Grant Park Music Festival, and Jonathan Groff appeared as a surprise guest to sing his song, “You’ll Be Back”, from Hamilton! His appearance was completely unexpected and, as a musical theater fan, very exciting.
What support have you received at UChicago that was particularly valuable to you?
The support from my advisor, Professor Matthew Stephens, has been incredibly valuable. Not only has he been integral in guiding my research projects, but he has helped me become a better researcher overall. I greatly appreciate his emphasis on communication and ensuring research is communicated well.
I have also received lots of support from my fellow classmates. I have immense gratitude for the teaching assistants, student prelim prep coaches, members of my PhD cohort, and others who helped me get through the rigorous first year coursework and qualifying exams. The support I have received also goes beyond the classroom—I’ve built great friendships that I believe will last beyond my time at UChicago.
How has your background or experience prepared you to contribute to an environment where diversity and inclusion are valued?
As an undergraduate, I participated in an “Alternative Break,” a service-oriented program in which students learn about a local community and its social justice issues. After this program, I gained a new perspective on the role I can have in a community. I especially value connecting with others and taking the time to learn about their backgrounds and life stories. This is something I try to do in any community I am in, whether academic or not.
Currently, I am on the Committee for Community, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the Statistics department. We discuss ways to improve inclusion in the Statistics and Computational and Applied Mathematics communities at UChicago. I also organize community service events, which allow members of the two groups to connect with each other, as well as with the Chicago community. Additionally, I act as a mentor for incoming Statistics PhD students through the department’s mentorship program.
There’s still lots of room for improvement for diversity and inclusion in academic spaces. Luckily, I’ve met a lot of people at UChicago who are interested in providing support in these areas.
What advice or insights do you have for new or prospective Maroons?
Don’t be afraid of reaching out to faculty. The faculty in the Statistics department are very supportive, and they want to see you succeed. Therefore, do not be afraid to ask for advice or guidance, especially if you are struggling.
What are your plans post-UChicago?
I am still largely undecided and there’s still quite a bit of time before I graduate, but currently, I am interested in becoming a professor or perhaps teaching at a university or liberal arts college.
If you could choose one word to describe the University of Chicago, what would it be?