For Kees Schipper, N21, the flexibility of his Friedman education led him down an unexpected path--one with a wide range of possibilities beyond what he imagined at the start of graduate school.
“The draw of data science is it gives you the tools to take the randomness of a giant Excel spreadsheet and a seemingly uninterpretable amount of data and make something meaningful out of it,” says Schipper, who is earning an MS in nutrition epidemiology and data science. “It gives you a set of tools that’s universally applicable.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, Schipper is doing research on COVID outbreak dynamics with the InForMID (Tufts Initiative for the Forecasting and Modeling of Infectious Diseases) group, led by Professor Elena Naumova, chair of the Division of Nutritional Epidemiology & Data Sciences.
“COVID data shows regularly weekly fluctuations based on reporting factors, like more cases being reported on weekdays than weekends, because there are fewer people working to report them. Now, we’re linking mobility data from Google on workplaces, recreation, retail, and using school and holiday calendars to see how these changes in mobility affect changes in COVID cases and testing,” he says.
In addition, because the Friedman curriculum allows for multiple directed studies, Schipper has worked with Professor Gail Rogers in the epidemiology division on the ADAPT study, a web survey on fad diets, to separate groups based on analysis of their dietary intakes. During another semester, he helped a Tufts University School of Medicine student examine the relationship between hemochromatosis and infectious diseases.
“Most of my directed studies were helpful in skill-building, especially in programming and statistics analysis,” Schipper says.
As he looks back on his time at Friedman, he’s grateful for support he’s received—especially from his friend and mentor, Ph.D. student Ryan Simpson, who initially led him to Friedman.
“Ryan is a selfless guy. Even as a Ph.D. student, he spends more time teaching than learning. A lot of his research rubbed off on me as he brought me into his projects,” Schipper says. “All the professors and lecturers at Friedman that I’ve interacted with are super helpful and care a lot about their students. They invest a lot in their classes and make themselves really available if they need help.”
Having wrapped up his nutrition classes, Schipper has been preparing for a job in software engineering after graduation and taking urban and environmental planning classes. He advises incoming students to use their time at Tufts to explore classes across campuses and disciplines.
“There’s a lot of room at Tufts to broaden your horizons,” he says. “It’s your education; you should get what you want out of it.”
For more student profiles and full Commencement coverage, visit commencement.tufts.edu/coverage/friedman2021.