Personal experiences lead student to pursuing a Biostatistics master’s degree
Lauren MacConnachie’s personal and professional experiences led her to be deeply interested in public health.
Now, she is graduating with a Master of Science in Biostatistics from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. In the fall, she will remain at the Michigan Public Health as she begins her pursuit of a doctorate degree in Epidemiology.
“I felt that the Biostatistics Program would provide me with the analytical skills needed to excel in the field of public health,” MacConnachie said.
Living in Metro Detroit for eight years, she witnessed firsthand how poverty, structural racism and barriers to health access can greatly impact a community, especially as the community ages.
“My neighbors and friends faced greater health issues with little aid often leading to a cascade of events such as eviction and disability,” MacConnachie said. “Further, in my own family, I witnessed how those with disabilities faced both great barriers and great unknowns.
“Up until my mid-20s, I had focused my energy on molecular research and began to feel that my work was not directly helping those in the way I had hoped. I shifted my focus to developing my skills in statistical analysis with the ultimate goal of being able to contribute to research that would more directly impact the health of my community.”
I was born and raised here and I want to contribute to my home. I believed the University of Michigan would best allow me to do this.”
She studied biology and mathematics at Wayne State University, choosing to major in biology because she was fascinated by infectious disease and the human immune system. Minoring in mathematics was something she did for fun because she always has enjoyed the challenge of mathematics courses.
MacConnachie chose to enroll at Michigan Public Health because the Department of Biostatistics was strongly recommended by many of her mathematics professors at Wayne State. She also had completed a summer Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) program at the University of Michigan during her undergraduate studies and really enjoyed the interdisciplinary environment offered at the university.
“Also, I love Michigan as a state,” said MacConnachie, who enjoys several outdoor activities such as swimming and rock collecting in the Great Lakes as well as spending time with her dog. “I was born and raised here and I want to contribute to my home. I believed the University of Michigan would best allow me to do this.”
For MacConnachie, she has a great interest in how public health considers the fully lived experience of people, incorporating individual, social and environmental factors when seeking to better understand a problem.
“I am also particularly interested in understanding how different social factors can impact the immune system,” she said, “and how these immune changes impact other health outcomes.”
While earning her master’s degree, MacConnachie had to overcome imposter syndrome because she really didn’t believe that she would be able to get into the master’s or PhD program at Michigan.
“Starting my master’s degree, I doubted I was even capable of the work,” said she said. “But by building stronger relationships with fellow students in my department has really helped me realize that we are all intimidated and just learning. No one is an imposter!”
MacConnachie plans to continue teaching because she enjoyed her time as a graduate student instructor.
“Eventually, I plan to work as an epidemiologist that is focused on designing data-informed and human-centric interventions geared to building healthier and stronger communities,” she said.