Statistics junior receives opportunity for esteemed scholarship


While still a junior, Mikaela Meyer has packed numerous research projects in her six semesters while registering thousands of her fellow students to vote.

Mikaela Meyer
Mikaela Meyer

Meyer, a major in Mathematical Statistics, is a leader in student political clubs at Purdue, and she has been active since her freshman year in making sure her fellow students were able to vote. The Valparaiso, Indiana, native hopes to combine her passions for data and politics into a career in our nation’s capital. Meyer is a candidate for a Truman Scholarship, and she is only one of three Purdue students up for the award this year.

A member of a National Science Foundation research group during her sophomore year, Meyer’s future is bright.

Question: Why have you focused on public service so much for your research projects?

Answer: I've always been interested in using my skills and talents to help others. One thing I love about statistics is the fact that pretty much every field can use it to solve problems. I have been most interested in solving problems that affect large groups of people, so that's why I've looked for research projects that are public service oriented.

Q: One of your many research projects was on drone policy? Could you briefly explain this work?

A: The drones project was an initiative promoted by the Purdue Policy Research Institute to better understand domestic drone usage policies. All of the undergraduate fellows at PPRI researched various policies that currently exist on federal and state levels in order to find potential gaps and to provide appropriate policy recommendations. We are currently working on putting our research together to make a policy brief.

Q: Sophomore year seemed pretty epic for you. What were the top highlights for you?

A: I owe a lot to Dr. (Mark) Ward's Statistics Living-Learning Community. Not only did I learn how to use statistical programming tools that prepared me for the research projects I have undertaken thus far, but I also made many great friends in the LLC. Most of them turned out to be my best friends at Purdue. I continue to take classes with them, and we all support each other with school and other struggles. I could talk forever about how much I owe to the LLC for making me feel at home at Purdue and for preparing me for a future career in statistics. I also had the chance to create a national poll about civic confidence with my classmates in a Purdue Institute for Civic Communication class. Over spring break last year, we presented the results of our poll at the National Press Club in DC. This experience motivated me to continue to find ways to combine my interest in statistics and public service for my future career.

Q: What methods are your best when it comes to data and computation?

A: In my research projects, I have used Bayesian methodologies and statistical learning methods. Out of these two, I am most interested in learning more about statistical learning methods and machine learning.

Q: How would you use the Truman Scholarship? What are your goals after Purdue?

A: I would use the Truman Scholarship to attend graduate school immediately after my undergraduate career is done. Right now, I hope to get my PhD in Statistics and eventually work for one of the statistical agencies in the federal government. I would prefer to work for the Energy Information Administration or Bureau of Transportation Statistics in hopes of working my way up the ranks to become the Chief Statistician of the United States. 

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