Ashika Mani (BIOST MS '21) joined Pitt Public Health this year via our Accelerated Bachelor's/Master's Program. “It was a pretty natural choice as I was looking to jumpstart my graduate studies early,” she said. “I was almost done with my undergraduate requirements.” She felt like she had so much more to learn beyond her undergraduate degree program and felt that grad school was the next step.
Mani grew up in Yorktown Heights, NY and then came to Pitt for her bachelor’s degree because it was the epicenter of health care innovation. She knew Pitt boasted plentiful opportunities for research and already felt the institution itself was a good fit. She got her BS in statistics.
During her freshman year, she was fortunate to work with Mazen Zenati, faculty in the Departments of Surgery in the School of Medicine and Epidemiology here at Pitt Public Health. They looked at effects of BMI on surgical outcomes and the effectiveness of different drugs for different phenotypes of ampullary carcinoma. Mani got to see data’s relationship with and effect on scientific research and first learned of the field of biostatistics, which combined her love of data and statistics with her passion to help others.
“Previously, I thought that the only way I could do that is to be something like a doctor, nurse, physical therapist, etc. It was not until I came to college where I realized the wonderful field of biostatistics.” The accelerated program helped because she got to save money and time – up to a full year of time and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition. The program allows qualified Pitt undergraduate to apply in their third year and enroll in graduate classes in their fourth year. As they begin their master’s degree program, students can complete any remaining undergraduate requirements to graduate on time with their bachelor’s degree at the end of their fourth year.
“I’m looking to get more experience in the field but as of right now I think my interests lie in clinical trials. I think I’d really like working for a pharmaceutical company or something similar helping to design and carry out potentially high impact studies.”
“The Department of Biostatistics is such a great group of individuals. From my short time here it really feels like they want you to succeed and foster an environment that is conducive to making you the best biostatistician you can be.”
Last summer, before starting at Pitt Public Health, Mani worked at Tufts Health Plan, located near Boston. There, she worked as a health care analyst and was able to get hands-on experience with statistical software packages. She enjoyed this work, as it allowed her to “work towards the mission of reducing health care costs while providing the best possible quality of care.” Now that she’s in grad school, Mani is doing research with Pitt Public Health’s Rob Krafty, looking at how REM sleep disorder and Parkinson’s may be associated. Outside of school, Mani is on the D1 Women’s Ultimate Frisbee team and likes to run and explore Pittsburgh’s foodie scene with her friends. Recently, a paper she wrote on ampullary carcinoma was accepted for publication by the Journal of Surgical Oncology.
Of her time here so far, as Biost’s first accelerated student, Mani says, “I would recommend this program to anyone with an interest in data and the field of health care. I appreciate how fast-paced graduate school is, and it’s great to have professors that know you by name and really care about your success as a student.”