Code for a Cause

November 26, 2013

Elena Grillo, Applied Mathematics, 2015

Co-op Employer:  DM-STAT, Inc.

Co-op Position:  SAS Programming Intern

Hometown:  Chelyabinsk, Russia

Elena Grillo, Applied Mathematics ’15, faced the rigorous task of learning a new programming language during the first two weeks of her co-op, but it was for a good cause.

The company she works for, DM-STAT, Inc., collects data and prepares analysis for government agencies and foundations. One recent project was the Safe Passage Study, a long-term medical study investigating the role of prenatal alcohol exposure in the risk of stillbirth and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

“Basically, we are trying to figure out what amount of alcohol is dangerous for a future baby,” Grillo said.

Outside of the Safe Passage Study, Grillo has participated in several other clinical studies, performing tasks such as data cleaning, developing program documentation, and quality control reviews of code written in the SAS programming language.

While she admits there was a steep learning curve to working at DM-STAT, Grillo said her Wentworth classes allowed her to transition more smoothly.

“Essentially, SAS programming is a heavy-duty tool of statistical analysis, so I apply many things that I’ve learned in probability and statistics and actuarial math classes,” Grillo said. “As an example, learning [the] Python and R programming [languages] in the classroom helped me to pick up on SAS language quickly.”

Grillo plans to continue in the statistical programming field, and is grateful for the challenges that working at DM-STAT posed.

“At the beginning, the amount of information I had to learn was overwhelming, but it really improved my time management and study skills,” Grillo said. “I also got the chance to work with extremely intelligent people with advanced degrees in mathematical statistics and biostatistics. As a small business, DM-STAT offers a collaborative and helpful environment with a strong emphasis on teamwork.”

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