MTDA Alumni Spotlight: Natalie Hurst

November 28, 2023

MTDA Alumni Spotlight: Natalie Hurst

A white woman with long blonde hair

When Natalie Hurst started the Masters of Translational Data Analytics program she was working as a data analyst at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). She knew she wanted to expand her skillset with formal education when she saw an advertisement for the MTDA program and attended an information session.

Natalie’s background included a B.S. in Public Policy Analysis and a minor in economics, though she did spend three years as a “hard science” major before finding public policy. She also completed a data science for the public sector internship where she learned the programming language R. When looking at graduate degree programs, she had to consider that she was self-funded and couldn’t take 2-3 years with a loss of income. One of the things that appealed to her about the MTDA program was that it is designed for working professionals with its online format and evening synchronous sessions.

While still at MORPC during her first semester of the program she applied for a position at Ohio State as a biostatistician and was hired. “Once they saw I was in the program it made them more interested in me as an applicant,” she shared.

Looking back on her time in the MTDA program, Natalie felt very well-rounded coming out of it having developed additional interpersonal and program management skills. Also, her cohort had a good sense of community, as the people with more experience regularly helped those with less experience. She has stayed in contact with some of her cohort by attending a fellow alum’s diversity and inclusion brown bags on campus.  

Previously, her coding learning was self-led and while that worked for to a degree, she found it was nice to have more formal learning. The computer science foundations classes were helpful because her undergraduate experience did not include much computer science theory.  

Natalie’s favorite class was Data Analytics Foundations 2 in the Statistics series. She felt the instructor, Laura Kubatko, was great at describing and distilling. She also learned a lot about R markdown and Dr. Kubatko’s “Bird of the Week” helped Natalie further develop her presentation skills.

The design series was challenging, but the classes also facilitated a lot of growth. Natalie found herself thinking more about exactly what she was trying to convey with visualizations since there was an emphasis on speaking to a non- data literate audience. Trends in Data Viz opened her mind on the breadth of visualizations and how they could be used.

For the culminating capstone, Natalie was part of the Honda V2X team. There was “so much data and so much to do with it.” The project strengthened her python coding skills and the (unintended) obstacles that came up helped give the project more of a real-world feel. Another positive was seeing all the team members’ strengths come through. Working through an Agile framework also gave Natalie additional skills she took with her to her day job.

Now an alum of the program, Natalie’s audience is primarily the academic community including professors, physicians, and others reading the papers that come out of her group. Her positive experience with the MTDA program even led a coworker to enroll.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn November 21, 2023