Howard Baek

Howard Baek

  • Program: MS Capstone
  • Year Entered Program: 2021
  • Advisor: Noah Simon
  • Undergraduate degree: Statistics (minor in Mathematics)

When Howard Baek started the UW Biostatistics MS Capstone Program, he wanted to pursue a career as a data scientist or biostatistician. Through coursework and real-world experience, he found his interests lie in supporting researchers as a software engineer.

What are your future goals? 

When I started the program, I wanted to become a data scientist or biostatistician, but that plan has changed. My immediate future goal is to become a well-rounded software engineer so I may support researchers, data scientists, and biostatisticians in their work, creating statistical tools mainly in R, but also other languages like Python, Javascript, CSS, HTML, and C++. 

As a student, you were able to gain real-world experience by working at Merck. How did this opportunity come about?

At the end of 2021, a biostatistician at Merck noticed my public work on GitHub and my blog and contacted me with an opportunity to work part-time with the company, contributing to internal R packages and Shiny applications. Since the beginning of 2022, I've contributed new features to internal R packages that have helped hundreds of Merck biostatisticians with their work. This part-time work then led me to a summer internship at Merck, where I created an open-source R package for querying the database for an intervention or condition term(s). 

Tell us more about the job you secured working with Dr. Jeff Leek at Fred Hutch.

I am a Software Development Engineer I. I learned about the position on Twitter, then applied online and went through several rounds of  behavioral interviews with the team. In my role, I will be maintaining and developing OTTR (Open-source Tools for Training Resources), which is a free, open-source tool for creating online courses to be published on multiple platforms such as Coursera and Leanpub. 

What advice would you give to a student who is considering the MS capstone program?

My advice would be to work on problems you find interesting and promote your work. For example, if you are working on a statistical method, write a paper or a blog post and give a talk so people can understand what you worked on. If you wrote an R package or a Shiny app, then put your code on GitHub and spread the word on Twitter or LinkedIn. I believe that the right people are always watching and will give you opportunities that you would never have imagined. 

Published: January 24, 2023