Elise Rosa, Ph.D. is a graduate of our Cognitive Psychology program in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. She is now a Data Scientist in Denver, Colorado with a financial services company.

Graduating with her Ph.D. in 2015, Elise spent her time at UNC Chapel Hill under the mentorship of Dr. Jennifer Arnold, a Full Professor in our Cognitive Psychology program. Choosing a doctoral program can often be challenging, but Elise chose UNC to work with Dr. Arnold and because of the Cognitive program’s expertise in psycholinguistics. “I was very excited to work with Jennifer – her research was (and still is!) very interesting to me,” says Elise. “I was also inspired by her work ethic, curiosity, and enthusiasm. In her laboratory, I had the freedom and support to pursue questions that were interesting to me and I was able to develop novel research paradigms. We also had two language labs in the Cognitive program – Dr. Peter Gordon was another great resource for me, full of practical information and friendly competition.” Within these two language laboratories, Elise found that faculty and graduate students alike enjoyed a robust community for psycholinguistics-based classes and discussion.

Currently, Elise is a data scientist with a financial services company. In her role as a data scientist, she uses data to help inform decision-making about sales activities. She also helps to develop processes to encourage quality experimentation across the company. Elise explains, “The data science team is a new capability within the company, so it feels like a small ‘start-up’ within a larger, more established company.” Her first position after graduate school was as a data scientist at Uber. “I worked with city teams in Latin America to design, execute, and analyze experiments on rider and driver behavior,” she says. “I also built tools to scale experimentation and data analysis, and partnered with the Uber Eats’ product team to segment users of that product.”

Elise graduated with her doctoral degree in Cognitive Psychology, but also completed the Department’s Formal Concentration in Quantitative Psychology. “The formal concentration in Quantitative Psychology has proved invaluable in both of my post-graduate school positions,” shares Elise. “Other skills I honed, such as critical thinking and good experimental design, have remained extremely useful. There is a large teaching component in my work, to guide people through experiment design and thinking about the results – so the teaching experience I gained has had many practical applications as well.”

Not every doctoral student chooses a career in academia – in fact, many of our alumni go on to have prestigious careers in applied research settings in non-profit organizations and the private sector, like Elise’s career in the data sciences. Elise shares, “I chose to pursue a career outside of academia because I was excited about applying my experimentation and statistical skills to new industries in real-world settings. I enjoy dealing with the unique challenges that arise when balancing experimental rigor with business considerations. Regardless of the industry, it has been a fun challenge to translate the best practices I learned at UNC to the business problems I’ve encountered.”

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