Currently in the process of completing her PhD at McMaster University, with her PhD research focusing on measuring concordance of time-to-event models, Samantha-Jo Caetano will be joining U of T’s Department of Statistical Sciences as an assistant professor, teaching stream, in July of 2020. Over the last four years she has lectured and coordinated multiple large first and second year statistics courses at both the University of Toronto (Mississauga) and McMaster University. She is passionate about statistical outreach and improving student mental health, and has hosted multiple statistical workshops, partnered with WISE (Women in Science & Engineering), for high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. Her most recent workshop focused on the usage of relative risk to assess the point source of epidemiological outbreaks.
U of T Statistical Sciences: Congrats on your new role within U of T’s Department of Statistical Sciences! What made you interested in U of T and the Stats Department?
Thanks! I am really excited to start the position!
I mean, quite a few things drew me to U of T’s Department of Statistical Sciences. Like I said, I grew up in Toronto and really love the city. In 2015, the Economist ranked Toronto the best city to live in in the world and I completely agree (although my opinion is slightly biased). So of course, I would love to teach at the University named after the city. Plus U of T is internationally known, so it’s an honour to be able to be a part of the faculty here.
Based on my educational background I am very interested and passionate about statistics and pedagogy, so the Department of Statistical Sciences was an obvious choice for me. Plus, the department has a really strong teaching stream team, which is what probably drew me in the most! The department and university have fantastic educational, technological and statistical resources that I am eager to learn more about!
U of T is internationally known, so it’s an honour to be able to be part of the faculty here. […] Plus, the department has a really strong teaching stream team, which is what probably drew me in the most!
Can you tell us a bit more about your background?
I was born and raised in Toronto (Dufferin & Bloor area) and have lived in the GTA most of my life. Both my parents are Canadian (also born and raised in Toronto). My dad’s side comes from the Azores (Portugal) and my mom’s side is from East Coast Canada. I have family in Newfoundland, PEI, and Nova Scotia. I have a younger sister who is a social worker, and works with the homeless and other vulnerable populations, and two extra large family dogs (each dog weighs over 160 lbs).
Education-wise I completed my undergraduate degree at University of Toronto (Mississauga) with a double major in Applied Statistics and Mathematics. I then completed my Master’s degree in Statistics at McMaster University and am now in the process of completing my PhD in Statistics at McMaster as well. I am pretty involved in the McMaster community. I am currently co-president of the Math & Stats Grad Society and founded a Math & Stats Education Club!
What courses will you be teaching this Fall?
STA130H1 and STA304H1
What about teaching makes you passionate?
Statistics is ubiquitous to science and it is fun to relay its importance to other people and to hear about other people’s experiences with the subject.
The other thing is that I’m a huge advocate of mental health. Students can find themselves under a lot of pressure with school, work, family, finances, etc., which can lead to overall poor mental health. I think it’s important that I do my part in helping others when possible. Planning/promoting social events for students, making my courses accessible and making sure to be welcoming can positively influence my students lives, which inadvertently will have a positive influence on my own life.
Another great perk of being an educator, for me, is outreach! I really enjoy outreach and promoting females in STEM fields. I have hosted multiple workshops for middle school, high school, and undergraduate students and enjoy showing them this applied mathematical field. I have done hypothesis tests with Smarties and worked through simulation techniques with kids as young as 10.
I’m a huge advocate of mental health. Students can find themselves under a lot of pressure […]. I think it’s important that I do my part in helping others when possible.
Can you tell us about your research?
My PhD research focuses on statistical issues that arise in cancer data. Generally, in cancer research you are interested in time of diagnosis until some event (recovery, tumor growth, death etc.). These timelines are influential in making treatment decisions, assessing screening results, and identifying risk factors. My research focuses on validating statistical models used in cancer research studies.
Pedagogically, I am interested in informing my students, and the general public, regarding the issues of unreliable data and misinformation. Statistics are used to influence decisions regarding medicine, government policy, psychology, marketing, the list goes on. It is imperative that people check their facts and understand how these statistics are derived and if they are appropriate and reliable prior to using them to make decisions. We are in the midst of a global pandemic and constantly being bombarded by information and statistics, and the information is constantly changing. So now, more than ever, is it essential that people get their information from reliable sources and understand what the information means.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic and the information is constantly changing. So now, more than ever, is it essential that people […] understand what the information means.
What do you hope to accomplish in your tenure at U of T?
I just really look forward to sharing my knowledge of this fascinating subject, of statistics, with others, and learn more about the subject, too.
An overall goal of mine is to help update the current high school curriculum, by developing and promoting a “data science and statistics” type course at the high school level!
Do you have some fun facts about yourself you could share?
Yes! I am an amateur unicyclist.
I also enjoy painting, watching The Office and spending time with my dogs!