Posted on May 10, 2021 by Wendy Frost

Finding beauty in math and statistics, Saba Banihashemi will graduate this summer with a master’s of science degree in statistics and data science from the UTSA Carlos Alvarez College of Business.

Saba Banihashemi

“With math, it has that beauty—it is so logical and always has one specific answer,” she said.

While math has always been her favorite subject, she wasn’t initially able to pursue her passion. “Because of the culture in my country, it was not considered an appropriate major for a woman,” said Banihashemi, who received her bachelor’s degree in architecture in Iran.

Knowing that she needed to make a change, she decided to move to the United States to follow her dreams. Beginning as an architecture student, she pursued an associate’s degree in mathematics at Northwest Vista in order to determine what math specialty interested her the most. She soon discovered that applied math was the field for her.

“UTSA had the best program that I could find,” said Banihashemi, who was named a Distinguished Graduate Student in the college. “The program was not just theory, but it taught something tangible that you can use in everyday life.”

Offered a teaching assistantship, she was able to focus full time on her studies. She was assigned to work in the college’s tutoring center—the HUB. Supporting business undergraduates taking management science and statistics courses, she conducted tutoring sessions and exam review sessions.

“By teaching the fundamentals of statistics to undergraduates, it makes you even more confident about your skills,” she said. “It strengthened what I knew. That is why I loved doing the job. It helped me improve my learning.”

Banihashemi found the initial theoretical courses difficult, but credited faculty members Keying Ye and Wenbo Wu with providing her with a solid understanding of the basics. With the theories behind her, she soon progressed to learning more applied skills using machine learning and data mining.

“I was always intimidated by programming in general,” she said. “This program taught us how to code using programs such as SAS and R. That is the most important skill that I’ve learned because programming is valued by employers.”

Thinking ahead to her future, Banihashemi participated in workshops and networking events hosted by the college’s Center for Student Professional Development. She received assistance with her resume and participated in coffee conversations with various employers. “After COVID it got more difficult to network, but I tried to participate as much as I could,” she said.

Following graduation she is interested in finding full-time work in the data science industry and gaining some work experience before pursuing a Ph.D. in statistics.

“I love that this program was so holistic,” she said. “It doesn’t just focus on theories. I gained the programming skills that I need to work in data analytics and the solid theoretical base to pursue a Ph.D. program.”

— Wendy Frost