2017-18 Alumni Notes Graduation Years 1993-2004
Nicole (Walterman) Leighton
I have been working in the aerospace and defense industry in Southern California doing data analytics and cost estimation for Air Force space programs for almost 15 years now. This past year I had the new opportunity to manage our group, which oversees the cost for all space satellite and launch programs, so it has been fun to learn new aspects of the industry.
I love living in the South Bay and all the outdoor amenities this place has to offer. Two crazy kids and one crazy dog keep me busy in my free time.
Laine (Elliot) Thomas
Since graduating, I earned my doctorate at North Carolina State in 2009 and have been an assistant professor in the Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Department at Duke ever since. I do a lot of research in cardiology and am assistant editor for statistics at the Journal of the American Medical Association Cardiology. I’m interested in methods for causal inference in longitudinal data, particularly Medicare claims data and electronic health records. I love living in Raleigh, N.C., for the great restaurants, art community, music venues etc. The cultural life here is awesome! My parents and brother moved to Raleigh four years ago, and I spend a lot of time with my son (eight years old) and nieces (two and five years old).
I am currently in my second year working toward my master’s in biostatistics at CSU East Bay, while also doing data validation for Genentech.
I am still teaching psychology and statistics courses (over 10 years now!), but I have taken on a couple of newer jobs. I am doing some applied work as a social worker for the State of Arizona (in the Phoenix area), and I help my husband out with an estate auction business. In my free time (not sure when that is), I have taken up aquascaping and gaming as hobbies.
The last year has been very exciting for me both professionally and personally. I started down the path of higher education in 1997, not knowing exactly where it would take me. I am rather proud that I went from zero degrees to applying for promotion to full professor here at Cal Poly in fall 2017. And, it only took me 20 years to make it happen! I am now almost out of professional goals since I have no intention of becoming a dean, administrator or otherwise (department chair doesn't count in these categories though). However, my nonexistent free time is consumed with many great things including working for Wells Fargo, working on my house, spending time with my family, working with Chef Everett Loyd Walcott III at Sea Venture and Vina Robles Amphitheater, and attending NASCAR races as much as I can (I saw four last year). Observe the frequency of free-time tasks that begin with the word working.
It has been a busy 20 years since I graduated from Cal Poly. After graduation I entered the doctoral program in biostatistics at the University of Washington. (Professor Jay Devore was critical in helping me choose a graduate program and I am eternally grateful.) I earned my doctorate in 2003 and accepted my first faculty position at the University of Chicago that year. Shortly thereafter, I was given the opportunity to move back to California and join the newly developed Statistics Department at UC Irvine. It has been a great experience as we have grown the department here from just three faculty members to 12 while also developing an undergraduate degree in data science and both a master’s and doctoral degree in statistics. We continue to grow, and each year I am amazed by the talented and energetic students that come to our department. We have had a few students from Cal Poly, but we always want more! In 2016 I became chair and am currently enjoying my role. It is rewarding to be an advocate for our field, my colleagues and our students. My time at Cal Poly instilled a true appreciation for paying it forward, and I hope to continue to do so.
I have focused on the professional side, but of course family comes first. In 2002 I married my longtime love, Lilli, and we have two daughters, Elise and Sienna. Amazingly, the girls are now 10 and eight years old. Time flies! We love biking and hiking together, and the girls are active in softball, soccer and gymnastics. Every summer, Lilli and I make a point of taking the girls on vacation to San Luis Obispo where they get to hear about all of our wonderful experiences at Cal Poly. We secretly hope both will attend and we’ll have even more reason to visit in the future.
I am in my 17th year as a research professor in the Biostatistics Department at the University of Southern California. My main research continues to be the development and analysis of clinical trials for kids with cancer, specifically acute myeloid leukemia. I can’t believe I have a child doing the college search. Where does the time go?
Since my last update, I decided to take a one-year sabbatical from working. I moved back to the U.S. at the end of 2016, and in 2017, I spent three months in the Philippines doing some consulting work, helping to establish the first credit bureau scores in the country along with my former employer, FICO. While in Asia, I had the opportunity to visit Thailand and Australia and snorkeled at the Great Barrier Reef. Afterwards, I spent a few months traveling through Spain (visiting all the beaches), Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy and Mexico. To ring in 2018, I will be in Spain and Malta. Hopefully, the batteries will be recharged in 2018 and I’ll reenter the work force. This is my second sabbatical in my career. If you have an opportunity to do so, taking a long break from working is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself.