PODS Spotlight: Emily Xing

Hello everyone! I’m Emily. I recently graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Sciences in Psychology, and a minor in Sociology. During my time at McGill, I had the opportunity to build a student run mental health service and conduct research in various labs spanning the fields of social psychiatry and cognitive neuroscience. These experiences provoked an interest in using knowledge translation to improve service accessibility – participating in PODS has paved the way for pursuing this passion even further.

In my first year at McGill University, I noticed many of my peers were struggling with mental health issues. I wanted to help, so I got involved with the newly founded Peer Support Centre (PSC) – a student-run service providing other students with a safe space to talk one-on-one about anything on their minds. One of the pitfalls of being a new service is that even if people wanted to use it, they didn’t know how. During my time at PSC, I worked in marketing the service and subsequently spearheading the development in my fourth year. We took an evidence based approach to understanding student needs in regards to how, when, and where they wanted to experience support, in order to expand our services accordingly.

This was my first introduction to witnessing how rigorous data collection, user assessment, and statistical analysis could be used to gleam meaningful insights that were actionable in affecting change within my local community. In my ~3.5 years with PSC, I watched a small organization of under 30 volunteers conduct ~20-30 support sessions in a school year grow to a team of 70, supporting almost 700 times between 2016-2018. Since being involved in PSC, I’ve developed an appreciation for the necessity of robust research methodologies to better communicate information, innovate, and improve accessibility for health services.

My time at PSC ultimately led me to my participation in the PODS program. Recognizing the demand for skills in manipulating and analyzing data, I was interested in developing my programming abilities further this summer. Through PODS, I’ve gained a new proficiency in statistical programming as well as breaking down data to find important relationships for complex policy problems. Currently, I’m interning at Data Sciences, Inc., a digital marketing analytics firm. My project has focused on developing a communications tool for presenting actionable insights from marketing data to the marketing team.

Following PODS, I hope to translate these skills in data science to service design and user research. Beyond data science, I’ve been learning about life, entering the Real World, and bonding with an incredible group of driven, passionate individuals. This summer has given me more than I could ask for – PODS is truly the highlight and the absolute best experience to end my four years at McGill.

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