Student Profile

Renee DeMaio

Why did you choose the DSAN program at GU? 

I chose the DSAN program at Georgetown because it was the perfect next step to fully embrace my love of data and numbers. Since I was young, I’ve always made sense of the world through patterns. Taking my first statistics class in high school introduced me to data in an organized format, and solidified that it was data that helped me get a more comprehensive look into the patterns that I liked to observe as a kid. 

DSAN specifically was the right choice for me because I was able to enroll in the accelerated program. Having lost my first year of college to Covid, I felt like staying at Georgetown for a little more time would allow me to get the full Georgetown experience I was looking for. DSAN’s faculty were more than welcoming from the beginning of the application process and they were so willing to help me explore my interests, so every interaction with them made me excited to apply. 

As an accelerated student, you are finishing up your majors in Chinese Language and Literature, and Mathematics while completing your first year of your master’s degree!! What inspired you to pursue these seemingly diverse subjects?

I definitely have an odd education background! The major in Chinese Language and Literature is probably the one that throws people off the most. I spent all of my life in Asia, more specifically Hong Kong and Singapore, before moving to the United States to attend university. Mandarin was always in my schooling, starting from the age of 4, so it felt important to me to continue that, especially as I navigated moving across the world and away from any cultural familiarity I had. Particularly in a time like Covid, where I was unsure when I would be able to return home but knew it would be a while, staying connected to the things that made me feel like me was really important, so I stuck close to Chinese. 

However, just Chinese didn’t fully satisfy my brain, so I decided to pursue math as well. Math had the patterns that Chinese lacks and doing both helped me feel challenged in all the right ways academically. I found early on that my brain always worked well with numbers and patterns, and I always enjoyed the systematic nature of math in school. I took a statistics class in high school and loved when I could apply those systems to analyze patterns in the data I was analyzing. Learning about different populations and topics through methods that clicked with my brain is what made math really fun for me and is what made me pursue data science. 

Who had the greatest influence on your career path/education path?

My high school AP Statistics teacher, Mr. Hamilton, has had the greatest influence on my education path. I took his class in my senior year of high school, 2019-2020, which was a hard year for Hong Kong in many ways. In 2019, the pro-democracy protests filled all of our lives. It was a complicated time for me emotionally. It was really hard to see the city I love so much go through so much turmoil, and all the places I played as a little girl filled with such vivid conflict. But at the same time, it was really empowering to get to see so many Hong Kong people standing together and to stand with them. The routine of school was nice in a time of chaos. But then Covid hit Hong Kong in January of 2020 and it felt like a 1-2 punch in some ways. Mr. Hamilton’s class routine and positive outlook never wavered, which felt comforting. He was always someone who encouraged my learning and who I know cared about me as a person, not just as a student, which is something that became more clear during online school. 

Nine months or so after I graduated from high school, I sent Mr. Hamilton an email because I saw something that reminded me of him. We continued to stay in contact over email through these past four years. In every email he asked so many questions about my life, my education, and my ambitions, and regardless of whatever stream-of-consciousness answer I gave him, he always responded with support. Even after all these years, he still makes me feel incredibly seen, in a way that I know is so genuine because of who he is as a person. Having someone believe in me so unwaveringly has given me so much confidence that what I’m doing is right for me, no matter how my plans may change.

How do you hope to pursue your interest in professional sports, and social justice and human rights issues, as you move forward in your career?

My interests are definitely all over the place but I think the diversity of them allows me to not be set on doing one type of work. The one thing that ties them together is an element of gender dynamics. For professional sports, I love watching and supporting women’s sports and if I were to pursue a career in professional sports, I’d want to work to advance women’s sports. 

As for social justice and human rights issues, the issues I care a lot about are women’s issues. Recently, I’ve been more interested in the biomedical aspects of women’s issues, particularly how medical data can be biased towards cis-gendered men. Moving forward in my career, I am interested in pursuing a career in biostatistics or working with biomedical data that focuses on women and non-binary individuals, to ensure that there is fair representation of every gender in the biomedical field. 

What is your favorite class in the DSAN program so far?

As an accelerated student, I’ve had a bit of a different path than non-accelerated students, so I’ve only taken two DSAN classes: DSAN 5000 and DSAN 5100. I think out of the two, my favorite so far has been DSAN 5000 because of how much progress I got to see myself make in the course of a semester. I started out knowing close to nothing, and by the end of the semester, I ended up producing a project I was proud of. The DSAN 5000 project is one that helps you to look back on all the skills that you’ve developed over the course of the semester, so it was a great first class to start with for me to stay encouraged. 

Any advice you’d give prospective students?

Be patient with yourself as you learn. I got really frustrated to begin with because my assignments were taking much longer than I thought they would, and because I didn’t understand as quickly as I wanted to. Data science, particularly the coding aspects of it, is something that takes practice and a determination to succeed when the code doesn’t work out quite right. Patience, both with yourself and with your computer, as well as starting assignments as early as possible, will help you succeed.  

What would people be surprised to learn about you? 

A lot of people would be surprised to know that I spent all of my life in Asia before moving to the United States for university and that I speak fluent Mandarin! My family has lived and currently live in Hong Kong and we spent a number of years in Singapore too. Mandarin was always in my schooling, starting from the age of 4 when I started pre-school, so being able to speak it is immensely important to me. Growing up there and getting to call these two places my home has been and will continue to be the greatest privilege of my life. 

Favorite way to spend your free time?

The thing I look forward to the most in my free time is reading. I spend most of my breaks doing that. I always read a copious amount of books over school holidays, I think I read 8 over last winter break and read four in four days over spring break. I also love buying books but have forced myself to pause until my reading can catch up with my buying. Apart from reading, I dance a lot! I am on two dance teams at Georgetown: Ritmo y Sabor, a Latin dance team which I co-direct, and Groove Theory, a hip-hop team. I’ve been dancing since I was a little girl but the most fun I’ve had in my dance career has been at Georgetown. I’ve also recently taught myself how to crochet which has been very fun, I have just finished my first two projects which was a headband for myself and another for my sister!

If you could have any superpower what would it be, and why?

If I had a superpower, I would definitely want to speak every language. I always find myself wishing that I could speak more languages to be able to understand and to connect with more people. I think I’d also enjoy shocking people by speaking the language. No one looking at me would assume I speak Mandarin so it’s really funny to me to watch people’s reactions to them when I respond to them in Mandarin.