Freshmen celebrate Pardis Sabeti


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The freshmen class is smitten with Pardis Sabeti after she appeared in many instructional videos for statistics.

Natalie Zhang and Sadhana Suri

“I swear to uphold the name of Pardis Sabeti, even when faced against all odds, and to make statistics count to the best of my ability.”

Students of the Class of 2018 were the first to be required to take a new course, Research Statistics 1, where students study statistics and probability. In this class, they were instructed to watch the instructional video series called “Against All Odds,” which uses real-life scenarios to explain important statistical concepts. A woman named Pardis Sabeti narrated these videos, and instantly, freshmen were hooked by both the videos and the narrator.

“Pardis Sabeti really shows you can apply stats into real life, more so than just calculating standard deviation,” freshman Wendy Yin said. “She shows you the actual application on how it helps you in life.”

Freshmen quickly warmed up to the idea of applying math to concrete situations, and even more so with analysis from Sabeti, a computational biologist, medical/evolutionary geneticist and associate professor at Harvard University. Her recent project involves leading a group of scientists in charge of analyzing the genetics of Ebola samples. The group’s goal is to pinpoint the animal source of the disease.

It wasn’t long before the idea for a fan club dedicated to many freshmen’s favorite statistician sprung up. The oath is what members must abide to once they join the fan club.

“I thought it was fun to be excited about something that everyone in the freshmen class knew about, especially because we all take the same course and watch the same videos,” freshman Robert Kim, one of the founders of the Pardis Sabeti Fan Committee (PSFC) on Facebook, said.

Currently, there are over 200 members in the PSFC, many of who are eager to show their appreciation for Sabeti, hoping to invite her to tjSTAR next year.

“She’s a college professor at Harvard, she’s gone to MIT, and she’s done a lot of successful stuff,” Yin said. “She’s one of the top women scientists here, and given that TJ’s a STEM school, she would be a good guest speaker here.”

Sabeti has become a favorite figure within the freshmen class, and most find her videos interesting and humorous, just as Jefferson students view Bozeman Science videos.

“I really like the nerdy statistics jokes,” freshman Mariam Khan said. “She explains statistics pretty well, and she does a lot of community work outside of that, so if she came here I think she could spread the word about being academic and helping the community at the same time.”

Sabeti has been considered a “saving grace” in and out of class for students who take Research Statistics this year.

“It’s kind of like Mr. Anderson from Bozeman Science on YouTube; he saves our butts in bio in the same why Pardis Sabeti keeps us alive and awake in research stats,” Hwang said. “She keeps us alive by saving us from our parents because of our grades, and her videos are really informative.”

However, the effect of club took a sharp turn downhill when people began to take the club to an extreme, and broke some of the rules.

“There was a lot of spam, especially with memes,” freshman Aditya Sarkar said. “When we tried to bring Pardis Sabeti to tjSTAR as a guest speaker for next year, one of the administrators said we couldn’t contact her directly, and that we had to go through TJ to contact her, and that was a problem.”

Not to mention that earlier, members of the committee tried to have elections for president, vice president, board members and other positions to keep themselves organized, but another subset organization called the Bread Party interfered. The Bread Party, a group created by students within the committee with the motto “A slice of a slice,” began to disrupt activity in the PSFC. Some students were discouraged by the chaos within the committee, and left.

“There were too many spam messages, and we were going too far, as in we weren’t supposed to contact Pardis Sabeti directly, and we were supposed to go through school or some other legal way,” Choi said. “There were other groups, such as the Bread Party, which was just supposed to be another funny group formed by students.”

Despite the disruptions in the PSFC, members currently in the committee, and even those who left, still support bringing her to tjSTAR, hopefully by next year.

“Even though I don’t like the committee anymore, I think the idea of bringing Pardis Sabeti to tjSTAR is a good idea. It’d be really cool,” Hwang said.

Freshmen are also beginning to generate ideas about how they would fundraise for Sabeti’s trip to tjSTAR.

“Some people suggested that we should have a t-shirt fundraiser, since people said they want to buy them if they can,” Kim said.

The PSFC still exists on Facebook, though activity has decreased over the past week. However, members still believe there can be a way for the committee to focus on its previous purposes: bring Sabeti to tjSTAR, share ideas and work related to her, discuss statistics and have a good time.

“It gets pretty intense sometimes, but it’s fun, and it shows the TJ passion for believing in what they want to believe in; they’re not influenced by anyone else like in other schools,” Khan said. “They have a passion for liking Pardis Sabeti, so they show it.”