Drew University Alum Comes Back to The Forest as Adjunct Professor

Elizabeth Pemberton C’16 to teach data visualization course

January 2022 – Elizabeth Pemberton C’16 is coming back to her alma mater not as a traditional young alum visiting the old stomping grounds, but as an adjunct professor.

Pemberton, a physics major at Drew, earned a master of science in applied mathematics and statistics after graduating, and is currently pursuing a PhD in data science. While earning her PhD, Pemberton worked as a data scientist with GeoPhy, Disney Streaming, and a stealth mode startup, all in New York City.

So, what brings an industry professional getting her PhD back to The Forest?

“I’m excited to work with students again—it’s always fun to help students learn and understand new material. Teaching will also be a great way to improve my own skills while handling the unexpected and thinking quickly on my feet. Lastly, data science has severe diversity problems with lasting consequences on the technology it’s used to create, so as a Black woman, I’m eager to show students that the field is truly for everyone and benefits from more varied, representative perspectives.”

Pemberton discussed her own path at Drew, which included a change in majors that led to a change in her career path.

“Originally, I wanted to become a doctor and I was drawn to Drew because of the neuroscience major and pre-med track,” she said.

“The summer before my first year, I did neuroscience research with Minjoon Kouh, associate professor of physics and neuroscience, who thankfully ended up becoming my advisor. After talking with him, I switched my major to physics, and ended up using the math skills from the major when I was earning my masters in applied math and statistics. Eventually, I transitioned to data science as my career.”

Pemberton noted several mentors at Drew as having made particularly important impacts on her academic and career paths.

After switching her plans of becoming a doctor to becoming a statistician early on, she had one more switch left, which she made after Kouh introduced her to the field of data science. Pemberton also mentioned Sarah Abramowitz, chair and John H. Evans professor of mathematics and computer science, for “her description of the introductory statistics course as more of a language course than a math course, which always stuck with me.”

Pemberton lauded the research opportunities at Drew, including her independent study in statistics with RISE fellow John Kettenring, which was the final factor in her deciding to pursue statistics further.

She offered two final shout outs to Chris Apelian, professor of mathematics, and Emily Hill, associate professor of computer science, for their probability and python programming courses, respectively.

“I developed totally new ways of thinking in those courses and they were invaluable during grad school!”

Now, Pemberton will bring those lessons and skills learned with her as she reenters the classrooms of Drew University—this time, at the front of the class.

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