Summer course at Harvard University

20 July 2020

Emmanuelle took part in a Statistics and Modelling summer course at Harvard University. Read on for more information about her experience of a short term placement.


I took part in the Intermediate Statistics and Modelling summer course at Harvard University in Boston. This course covers all the fundamentals in statistical analysis with a focus on how to apply these tools in real-word studies for instance in psychology. I also had training in using SPSS software in complement to lectures and tutorials.

I found that this course does a great job at providing skills on how to conduct experiments and analyse data sets as well as giving an appreciation of the right statistical tests to use depending on the characteristics of the data collected. I completed my Bachelor in Natural Sciences with a major in Neuroscience at UCL. A good handle of statistics is necessary in neuroscience research in order to analyse and interpret the results from experiments. I believe that this course has given me good skills and confidence to pursue with my master project next year and PhD in the future. I also developed communication skills when working in teams. We were often split in small groups to complete tasks. Our investigation and the thought process helped us to get a deeper understanding of the topics.

What I found quite challenging at first was to adapt to the American educational system. There is not a big difference compared to the UK but the out of class reading is key to understand the lecture content. An emphasis was made on reading and understanding chapters from recommended books and articles before coming to lectures so that the lecture was also an opportunity for students to ask specific questions or to ask further explanations in addition to the ones given in recommended readings. I eventually liked this way of learning as it offers a precious time to interact with the professor and strengthen your understanding of the topics.

I would recommend this course to students willing to go into research and who have a scientific background in any field. The knowledge in statistics that you will acquire goes more in depth than the theory and you will benefit from computer practicals. The PhD students presenting the sections are also a great help to explain the challenging topics. 

This experience has provided me with a different perspective of the statistics I learnt at university. I have a clearer idea of the challenges that statisticians met when carrying large scale studies. I feel more confident in undertaking my own research. I also discovered a vibrant and cosmopolitan city where it is pleasant to live. The numerous green spaces and the river crossing the city makes you forgive that you are in a big city.  The people I met were all very supportive and I did not have any difficulty to settle in. Moreover, the students taking part in this course regularly organised socials in the weekends so there was a real feeling of unity and we got to know each other better. I was glad to be introduced to a new culture and the people I had the chance to meet surprised me with their open-mindedness and ambition.

By: Emmanuelle Bourigault