ASA Travel Fund Winners Talk Awards, CSP 2023

Nikhil Tarigonda

The ASA Student and Early Career Travel Fund provides merit and financial need–based monetary support for students and early-career professionals to attend ASA-sponsored conferences, such as the Conference on Statistical Practice, so they can engage with and become active participants in the statistical community. These awards, largely funded by ASA member donations, help supplement recipients’ conference costs, including registration fees and travel and accommodation expenses. Here, Lydia Gibson, former JEDI Outreach Group Student and Young Professionals Committee co-chair, interviews students who were able to attend the 2023 Conference on Statistical Practice because of awards from the ASA Student and Early Career Travel Fund.

Kotomi Oda

Nikhil Tarigonda is a second-year graduate student in statistics with a concentration in data science at California State University, East Bay. Tarigonda is a former officer of the university’s ASA student chapter. His goal is to become a data scientist for a major firm.

Kotomi Oda is a second-year, master’s-level graduate student at California State University, East Bay. Driven and ambitious, Oda is cofounder and former treasurer of the ASA student chapter. Oda also has a passion for making a positive impact on developing countries and is eager to contribute to meaningful change. In her free time, she enjoys discovering new ramen shops and boba places.

Alicia Alvarez

Alicia Alvarez is a third-year undergraduate student in statistics with a concentration in data science at California State University, East Bay. She is also a recruitment committee co-chair of the CSU East Bay student chapter of the ASA, organizing recruitment efforts and motivating new members to join.

Tell me about what brought you to your current statistics degree program.

Alicia: I was a business administration major going through the motions of taking lower-division business courses and found myself unmotivated and unchallenged. After re-evaluating, I discovered I was drawn to more quantitative subjects, particularly working with data. I took my first statistical inference class and fell in love. I quickly changed my major to statistics and never looked back.

Kotomi: I studied economics in my undergraduate, then worked in business development at an investment bank after graduation. During my daily tasks, I started working closely with numbers and data. At the time, I understood the economic and political aspects, but I started feeling that I wanted to know more about the statistical side, too, so I could understand different points of view. I also enjoy math, so I decided to pursue my masters degree in statistics.

Nikhil: I worked as a data science consultant for about two years. To enhance my skills in the field of data science and machine learning, I started pursuing a master’s in statistics.

What made you want to join the ASA student chapter at your university?

Alicia: As I was new to the field of statistics, I wanted a way to be part of the community outside the classroom. I needed a way to get to know other students with similar interests and begin networking, and it seemed like the perfect fit. After getting to know my fellow club members, I was approached about becoming an officer and could not pass up the opportunity.

Kotomi: At first, I found out about it from my classmates. They wanted to build a statistics community for anyone on campus to join. As an international student, I didn’t have many friends, so joining this community helped me a lot in not only making new friends but also studying for classes together, helping each other with networking with professionals, and a lot more.

Nikhil: The events organized at my university by the ASA student chapter and diverse community who are always proactive got my interest.

Was CSP your first time attending a professional conference? What expectations did you have before attending?

Alicia: Yes, CSP was my first time attending a professional conference and, as an undergraduate student, I can honestly say I was somewhat intimidated but that quickly dissipated as I began meeting and talking with other attendees. The welcome I experienced was wonderful, and I never felt out of place.

Kotomi: Yes, CSP was my first professional conference that I attended in person. Honestly, I didn’t have any expectations as I never attended any conferences before, but I was hoping to get to know people who are working in the industry, as I am looking for an opportunity to work as a statistician/data scientist after I graduate.

Nikhil: CSP was my first time attending a professional conference. I had certain expectations to know more about statistics used in corporate settings, and the conference offered more than what I expected.

What were the three biggest takeaways you had from attending CSP?


  1. It is never too early to begin attending professional conferences. The opportunities and experiences can be life changing.
  2. Being around so many smart and talented individuals in the field is tremendously motivating.
  3. You must always be learning and evolving in the field of statistics and that, in itself, is inspiring.


  1. The power of networking.
  2. Got to know how professionals are currently using statistics in their daily work.
  3. Memory that I could attend with fellow ASA student chapter members at my university.


  1. Ethics in statistical practice.
  2. Importance of statistical analysis plan.
  3. Foundations of listening and communication skills in statistics.

Has this experience made you want to be more involved in the larger ASA community?

Alicia: Yes, definitely. At CSP, I was able to make invaluable connections with so many amazing mentors and meet professionals from all over the world. In fact, I landed my first summer internship because of CSP, which would not have been possible without being part of the ASA community.

Kotomi: Yes. I really had a great experience talking with people, and I felt a warm welcome. One day when I start working in the field, I will be grateful if I can be a guide to those who just started their career in statistics.

Nikhil: This experience has certainly made me broaden my knowledge and understanding of statistics. I want to be more involved in the larger community, and I am willing to attend any event organized by ASA.