Our Bridge to a Doctorate in Data Sciences

Class Of 49 Bridge Large 1

The Challenge

How can Wharton implement innovative teaching methods that empower talented individuals by enhancing their opportunities in data-driven professions?


The Audience

Candidates passionate about data analytics who are seeking to enhance their skills for successful entry into competitive PhD programs.

The Background

A new program in Wharton’s Department of Statistics and Data Science offers advanced coursework and research experience for students who hope to earn a PhD but need additional preparation for admission to a statistics doctoral program.  The Bridge to a Doctorate Program in Statistics and Data Science is a two-year research master’s (MA) degree program which includes tuition, fees, health insurance, and stipend.

The program provides strong mentorship and a learning environment dedicated to teaching methods of statistical modeling for effective decision making. Bridge Fellows work with faculty on individualized curricula based on their research interests and goals.

Dylan Small, the Universal Furniture Professor and Chair of Statistics and Data Sciences, developed the program, which he co-directs with Nancy R. Zhang, the Ge Li and Ning Zhao Professor of Statistics and Data Science and Vice Dean of Wharton’s Doctoral Programs. Together, both professors tailored the Stat Bridge MA for students who have the talent, but not necessarily the mentorship opportunities, resources, or coursework for academic success at the doctoral level in the past.

Tiny but mighty, the inaugural Stats Bridge Team chats on Penn's Locust Walk. Pictured from left to right is Professor Nancy Zhang, Fellows Emma Ross and Nimo Ismail, and Professor Dylan Small. (Image: Hoag Levins/LDI)

The Process

Committed to the Stat Bridge Program’s success, Small and Zhang devoted significant efforts towards work that included curricular design, the development of digital and administrative infrastructure, and recruiting efforts to the best-and-brightest candidates for this new initiative.

Both Small and Zhang cite strong support and encouragement from Wharton’s Dean, Erika James and Deputy Dean, Nancy Rothbard in making this program possible. The program’s inaugural Fellows, Emma Ross and Nimo Ismail, began their two-year MA candidacy at Wharton in Fall 2023, both driven by a shared pursuit of academic excellence and breaking barriers in the field of statistics.

“I am looking forward to gaining research experience and building connections with others in the field.  I know that I need quality support to prepare for a PhD program; and I’m excited for this opportunity,” reflects Ismail.

“Our program seeks to help students fully tap into their potential, and to ensure that we continue to develop bold thinkers who will be prepared for the challenges of new sources and new statistical problems.”

Dylan Small

The Universal Furniture Professor and Chair of Statistics and Data Sciences

The Expected Outcome

In the pursuit of academic excellence and breaking barriers in the field of statistics, Wharton’s Bridge to a Doctorate Program is a beacon of opportunity. As the program’s first Fellows, Ross and Ismail are looking toward bright and expansive horizons, embodying not only their program but also Wharton’s steadfast dedication to nurturing exceptional talent and pioneering research in the field of data science.

As for the current and future Fellows of the program, expectations are centered around building the structure for successful academic and professional trajectories. Fellow Emma Ross’ ultimate goal is to become a professor in statistics, which she can only achieve with a PhD in the field of data sciences. Facilitated by the mentorship opportunities that are a key aspect of the program, Ross is developing research projects that directly help people in need.

Card Back Card Front
Back To Top