David Olaleye, SAS
As a child growing up in Nigeria, David Olaleye would follow his dad, an auto mechanic, as he drove to work every morning. So he always thought he would end up being an engineer in the automobile industry.
But when he went to college at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) in Nigeria, he could not secure a spot in the mechanical engineering degree program, so he studied his second choice: statistics.
“I always loved working with numbers,” said Olaleye, who was also fascinated about the notions of chance and probability, even as he played cards with friends.
In college, he began to see statistics as a way of explaining things and made the connection between what he was learning and the games he played as a child.
“These mathematical expressions explained what I knew intuitively when I tried to guess what cards my opponents had,” Olaleye said. “We make decisions every day of our lives -- tough choices. We need data and statistical analysis to make an informed choice.”
After getting his bachelor’s degree in statistics, Olaleye worked in the Office of Statistics in Nigeria for three months, then got his master’s in social statistics so he could apply the theories he learned as an undergraduate. He also taught introductory statistics to first-year college students.
He got a training scholarship to work on his PhD degree on demography and population studies at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “Statistical study of human population encompasses three areas: birth, migration and death,” he said.
While writing his dissertation, he worked as an assistant systems manager at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, where he was introduced to clinical trials.
“I love the idea of working on things that actually impact human lives.” David Olaleye
“I worked with physicians who were writing protocols and looking for research support and grants to do clinical trials for new drugs,” he said. “My goal was to help them with data collection and data analyses, and do SAS programming.”
The hospital environment is where his real interest in statistics began. “I love the idea of working on things that actually impact human lives,” Olaleye said.