Molly Bair says her career as a Data Scientist at Mathematica allows her to use her technological skills to improve social outcomes.
Headshot of Molly Bair
Molly Bair

“The MPP program was exactly what I wanted: an opportunity to develop my data and technical skills within the framework of social impact,” said Molly Bair, MPP’21.

A Data Scientist at Mathematica, a research and consulting firm in Princeton, NJ that works at the intersection of data, technology, and social policy, Bair says she takes pride in her work. “I like to be among like-minded and passionate coworkers, and all the people I've met here really enjoy what they do and are really excited about sharing it with you,” she said.

Bair grew up in Pittsburgh, PA, and went to Davidson College where she studied sociology and data science. “I knew I wanted to major in sociology, but I was particularly interested in quantitative methods within sociology. I picked up the data science minor to bolster my quantitative toolkit and develop more technical skills—that goal ultimately led me to the MPP at Harris.”

At Harris, Bair prioritized methods and programming, earning the Data Analytics Certificate and serving as a teaching assistant for Data and Programming I and II. “Those two courses were my breakthrough where I saw how I could use programming for the work I wanted to do.” She also believes her Data Analytics Certificate helped her compete in the job search process.

During her first year as an MPP, Bair was a research assistant at the University of Chicago Behavioral Insights and Parenting Lab, which seeks to understand how behavioral insights can be used to promote early childhood development. The role had her exploring Chicago beyond Hyde Park for site visits, recruiting study participants, and distributing materials and information. The following summer, Bair interned at Public Democracy, which focused on Covid-19 data processing and looking at messaging around Covid.”

Bair also engaged in Harris Community Action (HCA), a student organization that connects Harris graduate students to nonprofit organizations on the South Side of Chicago to work on projects requiring data and policy analysis. “In a lot of ways, HCA is similar to my current job, which is awesome.” With HCA, she worked in a group partnered with the Jackson Park Advisory Council and enjoyed the challenge of balancing the HCA Fellows’ “technical expertise” and the organization’s perspective “on their own community and organization” to make a positive change.

Bair advises students to take advantage of Harris resources beyond the impressive academics. “One of the best things about my experience at Harris was my academic advisor and career coach. They were both wonderfully helpful. For example, I could go in not even knowing what I was looking for, and they would have endless resources to share with me.” She added, "they helped me tailor my grad school experience so that I could get exactly what I wanted out of it.”

“Looking back,” Bair reflects, “I can see that I've known what I wanted to do for a very long time, but I couldn't always articulate it. I think my two years at Harris really helped me figure out the terminology to use and what sorts of career paths were available to me.” After years of figuring out what she liked, disliked, and deciding the skills she wanted to utilize, now Bair has a career that excites and challenges her. “Harris gave me a really good foundation of skills that I will continue to build upon throughout my career.”