Kristen Oguno

Nashville, Tenn.

M.S. Biomedical Data Science

Meet Our Students

M.S. Data Science

M.S. Biomedical Data Science

Ph.D. Biomedical Data Science

As a biochemistry and molecular biology major at Fisk University, the natural next step for Kristen Oguno seemed to be medical school. She just wasn’t sure that was the right path for her.

The former Fisk Jubilee singer – member of the 2021 Grammy-winning performers – also had a brief exposure to data science through a program called BD2K, or Big Data to Knowledge.

“That was my first general exposure to computer science and how it can be utilized in the health field and different areas like genomics research,” she says.

“Most of my background was on the genomics and biological side of things. So that program was a huge shift for me, not only in the sense of conceptually what I was learning, but in how I could see things on a larger scale than just what was right in front of me,” she adds.

Oguno graduated in 2021 in great standing, but unsure about her next move.

“I knew that I could not commit to med school,” says Oguno. “I was working in a lab, but that also wasn’t what I wanted. I just spent a year being frustrated.”

As a Fisk graduate, Oguno knew Meharry well, but only as a possible medical school destination. She then had a fateful conversation with LaMel Bandy-Neal, Meharry’s chief financial officer, and an old family friend.

“She told me, if med school isn’t something you are fully committed to, then why put yourself through it,” recalls Oguno.

Oguno knew medical school wasn’t the right avenue for her to take. However, she knew that she wanted to work towards a career, not just a job.

“I thought about what I really enjoyed during my undergraduate studies and recalled the Big Data to Knowledge program and how much I enjoyed the computer science aspects of my research,” says Oguno.

Upon hearing that, Bandy-Neal suggested studying data science at Meharry SACS, then just over a year old.

Oguno has found success in the Master of Science in Data Science program and continues to find it both interesting and challenging.

“In Dr. Ghosh’s class, we used QGIS, a spatial data system, to build a map,” she says. “I was so intrigued because I was able to produce something like a Google map.”

She now looks at graphs and other data presentations very differently.

“Two years ago, when I saw a graph on the news I didn’t think much about it,” says Oguno. “But now I know someone collected raw data, cleaned it and organized it into something that helps us understand our world.”

Oguno has also found a way to make the online environment at Meharry SACS an engaging setting.

“I had to take classes online at Fisk because of COVID, but that was different because I already knew everyone,” says Oguno.

But her new cohort at Meharry were essentially strangers, and Oguno decided to change that.

“So in our first class I said let’s make a GroupMe,” she says.  “And to this day, our whole cohort, we’re in a group chat with each other. We talk to each other, we get to know each other.”

Oguno looks forward to continue building her data science skills and hopes to combine them with her undergraduate education by exploring applications of data science to genomics and other similar areas of research.

She is also quick to express gratitude for her new sense of purpose and her personal and educational growth.

“I’m grateful to be able to use this opportunity at Meharry SACS to better myself, my occupational standing, and outlook towards my own future. I not only look forward to obtaining my first graduate degree but this program has catalyzed me to push towards possibly earning a doctorate in similar studies,” says Oguno.