What is your connection to SFU?
I graduated from SFU in 2011 with a Bachelor of Science degree. My major was in chemistry and my minor was in mathematics.
How did you get involved with the Student Learning Commons (SLC)?
I volunteered as a Learning and Writing Peer Educator at the SLC for 6 years, starting in my second year of studies at SFU. I wanted to help other students who take math and science courses; many of these students are not majoring in math or science, but need to take them as required courses for their degrees. They find these courses intimidating, and they often don’t know how to overcome the very steep learning curve they experience. At the time, most of the study-skills resources in the SLC did not address their specific needs, so I was especially motivated to share my knowledge with them.
What were your major contributions as a Peer Educator at the SLC?
My first major initiative was developing a set of resources to help students with problem solving in courses like math, physics, statistics, chemistry, and economics. I created a workshop on this topic and delivered it many times. I also wrote a set of study guides for students in these courses.
I facilitated the first English Conversation Group (ECG), helping students to improve conversational English in a friendly setting. These groups became very popular, and they eventually expanded into a separate group of Peer Educators who focus on this skill. They are called the English as an Additional Language (EAL) Peer Educators, and the ECG is now called Let’s Talk.
Finally, after volunteering as a Peer Educator at the SLC for several semesters, I became a mentor for new Peer Educators, supporting them to provide one-on-one consultations to students. New Peer Educators would begin by observing me in my consultations, and then I would observe or support them in their first few consultations.
What have you done professionally since graduating from SFU?
In 2012, I earned a Master of Science degree in statistics from the University of Toronto. Since then, I have worked as a statistician in industrial statistics, HIV research, cancer surveillance, banking, and marketing analytics.
Outside of my paid employment, I have actively shared my passions about statistics, chemistry, and career development through blogging, video blogging, social media, and public speaking. For example:
- I write a blog on statistics, chemistry, and career advice. It's called The Chemical Statistician.
- I teach statistics and chemistry through YouTube video tutorials.
- I host a talk show on math, science, and economics. It's called The Central Equilibrium, and my guests teach a technical topic to me by writing formulas, equations, diagrams, and graphs on a white board. It's a part of my YouTube channel.
- I speak at many conferences and universities to share career advice for math/science students.
- I write advice articles on career development on my blog. Many of these articles have also been published on the ENGAGE blog, SFU's official career blog.
- I share my advice and knowledge on Twitter (@chemstateric) and LinkedIn.
Tell us about your current job.
I recently began a new job as a Digital Marketing Analyst at Environics Analytics (EA). I previously worked as a Data Science Consultant at EA for 2 years. A few months ago, our marketing department offered a new job to me to manage our social media. In this new role, I have three main duties:
- I develop company-wide strategies to establish our brand and reach new audiences, especially using social media.
- I use LinkedIn and Twitter to promote our company's products and services. I maintain a separate Twitter account for my job, @EricCaiEA.
- I use statistics to measure and assess the effectiveness of our marketing strategies, both online and offline.
My company knew about my work as The Chemical Statistician and recognized my passions in blogging and social media. This job is a nice blend of my interests in statistics and social media.
What are your top three pieces of advice for academic success as a math/science student?
- The best way to prepare for exams is to solve as many problems as possible. This is the ultimate way to test your understanding of the material, and it will quickly expose you to your weaknesses.
- Math and science courses are cumulative, so knowledge of the material in Week 3 will usually be crucial for understanding the material in Week 9. Work hard from Week 1, and don't fall behind.
- Ask your teaching assistants and professors for help during their office hours. Prepare your questions in advance by writing them down in your notebook and noting relevant pages in your textbook, assignment, or notes. Determine what you don't know and articulate that into succinct questions; this is arguably the most important study skill that you can develop through your education.
Thank you, and welcome, Eric! We look forward to reading some posts from you in the New Year :)