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The Bridge Between Dance and Data Science

Veronica Edwards

Senior Data Analyst at Polygence
About this episode

Veronica Edwards is a dancer and choreographer who, after finding that physics was not in fact the major she wanted, studied sociology at Princeton University. In her words, she stumbled into her first job after graduation, which was with the company ReadWorks, and recently joined Polygence as a senior data analyst. In this podcast episode, she talks about Polygence, her wide-ranging educational and career background, the advice she has for others, and how dance has been an important part of her life and learning.


Today Veronica Edwards is a senior data analyst at Polygence, though her educational and career background encompasses a wide range – she has delved into everything from dance and choreography to physics, sociology, marketing, and most recently, data science.

​Polygence is a nonprofit that offers middle and high school students a 10-week research experience under the guidance of a professional mentor. As a senior data analyst at Polygence, Veronica uses data to help build and scale the company and to provide students and mentors with an optimal experience.

Upon working at Polygence, Veronica was surprised to learn how little high school students are asked to do independent research. Independent research affords students the opportunity to explore their passions, get comfortable with the ambiguity of the research process, and become experts on their chosen topic. Polygence aims to democratize this research experience and has successfully targeted a diverse selection of program participants, attracting mentors and students in over 100 countries with a near-equal split of female and male participants.

Growing up, Veronica trained vigorously as a ballet dancer alongside peers who aspired to be professional dancers, though she knew early on that she did not want to pursue a career in dance. Veronica believes her training as a dancer helped her build strength and perseverance that have served her throughout her career. Furthermore, the creativity she uses for dance and choreography informs her work as a data analyst, helping her to tell the story of the data she oversees.

Veronica entered Princeton University as a physics major and then transitioned into sociology, where she saw how data could be used to understand society. While attending college, she explored different career paths through Princeton’s connections with the public sector. This led her to multiple internships in public service, including a marketing internship at Community Access, an NYC-based nonprofit. Upon graduation, she was accepted into a Princeton P-55 Fellowship, which connected her with her first job out of college as an executive assistant at ReadWorks, a nonprofit that helps K-12 students with reading comprehension.

Veronica recalls a clear moment at ReadWorks that propelled her into data science. “The senior engineer was in the office one day and he asked me, ‘Veronica, do you want to learn how to pull data on your own?’ In that moment I didn’t know what SQL was, I had never heard [of] it before, but I said yes.”

Veronica sees her non-technical background as an asset in data science because it allows her to think like other people, particularly those without technical backgrounds. “I come from a non-technical background, and so therefore for me, I’m a step ahead of people who do have a technical background, in explaining data because I know what it’s like to not understand what’s going on in a chart, for example, or what a P-value is.”

When asked what advice she would give to herself 10 years ago, she says she would tell her not to write off subjects that she enjoys but isn’t the best at. “I was always decent at math and decent at statistics and pretty good at all of these subject matters, but I wasn’t the best. If I would have told myself back then [that] one day you’re going to have a career in data science, I would’ve been really intimidated, because that seems like something you need to have extremely high standards for.” Additionally, she would urge her younger self to be open-minded about her future plans, because in her words, “you never know what opportunities are going to present themselves.”

About the Host
Margot Gerritsen

Stanford Professor [Emerita] Margot Gerritsen is the Executive Director and co-founder of Women in Data Science Worldwide (WiDS) and born and raised in the Netherlands. Margot received her MSc in Applied Mathematics from Delft University of Technology before moving to the US in search of sunnier and hillier places. In. 1996 she completed her PhD in Scientific Computing & Computational Mathematics at Stanford University and moved further West to New Zealand where she spent 5 years at the University of Auckland as a lecturer in Engineering Science. In 2001, she returned to Stanford as faculty member in Energy Resources Engineering. Margot was the Director of the Institute for Computational & Mathematical Engineering (ICME) at Stanford from 2010-2018 and the Senior Associate Dean for Educational Affairs in Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences from 2015-2020. In 2022, Margot took Emerita status to devote herself to WiDS full time. Margot is a Fellow of the Society of Industrial & Applied Mathematics, and received honorary doctorates from Uppsala University, Sweden, and the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands. She now lives in Oregon with her husband Paul.

Connect with Margot Gerritsen on Twitter (@margootjeg) and LinkedIn.
Find out more about Margot on her Stanford Profile.