Life in the Fast Lane: Abigail Snyder’s Data Science and Mountain Biking Journey

Abigail Snyder
April 3, 2024
Abigail Snyder mountain bike racing on a curvy trail in the woods
Photo by Sam Roach Photography

When I applied to the University of Virginia School of Data Science M.S. in Data Science Online program, I had been teaching middle and high school English and P.E. for the past 10 years. As a result, to start the UVA MSDS program, there were some prerequisites I needed to fulfill. Before even applying, I started taking classes online from the local community college (Virginia Western), starting with Calculus I. I then added Calculus II and Intro to Statistics the following semester, and once I was confident I would successfully pass both classes, completed the application to UVA. Once admitted, I completed the final two prerequisites (Linear Algebra and Intro to Programming) at Virginia Western over the summer to begin the MSDS in the fall term. 

I started the MSDS program in the fall of 2022. In addition to my studies, I am an elite mountain bike racer, work full-time at the local bike shop, and coach the local junior mountain bike team. As a result, time management has been crucial. That being said, I have found the professors extremely helpful and accommodating as I have chased racing all over the U.S. and internationally during my time as an MSDS student. 

Abigail Snyder on mountain bike racing through wooded and rocky terrain
Photo by Stephanie Bush

Even though my background is not in a traditional STEM field, I have felt at home and adequately supported in the MSDS program. The coursework is, to me, a healthy balance of statistically intensive and programming-focused work, spanning from Bayesian statistics and computer science to developing deep learning models for pedestrian detection and friendly argument over the potential consequences of a business decision for the fictional Commonwealth Foods group. Too, though I wouldn't say that I know everyone in my cohort well, I have certainly developed friendships within the cohort through various discussions and group projects, despite being entirely remote/online. 

During the summer of 2023, I was fortunate enough to be a recipient of the Women in Sports Tech Fellowship, which enabled me to take part in a remote internship with the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee's (USOPC) Performance Innovation team. As an athlete and data science student, I would love to see these two interests intersect in the world of sports tech, and this was a great opportunity to put that into practice. In addition to getting to visit the USOPC's headquarters and training facilities in Colorado Springs, I was able to use the skills I had learned thus far in the MSDS program to work on an analytics project involving the medal prediction models that the Performance Innovation team had previously developed. 

MSDS Online assignment on laptop computer outside on deck at sundown
Photo by Abigail Snyder

This spring semester (2024), I am once again juggling an internship alongside my work, training, and school commitments to enhance both my understanding of the real-world applications of data science to sports tech as well as my networking opportunities in that space. As a member of the 2024 NBA Future Analytics Stars program, I can participate in mentorship, networking, and development opportunities within the NBA's sports analytics ecosystem. Through the Future Analytics Stars program, I will also be attending the 2024 MIT-Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, with its learning and networking connections.

Abigal Snyder in racing gear on her mountain bike before a race
Photo by Steve LaBonte

Though I don't yet have a job lined up for post-graduation, I am excited about the opportunities that the UVA MSDS Online program and these internships have the potential to unlock at the intersection of data science and sport.

Keep up with Abi and her mountain biking adventures at