University of Texas at Austin


Work-Life Balance - Profile Ally Richardson

By Rebecca Riley

Published Feb. 15, 2023

Ally Richardson

When Ally Richardson began graduate school, some people told her it would put the rest of her life on hold. The fourth-year PhD student (and newlywed) has since planned her wedding, earned her yellow belt in Krav Maga and Judo, and adopted a puppy. Let’s all raise a toast to work-life balance. 

Here at the Oden Institute, Ally uses machine learning to interpret how the vital signs of preterm infants can be used to predict cardiorespiratory events. While most of her work is computational, she makes the occasional trip to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for some hands-on research. 

It’s an honor to be able to conduct research that will have a direct impact on patient care. Being able to visit the NICU really puts my work into perspective.

— Ally Richardson

“It’s an honor to be able to conduct research that will have a direct impact on patient care” Richardson said. “Being able to visit the NICU really puts my work into perspective.”

Ally makes sure to maintain a balanced approach to life, pursuing other passions beyond her research. 

"I've realized that although graduate school has been a tremendous amount of work, it doesn't have to be my sole identity. I can have pets, successful personal relationships, and climb mountains.”

In case you were wondering, that last one wasn’t a metaphor. In November of 2021, Ally’s now-husband proposed to her on top of a mountain in Fort Davis State Park. 

“We had hiked up the mountain with our dog, and we didn't realize how rough the terrain was, and our dog's paws got all cut up,” she explained. “On the way down, James carried the dog the entire five miles.”

Ally met James when she was a college freshman taking a junior-level math class. 

“James and I sat next to each other in Probability Theory. It took a few months of bad flirting before he asked me out, and the rest is history.”

Taking a probability theory course as a freshman was far from Richardson’s only academic over-achievement. At 16 years old, she began an Applied Mathematics and Physics dual degree at Buffalo State University. During her time there, she took a Mathematical Biology course, her first introduction to how math could be used to model real world scenarios. After finishing that course, she began her capstone research project in her sophomore year, a course usually taken in a student's senior year. Before she graduated, Richardson had completed two research fellowships – one at Buffalo State University and one at the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at Ohio State University

“I was really eager to start conducting research and start solving difficult, real world problems,” said Richardson.

When she’s not reading papers or writing code, Ally organizes monthly lunches for women who are faculty, postdocs, or graduate students at the Oden Institute. 

“While working in such a male dominated field, it is important to create a supportive community where women can come together to celebrate their accomplishments,” Richardson reflected. “We're trying to recruit more women to come to the luncheon.”

Ally believes passionately in the advancement of women in science-driven fields such as her own. However, while her luncheons are primarily focused on lifting up and encouraging women, Ally was sure to highlight another benefit: “It's free lunch!”

If any Oden Institute women would like a free lunch and some work-life balance tips, email Ally Richardson at to join the mail list.