Harvard School of Public Health

Telephone: (617) 432-1056

Department of Biostatistics

FAX: (617) 432-5619

 

Email: dept@hsph.harvard.edu

 

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats


Biostat Connections

Editorial Staff: Els Goetghebeur (Editor), David Harrington, Michael Hughes, Marcia Testa, Sonju Harris, Caroline Jeffery, and Jelena Follweiler

June 2006
No. 14
The PDF Version

From the Editorial Staff:

The editorial team is happy to present this 2005-2006 Newsletter to alumni and friends of the Biostatistics Department at the Harvard School of Public Health. We hope you will enjoy a glimpse into another exciting year at the Biostatistics Department. We introduce 3 people who have taken up new leadership positions: Full Professors John Quackenbush and Xihong Lin, and Director of Administration Phoebe Hackett. We provide your last chance (for now) to hear Steve Lagakos speak in the chair's corner, since we will sadly see him leave the job, only to welcome with excitement a great new chair (keep reading!). We thank Steve warmly for his leadership, the many opportunities he has created and the growth he has promoted in us as individuals, in our discipline specifically and in public health more generally. Two of the largest programs in the Department, supporting research on AIDS and Cancer, are sharing some of their joys of the last year. We are proud to highlight a particularly active and constructive diversity year, and give you an update on our Master’s program. Our colleagues at the MGH invite you to celebrate their 20th anniversary with them. The Department announces its recognition of 3 exceptional colleagues through the yearly awards, and congratulates all student award winners. We have enjoyed an especially rich Harvard/Schering-Plough meeting this year where we discussed topical issues in integrity of reporting and patients’ safety with dedicated colleagues and editors of four major medical journals. We point out our short course in FBAT/PBAT and the diversity workshop in June. We close with some news briefs and take the opportunity to remind you to please let us hear any news from you as the year progresses through our website http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/about/alumni/ (which also gives a great opportunity to donate funds to contribute to scholarships for our students). And last but not least our new graduates look back on their golden years...and we receive fresh news from the alumni.

John Quackenbush, Professor of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

In 2005, the Biostatistics Department at the Harvard School of Public Health welcomed one of its more unusual members. John Quackenbush, who was appointed Professor of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, was recruited in collaboration with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as part of an effort to expand the local expertise in these areas. And although he is a recognized leader in these areas, his path to his current position is not one that you might find outlined in a career guide.

Quackenbush began his professional life with a PhD from UCLA in 1990 in theoretical particle physics working on twodimensional quantum field theory and string models. Funds for a postdoc he had accepted were cut as politics at the end of the Cold War de-emphasized the value of basic research in physics, so he switched fields slightly working with an experimental high energy physics group at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. As funding for physics continued to erode, motivated by helping a girlfriend who was a PhD student in biology analyze her data, and encouraged by faculty in the UCLA Biology and Biomathematics Departments, he applied for and received a five year Special Emphasis Research Career Award from the National Center for Human Genome Research (the predecessor of the National Human Genome Research Institute).

The SERCA allowed him to work at The Salk Institute from 1992 to 1994 where he focused on physical mapping of human chromosome 11 and at the Stanford Human Genome Center from 1994 to 1996 where he led efforts to establish a DNA sequencing laboratory to contribute to the sequencing of the genome. But in January of 1997, he moved to The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) in Rockville, MD, where he focused on gene expression analysis. “At that point it was becoming clear who were going to be key players in sequencing the genome – and I wasn’t one of those. So the next big question, and one that was ultimately more interesting, was how we were going to leverage the genome sequence to find the genes and to discover what they do. DNA microarrays – gene chips – seemed like the right technology for addressing those questions.”

Although he and his group have always done laboratory experiments, Quackenbush and his group also went on to develop a wide range of databases and software tools. One of the most widely used, a data-mining tool called MeV (a name harkening back to his physics days) has more than 100,000 users worldwide and is freely distributed as an open source project (http://www.tm4.org). MeV was developed for microarray analysis and includes many statistical, data mining, and visualization tools (Figure 1).


Figure 1

He is also on the Board of Directors and one of the founding members of the Microarray Gene Expression Data Society (MGED), which established standards for reporting large-scale gene expression data and developed a data exchange format – a process that has been copied by groups concerned with other large-scale genomic technologies.

On March 14, 2005, Quackenbush and nine members of his group from TIGR moved to take up residence at Dana-Farber and to join our department. Given their location at the Farber, they have focused using microarrays, proteomics, and other technologies for the exploration of human cancers and other diseases, but much of what they are recognized for are their contributions to data analysis and data integration; they recently received a large research grant from the National Library of Medicine to further develop MeV and other data analysis tools and a $1M grant from the Oracle Foundation to integrate clinical and research databases with the goal of promoting translational research. But his research passions are not based on building tools; they are driven by biological questions. “What I hope to do in the coming years is to contribute to the development of a theoretical, predictive biology. What gets me out of bed in the morning is the realization that genomic technologies have given us the data necessary to begin to do this. I believe the right approach to this problem is fundamentally stochastic – where better to do this than in a Department of Biostatistics?” A paper recently submitted to Nature with Jess Mar, one of the students in the department, takes some steps in that direction by looking at stochastic effects in gene expression.

While Quackenbush is driven by his work, there has been more to his move than building a research program and developing collaborations. His wife, Mary Kalamaras (a rising star in the world of publishing) moved here with him in April of last year from a position as a Developmental Editor at the National Academies Press. She has continued to do freelance work for the NAP, most notably on the new Dietary Reference Intakes, and for the New England Journal of Medicine. But recently, her focus – and a good deal of Quackenbush’s – has been on a new project. On March 14, 2006, the one-year anniversary of his joining the department, Mary and John welcomed their son Adam Quackenbush to the world. Quackenbush noted, “All babies are experimentalists, I just have to make sure he focuses on data integration to understand what he is observing and then get him to write good software to help other kids deal with similar problems. But I think first we’ll let him play and explore for a few years before burdening him with this.”


John and son Adam

Xihong Lin, Professor of Biostatistics

It has been a great pleasure to become a member of our department. I joined the department last August from the University of Michigan. I have very much enjoyed the rich scientific opportunities and exciting initiatives in the department, HSPH and the Longwood Medical Area, and the university as a whole. The environment is intellectually stimulating. I have very much appreciated collegiality, supportiveness, and warmth of many faculty, students and staff, and have enjoyed many of my interactions with them.

Before joining the department, I spent 11 years as a faculty member in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, which has left me and my family many fond memories. In the past 10 years, my statistical research has mainly focused on developing statistical methods for correlated data, such as longitudinal/clustered data, and statistical methods for observational studies more generally. I started my career working on generalized linear mixed models as a graduate student at the University of Washington. I later became interested in measurement error, missing data and multiple outcomes in such correlated data problems. In the last six/seven years, I have mainly focused on nonparametric regression methods, such as spline and kernel smoothing methods, and semiparametric regression methods for longitudinal/clustered data. While at the University of Michigan, I have collaborated with a wide range of scientists in epidemiology, cancer, environmental health, and health prevention/intervention, and have very much cherished such interdisciplinary interactions.

In the last two years, I have become more interested in statistical learning methodology for high-dimensional data. I am particularly interested in developing statistical methods for design and analysis of genomic and proteomic data in observational studies, such as in epidemiological studies and population sciences. Harvard is rich in such scientific investigations. Since I joined the department, I have been collaborating with Dr. David Christiani in the Department of Environmental Health of HSPH and Mass General Hospital on analyzing massspectrometry proteomic data for biomarker discovery in epidemiological studies of lung cancer and other diseases. Statistical analysis of such data is challenged by the large size of proteomic data collected from each individual, and requires development of advanced statistical learning methods, such as efficient nonparametric smoothing, functional analysis, dimensional reduction, feature selection, large-scale hypothesis testing, and variable selection. I am currently working with my students and postdocs to develop advanced methodology for analyzing mass-spectrometry proteomic data and select proteomic features that are predictive for disease outcomes while accounting for covariates.

I stepped down from the Biometrics coordinating editor position at the beginning of 2006. I have very much enjoyed my editor experience in the last three years and working with the other co-editors, the editorial board, the journal central office, the publisher, and the International Biometric Office. It has been a joy to see the journal continue to flourish and enhance its leadership role in statistical methodological developments in biosciences. I have enjoyed in the last few months the luxury of having more time to focus on my own methodological and collaborative research and on interacting with new colleagues and students. Such interactions inside and outside the department have been intellectually stimulating. The dedication to promoting excellence in research and education by faculty in our department is inspiring. I amglad that I could have an opportunity to be involved in such activities.

On the personal side, my husband and I are currently living in Wellesley with two children (8 and 5 years old). The children have very much enjoyed the friendly neighborhood and the family-oriented atmosphere in Wellesley. We are impressed by the natural beauty of New England and the variety of activities and facilities that are available to children in the Greater Boston area.

Phoebe Hackett, Director of Administration

At first, I thought it an odd idea when asked to write something about myself for this newsletter. After all, I’ve been working in the department for six years now, and most of you in the Biostatistics family here at HSPH know me all too well! But the last year has marked a major transition in my role, and as a result I’ve developed new perspectives on the department’s goals and challenges. Twice now I’ve been asked to fill some very big – and beloved – shoes here in Biostatistics. The first was when I assumed the position of financial director upon the departure of Shari Millen, after many years of service, to have her first child. The second came last July when Carolyn Dueck left Biostatistics, also after many years in the department, and I took on the role of director of administration

.

My background did not lead me directly to Biostatistics. I think most administrators would say much the same about their own jobs. I have to admit that beyond basic algebra, I’m pretty much math-challenged. I did my undergraduate work in Buddhism at the University of Virginia, and graduate studies in Southwestern and Mesoamerican anthropology at the Harvard Extension School. And as many of you know, I’m completely obsessed with Mexican history, and when I’m not at work I love writing movie scripts that draw from the many weird and wonderful events that took place in our neighbor to the south. But I digress… after working at MIT for 10 years, most of it at the MIT Museum, I had a mid-life crisis and fell madly in love with the Southwest. I moved to Santa Fe, and over the next few years took on some very interesting jobs – first at a contemporary arts center with a model arts outreach program for at-risk teens, then at the state’s premier Native American anthropology museum, and finally for New Mexico’s Historic Preservation office.

But family health issues necessitated a rather abrupt return to Boston in 2000. My newly-acquired experience with the medical care system sparked an interest in health issues, and I applied for jobs at HSPH and HMS. To make a long story short, Carolyn Dueck talked me into coming to Biostatistics. It did not, to me at least, immediately seem like a good fit. But I quickly came to realize that the department was a very different kind of place.

I guess when you’re starting from the premise that it’s a basic human right to have quality health care, you attract a certain kind of person. And the department and school are wonderfully full of those certain kinds of persons. Buddhism has a precept called “right livelihood” – one should endeavor to earn one’s keep by doing things that contribute to the general good. Let’s just say I feel pretty darn good about my success in practicing right livelihood. Being surrounded by incredibly dedicated people has been a great privilege and pleasure, even if the nittygritty of what most of you do is basically incomprehensible to me. The department’s challenges, on the other hand, are not at all incomprehensible.

Finding financial support for our students, particularly our international students, is always on my mind. Worrying about the current funding climate at NIH tends to awaken me at 3 a.m. Trying to find the balance between administrative staffing (we really could use some more help!) and spending more of our resources on students and faculty initiatives – yes, the list goes on. As the department administrator, one of my most important responsibilities is to help the chair and faculty raise funds to secure our present and lay the groundwork for the future. It’s a particularly interesting time to be here in the department as we switch gears and get ready to welcome our new chair. At the least, change is always fascinating, and I’m very happy to be here watching the wheel turn and helping out as best I can (though I do sorely miss those mountains and that beautiful desert…)

Chair's Corner

By Stephen W. Lagakos

As the 2005-2006 academic year draws to an end, things are quite busy in the Department, with a flurry of doctoral dissertation defenses by students planning to graduate in June 2006, and plans for our Harvard/Schering-Plough Workshop (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/events/ schering-plough/index.html) and newly-established Alum Award (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/events/awards/alum/)

Last June we awarded 20 doctoral degrees and 2 MS degrees, along with 1 ‘along the way’ AM degree to one of our PhD students. In 2006, we awarded 15 PhD degrees, 5 MS degrees, and 22 AM degrees. Commencement, which was held on June 8 this year, is always an exciting and significant event, beginning with the morning ceremonies in the Yard, followed by the GSAS PhD ceremonies in Sanders Hall, and ending with the HSPH PhD and MS ceremonies in the LMA courtyard. Despite having witnessed many of these ceremonies, I continue to really enjoy meeting the families of our graduates and celebrating this milestone as our students become alums and embark on the next phase of their lives.

The 3-week summer program for incoming students that we initiated in 2005 was very successful and we will offer it again in 2006. Based on feedback from our student instructors and student attendees, we have modified the format of the courses somewhat. This year there will be 2 tracks, each running for the entire 3-week period. One will focus on probability and operational mathematics and the other on statistical methods and computing, and as before the goal is to prepare students for our fall courses (BIO230, BIO275, BIO232, and BIO271) in these areas. The student instructors will be David Fardo (Probability and Operational Math) and Brian Healy (Methods and Computing).

In 2005 we were fortunate to be awarded a new NIH Training Grant in Bioinformatics, which is being directed by Professor L.J. Wei. With the increasing student interest and faculty expertise in this area, this Training Grant provides a much-needed source of student support and is serving as a stimulus to expand our course offerings in computational biology and related areas.

I am pleased to report that at least 3 new faculty will be joining the Department this year: Dr. Judith Lok will be affiliated with Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research while Dr. Armin Schwartzman and Dr. Guo-Chang (GC) Yuan will be based at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Lok received her Ph.D. from the Free University of Amsterdam, under the guidance of Professors Richard Gill and Aad van der Vaart. Dr. Schwartzman completed Ph.D. at Stanford University, working under the direction of Professors Bradley Efron and Jonathan Taylor. Dr. GC Yuan earned a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Maryland (1999) and has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University, and the National Center for Environment Predictions. For the last two years, he has been a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard Bauer Center and in the Department of Statistics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, where he worked with Jun Liu.

The Department hopes to establish an Alum Scholarship, in which contributions from our Alumnae are used to support tuition and stipend costs for our graduate students. Currently, the tuition/fee/stipend costs for a PhD student in the first or second year of graduate study exceed $55,000, and in accordance with GSAS policy, all of our PhD students are fully funded. Our NIH Training Grants provide approximately 80% of these costs for most of the students who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents; however, we receive very few funds from Harvard to support international students. Because an international student body is a high priority for the Department, a major challenge is finding the funds to allow us to support students that are not eligible for NIH Training Grants. Thus, we hope that we will be able to encourage our Alumnae, who can directly relate to the value of having attended Harvard, to contribute funds to the Department for the purpose of supporting our students. I hope that any current or future Alumnae reading this message will consider ways they can help in these efforts.

Finally, for those of you that may not know, I will be stepping down as Chair as of June 30, 2006. I feel very privileged to have been able to serve as Chair for these past 7 years, and have enjoyed the experience immensely. While I will miss many aspects of this job, I am looking forward to the opportunity to spend more time working with doctoral students, pursuing my research infectious diseases, and heading our Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research. The Department is fortunate to have Professor Louise Ryan as our next Chair, effective July 1, 2006. I have every confidence that Louise will do an outstanding job in leading us during the coming years, as the Department strives to fulfill our educational and research missions and prepares for our move to the new Allston Campus.

With best wishes, Steve Lagakos


The Year at CBAR

By Michael Hughes

The Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research (CBAR) within the Department of Biostatistics has had an exciting year. Professor Michael Hughes and Dr. Terry Fenton led successful applications for new funding for the next seven years for the Statistical and Data Management Centers (SDMCs) of the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) and the International Maternal, Pediatric and Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials (IMPAACT) Network. Professor George Seage led a successful application to set up the statistical, data management and operations center for the new Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study. Dr. Heather Ribaudo is to lead an expansion of the statistical core for Harvard University’s Center for AIDS Research to support HIV research activities at HSPH. In addition, CBAR continues to be involved in many other HIVrelated research projects, notably as the SDMC for the Neurology AIDS Research Consortium (led by Dr. Scott Evans) and multiple collaborations with members of the Harvard School of Public Health AIDS Institute (HAI).

The general theme of all these activities is research related to the treatment of HIV-infected adults and children, and the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV. There have been substantial advances in these areas accompanied by numerous statistical challenges that are the focus of research undertaken by faculty and students in the Department.

One such example concerns a major challenge confronting the treatment of HIV infection: the development of viral resistance to drugs. Professors Victor DeGruttola, Greg DiRienzo and Hongyu Jiang have made significant contributions in this area. Viral resistance is a genetic problem made much more complex than many human genetic problems by the extremely high rate of viral replication (the half life of the virus is one to two days) and the fact that the replication cycle is very error-prone. For some drugs, a single mutation may confer high-level resistance. For other drugs, resistance is more quantitative with accumulating numbers of mutations or even specific pathways of mutations being key. The statistical problems are therefore numerous including not only the usual high dimensionality of genetic problems, but also issues to do with the temporal evolution of the viral population, assay sensitivity when evaluating the relative frequency of mutations in a viral population within each patient, and missingness due to assay limitations in subjects with lower levels of virus.

A second example concerns the need for innovative methods in causal inference to address many practical problems encountered in HIV clinical trials and observational studies. The Department is therefore excited to have Dr. Judith Lok, who has been working in this area with Professor Jamie Robins, join the faculty later in the year. One problem concerns the issue of endpoint selection for clinical trials and the related problem of understanding the clinical effects of drugs on clinical outcomes such as progression to AIDS or death. For the past decade, HIV therapeutic clinical trials have focused on evaluating effects on viral load. While it is clear that sustained suppression of viral load to very low levels is associated with a reduced risk of progression to AIDS and increased survival, it is much less clear how to interpret the small differences in viral load seen in many trials, particularly when trials allow treatment changes in patients experiencing virologic failure. Such designs also raise important causal inference problems concerning the evaluation of adverse effects of drugs, made more complex by the high dimensionality of safety data.


New Junior Faculty at HSPH/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

By Dave Harrington

The Department of Biostatistics (HSPH) and the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology (DFCI) successfully recruited 2 new junior faculty members during the last year, and as this newsletter goes to press, is negotiating with a candidate to fill a third position. Armin Schwartzman (Stanford University) and Guo-Chang (GC) Yuan (Harvard University Bauer Center for Genomic Research) will join the faculty this summer. These faculty will all have joint appointments at both institutions.

Both Armin’s and GC’s research interests reflect new directions in the intersection between Biostatistics and Cancer Research. At Stanford University, Armin Schwartzman worked under Bradley Efron and Jonathan Taylor on statistical methods for brain imaging data. The research examines a new form of magnetic resonance imaging technology called Diffusion Tensor Imaging; which measures the local diffusion pattern of water in every location in the brain. The analysis of data from these images involves spatial random processes, differential geometry and inference. In Armin’s work with statisticians and psychologists on the Stanford faculty, the use of this technology provides important information about the anatomy of the brain. Armin will arrive at Dana-Farber and at HSPH at a time when imaging research in cancer is changing rapidly. Standard images (x-ray, CAT-scans and PET- scans) have been used for years to construct images of solid tumors, such as breast or colorectal cancers, but newer, experimental technologies are becoming available which make it possible to construct images of cancer cells or of components of the cells. It is becoming possible to examine the differential effects of a therapy on the cell membrane, nucleus, and cytoplasm. In 2007, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will open an experimental animal imaging facility in South Boston which will enable DFCI scientists to merge data on changes in genomic, proteomic, and cell images in response to potential treatments.

Armin Schwartzman received Bachelor of Science Degrees from Technion University in Electrical Engineering (1995), Science Education (2001), a Masters of Science in Electrical Engineering from California Institute of Technology (1996) and will receive his Ph.D. in statistics from Stanford University this summer. He, his wife Rachel and their young son will live in Brookline. Armin will spend his first year at Harvard as a post-doctoral fellow, and will join the faculty as assistant professor in July 2007.

GC Yuan’s research interests coincide with the rapid growth of computational biology at the Dana-Farber. Computational methods are now widely used in the analysis of high dimensional data, such as gene or protein expression data, or in the analysis of abnormalities allele copy numbers; in a deeper sense, complex mathematical models are being used to search for organizing principles biology in a field called systems biology. Because of GC’s doctoral work in dynamical systems, he is particularly interested in the changing nature of the genome in cells over time. In GC’s most recent work, he has worked closely with experimental biologists at the Bauer Center investigate the establishment, maintenance, and inheritance of gene expression patterns with particular interest in the role of chromatin. In joint work with Robert Kingston (Massachusetts General Hospital), he has proposed methods to identify nucleosome positions in human cells. GC Yuan will work with scientists in the DFCI Centers for Cancer Systems Biology and Genome Discovery.

GC Yuan received a Bachelor of Science (1992) and Masters of Arts (1994) Degrees in Mathematics at Peking University, earned a Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Maryland (1999) and has served as a postdoctoral fellow at Brown University, and the National Center for Environment Predictions. For the last two years, he has been a post-doctoral fellow at the Harvard Bauer Center and in the Department of Statistics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, where he worked with Jun Liu. He currently lives with his wife an new baby son in Cambridge. GC will join HSPH and DFCI as an assistant professor in July 2006.


Annual Diversity Workshop

The Annual Diversity Workshop was held on June 12, 2006 at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The workshop was on "Hazardous Sites in Underprivileged Communities: Challenges of Diagnosis, Clean-up, and Redevelopment". Speakers from the EPA, the Mass. Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, advocacy groups, community organizations, University of Massachusetts, and Harvard presented an analysis of these issues from the perspectives of environmental health, health policy, environmental justice, health education, and brownfield redevelopment. For more information, see http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/diversity/summer/Summer_2006/ information_diversity_workshop.htm.


The Joy and Nurturing of Diversity

By Isabelle Anguelovski and Louise Ryan

In the Fall 2005, students interested in promoting Diversity at HPSH and discussing issues of relevance to minority health created the Student Diversity Forum. This Forum is an outgrowth of activities that have been supported for a number of years now through the NIH-funded IMSD (Initiative to Maximize Student Diversity) grant. The IMSD program is directed by Professor Louise Ryan, with Dr. Rebecca Betensky, Associate Professor in Biostatistics, as Co-Director of the Diversity Program. Isabelle Anguelovski, Assistant Program Director for Diversity, coordinates all the various program activities. The Student Diversity Forum meets every Thursday at lunchtime for seminars on health disparities, professional development seminars, and brown bags. While the Forum will take a break over the summer, it will of course resume in September 2006!

This year, we had some quite exciting talks and speakers in the Forum, such as James Hoyte, Assistant to the President of Harvard University on Diversity, Dr. Yvette Cozier from the Black Women’s Health Study at BU School of Public Health, Dr. Juan Celedon from Channing Lab and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Ashish Jha from the Department of Health Policy and Management, Rep. Peter Koutoujian and Sen. Diane Wilkerson, chairmen of the MA Committee on Public Health, and Dr. Patrick Longan, from the US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Through the Professional Development Seminars and the Brown Bags, students hear valuable career advice and share their questions and concerns with researchers and faculty from the bio-medical field. Some of them might have experienced similar issues of discrimination and racism as some of the participants in the Forum and discuss their struggles and achievements with the students. Informal conversations also take place on time management, exam preparation, choice of dissertation topic and advisor, doctoral committee, or job and post-doctoral search. During the year, some interesting debates focused on the place and role of women in science, how to promote quality health care for minorities, or the difficulty to balance family and career. These meetings are important to create a group and ownership feeling and to enable students to better know and support each other during their graduate studies at HSPH.

In addition to the IMSD grant, supplementary funding has been provided by the Deans’ Office, by Blue Cross/Blue Shield, by Harvard Pilgrim, and by the Lilly Foundation. For more information about the Student Diversity Forum, please see http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/diversity/IMSD/IMSD_Activities.htm.

Another important initiative designed to foster Diversity in public health is the Summer Program in Quantitative Sciences for underrepresented minority students. From June 3 to July 2, 2006, nine undergraduate students from Brevard College, University of North Texas, University of New Mexico, MIT, Cheyney University, University of California, and Harvard will attend an introductory course in Biostatistics taught by Dr. Andy Houseman and apply their new knowledge to research projects. Running every summer now since the early 1990s, the Summer Program provides students with a greater understanding of Public Health and its importance in society and exposes them to research work in public health, guidance and strategies for applying to and studying in graduate school, and mentoring from Public Health professionals.

This year, faculty and graduate students from the Department of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health, and Society, Human Development & Health will mentor the summer students in research projects focusing on malnutrition in children in Chiapas (Mexico), statistical genetics, environmental risk assessment, and the study of prostate cancer. During their four weeks here, students analyze the data from these projects and learn to work effectively in a collaborate setting. At the end of the program, they will present the results of their analysis in front of a broad audience. Quite often, some of them use their work in the research project to present a poster in national conferences in the fall.


Student Diversity Forum participants

During each afternoon of the Summer Program, students also participate in lectures offered by departments around the school to become familiar with the different fields of public health and with research projects taking place at HSPH and partner institutions. This year, lectures will focus on neurologic Epidemiology, Pharmacoepidemiology, prevention and control of tobacco and tobacco-related disease, exposure to child abuse and other types of violence, water pollution and food choices, environmental stressors and asthma, biostatistics and HIV/Aids research, and bird flu vaccine from a biostatistical approach.

The Summer Program is not only about intense thinking and hard work! We are trying to balance the academic requirements of the program with social activities such as canoeing, visits of local museums, etc. Not only are these activities enjoyable for the Summer Program attendees, but they offer an invaluable opportunity for networking with students and faculty from HSPH. Hopefully, the students will want to come back to Boston after the Summer Program!


Our Biostatistics Master’s Programs

By David Wypij

Soon after the moving of our doctoral program to be a PhD program under the auspices of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Department began reviewing and making changes to our Master’s of Science program, still run through Harvard School of Public Health. The overall goal of our Master’s program is to train quantitative students in statistical inference, linear and logistic regression, survival analysis, and statistical computing with an emphasis on the skills needed for working in academic and hospital clinical research settings and the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Our training should prepare students to investigate, acquire, organize, analyze, and disseminate new knowledge in a discipline. Career paths involve the design of studies, data collection and management of research studies, statistical analysis of study data, and development of reports and research publications. Some Master’s students may become interested in doctoral training as well. There continues to be an acute shortage of Master’s level biostatisticians in both industry and university-based health research settings, and the Department already offers excellent courses that are appropriate for a Master’s program aimed to train biostatisticians for positions in a research setting.

We looked back at the career paths of the 30 students who earned a Master’s degree (but not a doctoral degree) in the Department over the last 10 years for whom their whereabouts were known. Among these 30, 6 earned their Master’s degree in Biostatistics as part of another doctoral program at HSPH (in epidemiology, environmental health, or immunology and infectious diseases) and 2 went to graduate school elsewhere (in biological sciences and statistics). Among the remaining 22 Master’s students who left for work positions, 15 (68%) went to work in hospital, university, or research institute positions, 6 (27%) went to work in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries, and 1 (5%) is working in a research setting at EPA. The research positions were at CBAR, Children’s Hospital, DFCI, Emory, Hopkins, Mass General Hospital, Tufts, the University of Maryland, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Western Ontario. The industry positions were at Averion, Boston Biostatistics, Genaissance Pharmaceuticals, Merck, Searle, and Wyeth. As some of us had expected, a high proportion of our Master’s graduates go on to positions involving clinical research, and less with public health applications.

A few years ago, 1st year Master’s students in the Department typically took the same coursework as 1st year doctoral students. For students entering in fall 2005, we revised our Master’s program to include a larger group of courses in the Master’s core, with each student selecting courses from this larger core. In addition, the Master’s students took coursework in clinical trials, statistical genetics, or areas of application such as epidemiology during their 1st year. We believe that this flexibility allows each student to develop a program more attuned to the student’s background, interests, and career trajectory. We had 7 students entering our Master’s program in fall 2005 (4 two-year Master’s students, and 3 one-year Master’s students – for applicants with previous graduate degrees). In fall 2006 we will have 9 entering Master’s students (5 in the two-year program, 4 in the one-year program). These 9 students come from the United States, China, Italy, and Malawi, and so will add to the international diversity of our student body.

We are always looking for ways to improve our programs and curriculum, and we would be happy to hear from our alumni with any suggestions you have regarding our Master’s training (or our doctoral training, for that matter!). We would especially welcome thoughts from our Master’s graduates about their training at Harvard and suggestions they would have for the Department or future students. If you have any questions or suggestions, please send them to David Wypij at wypij@hsph.harvard.edu.


Lefkopoulou Distinguished Lecturer Award for 2006

By Tianxi Cai

The Department is delighted to announce that Dr. Jianqing Fan, Professor, Department of Operation Research and Financial Engineering, Princeton University, will be this year's recipient of the Myrto Lefkopoulou Distinguished Lectureship. Professor Fan has a distinguished academic career and has made invaluable contributions to the community. His work on local linear fitting is widely regarded as seminal in this field and has provided a firm theoretical foundation for nonparametric regression modeling. His fields of publication run from wavelets and decision theory to survival analysis, computational biology, high-dimensional statistical learning, data-analytic modeling, longitudinal and functional data analysis. He has aided statistical scholarship through dedicated editorial work and his guidance to students. He received the 2000 COPPS award for his important and wide-ranging contributions to statistics. Professor Fan will present this lecture at the Department of Biostatistics on a to be determined date in September 2006. The lecture will be followed by a reception.


MGH Biostatistics Center Celebrates 20th Anniversary

By Dianne Finkelstein

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the MGH Biostatistics Center, founded in 1986 with David Schoenfeld, PhD as its director to provide statistical support for clinical and laboratory research at the MGH. Biostatistics involves the theory and application of techniques for describing, analyzing, and interpreting health data from research studies.

Since its founding, the center has grown to its current staff of 26 (including 9 PhD and 7 MS statisticians, RNs, MDs, and administrative and computing staff) and has formed collaborations with many hospital research programs including the Clinical Research Program, the GCRC, the Institute for Health Policy, and the Cancer Center. The Biostatistics Center has contributed to projects in a wide variety of hospital research projects, such as endocrinology, cardiology, psychiatry, cancer, HIV/AIDS, neurology and trauma. In addition, the Biostatistics Center plays a role in the teaching mission of the hospital, training fellows and Biostatistics doctoral students in statistical methods and practice. The Center currently includes several faculty with ties to the HSPH, including doctoral students (Natasa Rajicic), alumnae (Beow Yeap, D.Sc. 1998, Nora Horick, MS 2002), former post-docs (Hang Lee, PhD, Tanya Logvinenko, PhD), and faculty (David Schoenfeld, PhD, Dianne Finkelstein PhD, and Rebecca Betensky, PhD). "MGH is a great place for Biostatisticians because of the exciting research carried out by our clinical and laboratory investigators" says Dianne Finkelstein, PhD, of the Center. "We are able to have a fundamental role in many of the hospital's largest clinical research programs". The Biostatistics Center will celebrate its milestone anniversary with a special celebration, to be held in June 2006. For more information about the center, visit http://hedwig.mgh.harvard.edu/biostatistics.


2006 Marvin Zelen Leadership Award in
Statistical Science

By David Schoenfeld

The Department was delighted to award the 2006 Marvin Zelen Leadership Award in Statistical Science to Dr. Mitchell H. Gail, Chief of the Biostatistics Branch, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, the National Cancer Institute. Dr. Gail has spoken with passion about the role of statistics in cancer research in a lecture entitled "Absolute Risk: Clinical Applications And Controversies" which followed the Department of Biostatistics Schering-Plough Workshop on June 2, 2006.

Dr. Gail graduated from Harvard College in 1962 and from The Harvard Medical School in 1968. After spending three years as a cell biologist he found his true calling as a biostatistician. He received a Ph.D. in Mathematical Statistics from George Washington University in 1977. Since 1985 he has been chief of the Biometrics Branch of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics where he has had over 20 mentees, six of which have become fellows of the ASA. Dr. Gail was president of the Eastern North American Region of the Biometrics Society in 1988 and president of the American Statistical Association in 1995. He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He was awarded the Spiegelman Gold Medal for Health Statistics in 1979 and won the Snedecore award in 1986 and 1990. He won the NIH Director’s award in 1994 and the USPHS Distinguished Service Medal in 1996.

Dr. Gail began his lecture by showing how absolute risk for a given patient can be estimated by multiplying relative risk estimates from observational studies by total risk estimates from health surveillance data. He then discussed how absolute risk elements are often evaluated in terms of calibration and discrimination. The former is the accuracy of the estimate for various subpopulations and the latter is the difference in risk between those who do and do not develop the disease. He showed that absolute risk models such as the Gail model are well calibrated but have modest discrimination. He then developed a method of evaluating a risk estimator in terms of the ratio of the loss for the estimator over the loss for a perfect estimator. He showed that while high discriminatory power may be necessary for screening it might not be necessary for counseling patients about whether or not to use treatments that modify risk.


Dr. Mitchell Gail and his family


Dr. Marvin Zelen, Dr. Mitchell Gail,
Dr. Richard Gelber, and Dr. Steve Lagakos


Dan Seigel Received the 2006 Distinguished Alum Award

By Dianne Finkelstein

The Department of Biostatistics is pleased to announce that Daniel Seigel (1961 Sc.D. Biostatistics, HSPH) was selected as the Distinguished Alum for 2006.


Dan Seigel and Steve Lagakos

Daniel Seigel completed his Doctor of Science in this department in 1961. His advisor was Robert Reed, and the topic was issues in missing data from longitudinal studies (a topic that is still a source of intense methodological interest). Upon graduation, Dan took a position as a member of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission. In 1963, Dan took a position at the National Heart Institute of NIH, and later moved to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and later to the National Eye Institute. In both NICHD and NEI, he held the position of Director of Biostatistics and Epidemiology. He is a Fellow of the ASA and has served on several advisory committees and editorial boards, including American Journal of Epidemiology and Statistics in Medicine.

Dan played a central role in many national and international studies that changed health care practice: the study on risks of oral contraceptives led to changes in the dose; the study on the risks of amniocentesis found this to be a safe procedure; also, he co-wrote fundamental papers on the epidemiology of several eye disorders, such as macular degeneration and retinal detachment.

Dan wrote several methodological papers prompted by the medical studies he encountered at NIH. Most notable among these is his paper with Greenhouse on estimating relative risk from a case control study using logistic regression.

Dan retired in 1992, and currently resides in Cushing ME. However, he has remained active in the capacity of membership in advisory committees for NIH and the VA.

In his capacity as Director of Biostatistics at the agencies of NIH, Dan increased both the awareness and support of statistics at these institutes (something we all take for granted now). He served as a mentor to many people who went on to leadership positions as well. His career has been an exemplary realization of the mission of this department’s doctoral training program.

On May 31, 2006, Dan presented a lecture to a packed audience at HSPH on “Outcome Preferences and the Statistician”. He pleaded for more objective research through the acknowledgment of everyone’s subjective tendencies. He was presented with a plaque for the Distinguished Alum Award, and honored at a reception attended by Biostatistics Department faculty, students and alumna.


Biostatistics Students Honored for Outstanding Achievement

By Dianne Finkelstein

Five students in the Department of Biostatistics were presented awards for outstanding achievement during the academic year 2005-6. Two (international) students were awarded a Margaret E. Drolette Memorial Fund Award: Brisa Sanchez and Armando Teixeira-Pinto. Brisa received this award for being selected as a co-instructor at the IBC meetings in Cairns, Australia, and for her role as an organizer and chair of the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. Armando received this award to acknowledge his invited talk at ENAR’s recent spring meeting. Three (US resident) students were awarded Faculty Memorial Fund Awards: Beth Ann Griffin, David Engler and Natasa Rajicic. Beth Ann received this award for being a co-recipient of best oral presentation at the Eastern Mediterranean Region of the International Biometrics Society in Corfu, Greece. David and Natasa both received this award in acknowledgement of their receiving ENAR Awards. Natasa won one of the 2006 ENAR Distinguished Student Paper Awards for her paper "Permutation-based test for identifying longitudinal gene expressions associated with the time to an event." David also won one of the 2006 ENAR Distinguished Student Paper Awards for his paper "A Pseudolikelihood Approach for Simultaneous Analysis of Array Comparative Genomic Hybridizations (aCGH)." Both students presented their papers and received their prizes at the ENAR Spring Meeting held in Tampa, Florida in March 2006. The Student Outstanding Achievement Awards are presented annually. Students must be nominated for these awards. The certificates are accompanied by a small monetary prize.


June 2006 Short Course in FBAT/PBAT

On June 12-13, 2006, Nan Laird and Christoph Lange from the Department of Biostatistics, Harvard School of Public Health organized and taught the annual short course in FBAT/PBAT.


Short Course Attendees - June 2006

Description: The increasing availability of genetic marker data, especially SNP’s, has made investigations of genetic associations between marker data and disease commonplace. This course will focus on family based designs for association studies; these designs use information on affected individuals and their relatives, most commonly parents and/or siblings. Family based designs are attractive in that they test for both association and linkage and avoid difficulties with population stratification and admixture. This course will give a very brief introduction to the basic concepts of genetic association in general, and family based designs in particular. The focus of the course is on the FBAT/PBAT methodology and how to use the packages. The orientation of the course is practical rather than theoretical. It combines lectures and computer tutorials with hands on data analysis using the FBAT and PBAT packages. Both packages can be accessed from the FBAT/PBAT web pages http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/~clange/default.htm and http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/~fbat/default.html. A special website has been created for the course so that all course materials will be available there.

Intended audience: This course is intended for clinicians, epidemiologists, data analysts, geneticists, and statisticians involved in the analysis of genetic data. Familiarity with genetic concepts as well as background in basic statistics at the level of linear/logistic regression is highly desirable. Participants are encouraged to bring their own data sets; check the FBAT web page for details on file format. We also strongly recommend that participants read the manuals before attending the course.


2006 HSPH Schering-Plough Workshop

By Steve Lagakos and Els Geotghebeur

The Department's 2006 HSPH Schering-Plough Workshop considered two steps in the conduct of clinical trials of new medical interventions, with an emphasis on providing valid and balanced information about benefits and risks: (1) reporting of results in the medical literature, and (2) interim evaluation of accumulating information from ongoing clinical trials. Due to recent coverage in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal featuring the reporting of adverse events in the VIOXX publications, the meeting started with a special focus and some added excitement.

Medical journal articles are the main source of information for physicians, scientists, and the general public about the efficacy and safety of new medical interventions, and as such play a critical role in guiding how and in whom these interventions are used. While the primary responsibility for providing a complete and balanced summary of a clinical trial's results and limitations lies with the investigators submitting an article for publication, medical journal editors also have a responsibility to the readership of ensuring the integrity of articles. We were fortunate to have the editors of 4 of the world's leading medical journals speak about the challenges they face in trying to ensure the integrity of the papers they publish, and commentary from representatives from academia and industry. One session focused specifically on JAMA's independent analysis policy and another on the clinical trial registration policy adopted by a consortium of medical journal editors. A particularly animated debate emerged around the question of whether a re-analysis policy should make a distinction between studies carried out by academia versus industry. It was argued that both parties are strongly invested in the outcomes of their work. Also the question whether databases should be made publicly available following the primary publication(s) sparked off some wonderful (counter) arguments that will continue to feed the public debate.

The second theme of the workshop was on interim reviews of ongoing clinical trials. One session considered how interim reviews can be done to best ensure the interests of the participating patients and overall trial integrity; the second investigated whether and how emerging safety data from several ongoing trials of the same drug or class of drugs can be combined to provide a more informative and timely assessment of possible risks associated with an intervention. The speakers, being leaders from industry, academia, and government, provided a broad view of the challenges faced in this setting.

Details of the agenda, speakers, and videos of the talks can be found on the Department's web page. All in all, this year's workshop was most interesting and thought-provoking.


News Briefs

By Marcia Testa

Thanks to Assistant Professor, Christoph Lange, Harvard University has successfully sold his PBAT software package to a West Coast software company, Golden Helix Inc, [www.goldenhelix.com] which will distribute it exclusively. The technology transfer was a very good investment for the Department since 40% of the profits from sales will be returned to the Department to support research in statistical genetics. PBAT is an interactive software package www.biostat.harvard.edu/~clange/default.htm which provides tools for the design and the data analysis of family-based association studies.

Cyrus Mehta, Adjunct Professor, HSPH and President and Co-Founder of Cytel Inc. announced that Cytel has changed its name from Cytel Software Corporation to Cytel Inc. With the strategic hiring of Jerry Schindler, former global head of Biostatistics and Data Management at Wyeth Pharmaceutical, Cytel has expanded its role from supplying software to offering consulting services to the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, by helping them design and monitor adaptive clinical trials. "This brings us much closer to our clients," Cyrus writes, "and as a result we get new ideas for further enhancing our software, in addition to building up a lucrative consulting organization."

Els Goetghebeur, Adjunct Associate Professor of Biostatistics, HSPH, and her team at Ghent University Belgium set up a 1 year Master program in Statistical Data Analysis 2 years ago, which welcomes students who already have a Master in a scientific field. Last month, the Belgian government approved the move to an English program from 2006-2007 onwards. The tuition is currently the standard one for Belgian degree programs: 505 euro per year…

Recently the PBAT software was applied to a major public health problem – the growing epidemic of childhood obesity. Professor Nan Laird, Dr. Christoph Lange and Dr. Matt McQueen (Post-doctoral Fellow in Biostatistics) were co-authors along with first author Assistant Professor, Dr. Alan Herbert from the Genetics and Genomics Department, Boston University School of Medicine and a number of other distinguished authors from HSPH including Drs. David Hunter, Frank Hu and Graham Colditz on a manuscript entitled A common genetic variant is associated with adult and childhood obesity which appeared in the April 14, 2006 issue of Science.

John Spritzler, Research Scientist, HSPH, co-authored the book, "On the Public Agenda: Essays for Change," which was recently published by Black Rose Books. The essays review popularly held beliefs on religion, education, healthcare, revolution and war. Topics include the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal, making Iraq democratic by waging war, a market-driven healthcare, AIDS research and the cost of higher education.

Professor John Quackenbush and his wife Mary Kalamaras welcomed their son Adam Kalamaras Quackenbush to the world on March 14, 2006, his 1 year anniversary of starting at HSPH. Congratulations to John and Mary!

Professor Louise Ryan spent 2 weeks in Tokyo teaching "statistical methods for epidemiology" as part of the Department's partnership with Kitasato University. Louise reports that she had a great time. The students are smart and friendly . Tokyo itself is clean, safe, interesting and easy to get around. The architecture is particularly interesting. Louise will happily volunteer to go again, any time!"

Marcia A. Testa, Senior Lecturer, HSPH, completed her term as Chair of the Statistics Section of the American Public Health Association and currently is serving as the Immediate Past Chair. In March, 2006 she was elected by the voters of the Town of Wellesley to serve a threeyear term as a member of the Town's Board of Health.

Scott Evans, Research Scientist, HSPH, reports that Rui Wang, Lixia Pei, Xiao Ding, Lu Wang, Beth Ann Griffin, and William Evan Johnson were nominated for Mu Sigma Rho, the national honorary society for statistics. Mu Sigma Rho was founded in 1961 to promote and encourage scholarly activity in statistics, and to recognize outstanding achievement by students in eligible academic institutions. The Boston Chapter of the American Statistical Association (which serves members in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine) was granted affiliate chapter status in Mu Sigma Rho in 2005. Lingling Li and Natasa Rajicic were inducted last year. Nominations were based on outstanding achievement in statistics courses in addition to overall strong academic performance.

Last but not least in the news briefs. In May 2006, the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens bestowed on Professor Stephen Lagakos the great honour of an honorary doctorate (doctor honoris causa). We extend our warm congratulations for this well deserved recognition.

Professor Stephen Lagakos


Our 2005-2006 Biostatistics Graduates

By Sonju Harris and Caroline Jeffery

Between November 2005 and June 2006, the department awarded 15 doctoral degrees and six master's degrees in Biostatistics. Doctor of Philosophy degrees were awarded to Melody S. Goodman, Beth Ann Griffin, Alexandros Gryparis, Yu Guo, Jaroslaw Harezlak, Amy J. Murphy, Julie S. Najita, Margaret C. Nikolov, Ping K. Ruan, Jennifer A. Schumi, Chang-Heok Soh, Suzanne E. Szwarc, Eric J. Tchetgen Tchetgen, Tyler J. VanderWeele, and Laura Forsberg White. Master of Science degrees were awarded to Jim Hong, Eric A. Macklin, Sunni L. Mumford, Kimberly R. Pearson, and Patrizia Schifano. A Master of Arts degree from GSAS was awarded to Derek Elmerick.

We asked graduates in our department to comment on their experiences here. The following is a selection of their responses.

1) What do you miss most about student days at Biostats? (Or for those of you who are just recovering: what do you think you will miss most?)

Beth Ann: The flexibility! It’s great to be able to create your own schedule.

Jim: The group study sessions. And also being able to see your classmates daily.

Kim: I'll miss the opportunity to study full-time.

Laura: All of the associations with really great people.

Margaret: I will miss lunches, coffee breaks, and happy hours with my friends in the department. I will miss the administrative staff who have always been so pleasant and helpful. I will greatly miss working with my research advisor and dear friend, Brent Coull.

Suzanne: I miss being able to work from home whenever I want.

Tyler: Definitely the people... students, faculty, post-docs and staff.

Yu: Flexible hours.

2) Was there a particular course or consulting experience that most influenced your view of statistics or your career direction?

Beth Ann: My favorite course was Survival Analysis which ultimately lead me into my thesis area. However, I had a great consulting experience which really did help motivate the directions I've taken with the degree. In particular, during the consulting requirement, I got teamed up with a classmate of mine to work on a project in which we developed a scoring system to rank MA maternity hospitals on their level of implementation of WHO/UNICEF's 10 steps to successful breastfeeding. That project lead to a presentation at the MA public health department and a publication. It served as a constant reminder to me of how meaningful our work can be if we let it.

Jim: The consulting seminar I took greatly influenced my view of what a biostatistician needs to be able to do. It showed me that one must be able to play a particular role in consulting and support, that one must have a comprehensive knowledge of statistical methods, that one be able to coherently express/convey ideas and that one must be ready to handle complex study designs and problems. The seminar experience allowed me to take on such tasks and start developing these abilities.

Margaret: I found consulting to be an extremely rewarding experience and I hope to work, at least in part, in a similar capacity in the future.

Suzanne: The best experience I had was TAing twice for Rich Gelber and Ken Stanley (BIO 214). I really enjoyed the interaction with the students, and both professors are excellent teachers.

Tyler: Advanced Epidemiologic Methods (EPI 207) very much influenced my choice of research area and my view of statistics. I would strongly recommend it to all the students in the department because it clearly elucidates the relationship between the concepts of association and causation.

Yu: Computational biology & Internships.

3) How was your Teaching and/or Research Assistant experience? (mostly for PhD students)

Beth Ann: I love teaching so I enjoyed TAing a lot. It was my favorite part of the first semester in the program because I always ended my busy week TAing a Bio 200 lab. I left school feeling energized and less stressed after those labs!

Jim: I feel this was a tremendously important experience. TAing is the of the first times a biostat students gets to interact with non-biostat students. It allows the TA to solidify certain concepts and to try to explain them to students without the same technical background. It also tends to expose the students to the more applied biostat courses that he/she otherwise might not take. Finally, TAing is a good exercise in public speaking.

Laura: I really enjoyed it!

Margaret: I had a great experience working as a teaching assistant for Kim Gavreau (BIO 201) and for Paige Williams (BIO 245). Kim and Paige are both so organized and very gifted at teaching.

Suzanne: Teaching was always more rewarding if I was assigned to TA a class that I requested. I really enjoyed TAing and tutoring because it helped me learn the material better.

Tyler: I really enjoyed all of the teaching.

Yu: My teaching experience was particularly helpful, since I chose to teach the courses designed for doctors/scientists. It helps me understand statistics from the "user"'s point of view, and the experience definitely prepared me well for a job in a biotech company, interacting with scientists all the time.

4) Are their any areas where you wished you had received more experience?

Beth Ann: I wish I had better exposure to all the other areas of statistics rather than just my thesis area. It would be nice to be more well rounded at the moment.

Jim: I wish I had received more experience conducting independent research. I think this could be facilitated if there was a Master's thesis requirement.

Laura: I wish I had more experience with Bayesian methods and Numerical analysis.

Margaret: I wish that some of the first year core classes followed a more standard format. While the more alternative styles of teaching may have benefited students who have already studied the material in depth (those with prior Master's degrees), I had only a prior Bachelor's degree and, at the time, wasn't even aware how much I was missing.

Suzanne: There are always areas that one can study more...if I had an unlimited amount of time I probably would have taken some classes in genetics and computational biology, as well as surveillance.

Tyler: Maybe smoothing techniques and the bootstrap.

Yu: Clinical trials. Experimental design.

5) What are you doing now (employment, travel,…)?

Beth Ann: My job is great. I worked as a statistician at the RAND Corporation with a wonderful group of researchers and on a wide variety of projects. Plus, my husband just joined the foreign service so soon we'll be heading abroad to live, work, and travel!

Jim: I will be employed at a health-care company.

Kim: Will begin a postdoc in the department in June.

Laura: Job hunting...hopefully soon to be resolved.

Margaret: I will continue my research here through the summer, while I look for a job.

Suzanne: I am working in the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Tyler: I'll be joining the Health Studies faculty at the University of Chicago as an assistant professor of biostatistics.

Yu: Biostatistician at a local small biotech co.

6) How was the job search process?

Beth Ann: Good. Exhausting because I needed to shop around and understand my options.

Jim: The job search process was extremely simple. The company had an on-campus recruiting session and I just followed through the process.

Kim: Easy! (thanks to Steve Lagakos!)

Laura: So far, good.

Suzanne: The job search process was pretty easy. I was able to eliminate a lot of jobs before sending my resume, so I did not interview many places. I think it is very difficult to gauge what a new job will be like based on interviews alone. Will your employer give you responsibilities and quality work that is commensurate with your experience? Will you be supervised or will you be mentored? Some things you don't know until you start working. And if it doesn't work out, then at least you learned something about yourself and about the kind of job is a better fit for you.

Tyler: It was quite fun and interesting having the opportunity to meet the faculty at various departments but also a bit exhausting -physically and emotionally- interviewing and traveling and then waiting for responses.

Yu: I could probably find a job much easier if my area was clinical trials. There aren't that many positions for computational biology around in the industry, but I am very happy to have found a great fit in my current job.

7) What were employers looking for in terms of skills, qualities, coursework and applied experience?

Beth Ann: Skills = that you can learn quickly! My employer felt it was important that I had a rigorous background in theory.

Jim: For an industry position, it is important to have good computing abilities, applicable thesis topics (if PhD) and real experience. Relevant coursework is a plus, but not essential. As for qualities, just with anything else, enthusiasm and independent initiative go a long way.

Laura: My experience has been that employers want to see an ability to tackle problems that may not have tidy answers. Also good experience and exposure to general statistical methods (what they want seems to depend on the job).

Suzanne: I think employers want people with balanced training, theoretical and applied. Good communication skills are also crucial. Knowing SAS and R is also beneficial.

Tyler: Demonstrated research ability, confidence in teaching, perhaps some focus to applied research and a generally good personality fit.

Yu: Communication skills, broad knowledge.

8) What advice would you offer to newer students in the program?

Beth Ann: Don't get too stressed. The amazing thing about a program like Harvard's is everyone can have a different experience and succeed. There is NOT one right path. Always follow your gut!

Jim: Classwork is important but it is also important to begin developing your other skills. Get started early in the direction you want to eventually end up in. Don't be afraid to make the professors your friends.

Kim: Look around for interesting courses to take outside the department as well as within Biostats. Don't forget you can take courses at any of the Harvard campuses, as well as Tufts and MIT.

Laura: Take advantage of as many of the opportunities that you can. Finishing is good, but there are a lot of really good things to be involved in besides your thesis that will make your experience better and more valuable for the future.

Margaret: Work together and support each other. Having good friends in the department makes a big difference. When looking for a research advisor, try to find someone who will be available over the next few years and whose personality gels well with yours.

Suzanne: My during-school advice is: Every hour worked is an hour closer to graduating. Don't let bumps in the road slow you down. No matter how difficult it may seem to finish, earning this degree gives you the privilege to affect people's lives for the better. My after-school advice is: Never settle, continue learning, don't get bored, and always go with your gut.

Tyler: Take classes in several other departments at HSPH. The school has a lot to offer!

Yu: Seek as much help as possible from all over the dept.

9) What was your favorite statistics book in your first year? What is your favorite statistics book now?

Beth Ann: Casella & Berger (1st year) Now: .....nothing jumps into my head.

Jim: 1st year, none, now, Casella Berger, Statistical Inference.

Kim: Casella and Berger's "Statistical Inference".

Margaret: Although not used by my first year professors, I cannot think of better first year text than Casella and Berger. This book is clutch when studying for the written qualifying exam.

Suzanne: I don't really have a favorite book. My favorite notes are Bob Gray's statistical computing notes. I have used those more than anything else, unless you consider google.com.

Tyler: I guess I found Cox and Hinkley somewhat interesting during the first year.

Yu: Casella and Berger.

10) Anything else you would like to mention…?

Beth Ann: a writing course would've been helpful!

Tyler: Thanks everyone for several wonderful years in the department!

(Left to right back row): Amy Murphy, Melody Goodman, Jennifer Schumi, Jim Hong, Sunni Mumford, Patrizia Schifano, Eric Macklin, Laura Forsberg White, Tyler VanderWeele, Ping (Kathryn) Ruan, Jaroslaw (Jarek) Harezlak. (Left to right front row): Julie Najita, Suzanne Szwarc, Margaret (Meg) Nikolov, Beth Ann Griffin.

(Left to right back row): Amy Murphy, Julie Najita, Melody Goodman, Jennifer Schumi, Eric Tchetgen, Tyler Vander- Weele, Jaroslaw (Jarek) Harezlak, Laura Forsberg White. (Left to right front row): Beth Ann Griffin, Margaret (Meg) Nikolov, Suzanne Szwarc, Ping (Kathryn) Ruan.


Boston’s AIDS Walk and Run

The Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research (CBAR) and the Department of Biostatistics have participated in Boston's AIDS Walk for the past three years. Spearheaded by the efforts of team leaders, Bethany Hedt (Biostatistics doctoral student), and Susan Brogly (CBAR research scientist), the Team Harvard-Biostats has worked hard to fundraise for the walks. Having won the Top Fundraising Team of 2005 with contributions totaling $2,200, they planned in 2006 to top that amount, and came in with a stunning $5565, more than doubling the previous year! The Walk takes place along the Charles River l'Esplanade. There also is a 5km AIDS Run on the same day. This money goes to the AIDS Action Committee of Boston, which provides services to individuals living with HIV/AIDS as well as HIV prevention programs for all. Everyone is invited to participate and show support. More information about the AIDS Walk and Run may be found at http://www.aac.org/site/PageServer? pagename=AIDSWALK05_home.


Team Harvard-Biostats 2006


Connections Update

Biostat has a web page for Alumni - http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/biostats/about/alumni/. Please feel free to update your address and other information there confidentially.

Cassandra Arroyo (Ph.D. ‘03)
Cassandra just accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Epidemiology in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA, starting August 1.

Julia L. Bienias (Sc.D. '93)
Julia was recently elected Vice-Chair of the Council of Sections Governing Board of the American Statistical Association. She will serve in this capacity from 2007-2009. She is also Past-President this year of the Caucus for Women in Statistics. She serves as Senior Statistician for the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging and the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center, and is Associate Professor of Internal Medicine, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, where she has worked since 1997. She can be reached at jbienias@rush.edu.

Carlos Brain (SM ‘01)
Carlos graduated a few days ago with an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is getting married to Johanne Auerbock in July and they are moving to San Francisco, CA. He will be working as an economics consultant at Cornerstone Research there.

Phuong Dang (SM ’95)
Phuong was promoted to Manager of the Statistical Programming & Analysis Department at Genentech in July 2005.

Aime De Muynck, (SM ‘82)
Aime was head of the unit of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium. But in 1997 he took leave to join the Health Services Academy, Islamabad, Pakistan. That Academy was involved in the training in public health of the district health officials (there are 120 health districts in that country). Unfortunately the external support as stopped in 2000, as a consequence of the disagreement of the donor with the atomic bomb experiments of Pakistan. Aime preferred to remain active abroad, and is presently setting up a training in data management for the tuberculosis control program officials in India.

Dan Geer (Sc.D. '88)
Too complicated to explain in detail, but am applying biostat to the issues of digital security. If anyone wants to know more, get in touch with dan@geer.org.

Amy Herring (Sc.D. '00)
Amy was recently promoted to Associate Professor of Biostatistics at UNC: Chapel Hill. Amy and her husband, David, welcomed a son, Peter Albert Dunson, in April 2005.

Stefan Horvath (Sc.D. ‘00)
With my collaborators, I won 2 awards: 1) The 2005 best paper award from the International Genetic Epidemiology Society for the paper: Horvath S, Xu X, Lake SL, Silverman EK, Weiss ST, Laird NM (2004) “Family based tests for associating haplotypes with general phenotype data: application to asthma genetics”. Genet Epidemiol, Vol 26, No 1, 61-69; and 2) The first prize at the data analysis competition “Critical Assessment of Microarray Data Analysis” (CAMDA) at Duke University June 9, 2006. Anja Presson, Eric Sobel, Jeanette Papp, Aldons J. Lusis, Steve Horvath (2006) “Integration of Genetic and Genomic Approaches for the Analysis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Implicates Forkhead Box N1”. Conference proceedings volume.

James Hudson (SM ‘02)
Dr. Hudson was promoted this spring to Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Aparna Keshaviah (SM ‘01)
I have some exciting news to share--I have been awarded a Fulbright grant to use survey methodology to study the variability in the practice and teaching of Bharatanatyam, an Indian dance form I've studied for over 20 years (which I performed at HSPH during International Night, and which I now teach). I leave for India in the fall and will be there for about 9 months. I'm very excited for the opportunity to pursue this hybrid research, using statistics and quantitative methods to strengthen scholarship in the humanities. I'll be posting updates on my dance website: www.geocities.com/akeshaviah.

Kay Larholt (Sc.D. ‘89)
I have recently joined Abt Associates as Vice President and Executive Director of the Biostatistics and Epidemiology group within Abt Associates Clinical Trials. We provide research services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries including biostatistics, data management, health economics, outcomes research and registries.

Larry Leon (Ph.D. ‘05)
Larry and his wife announce the birth of a son -- Alejandro Francisco Leon -- born on July 26 05'. Also, he is happily employed at BMS (Bristol-Myers Squibb Pharmaceutical Research Institute) and living in North Haven CT.


Alejandro Francisco Leon

John McGready (SM ‘96)
John says that he is still at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and instructor in the department of biostatistics, and still working on his Ph.D. thesis part time. He has two sons: Emmet Asher (16 months) and Micah Teagan (3.5 years) who rule, and a wife: Roni Neff (SPH alumni 1997, HSB) who rules.

Annie Sasco (SM ‘80)
After 22 years at the International Agency for Research on Cancer , the WHO specialized agency in cancer research, located in Lyon, France I had (for health and professional reasons) to move back to Bordeaux where I went to medical school in my student days. After having headed for 9 years a research unit dealing with cancer prevention at IARC, I am now starting a new group, always on cancer etiology and prevention but mostly focused on countries of the South, essentially Africa. I am located in a public health, epidemiology and development institute which is very active in AIDS research. It belongs to Bordeaux 2 University. My 2 kids are now grown, being 22 and 17. Both are very much involved in the problems of our planet and society. They were a great support in the difficult days I went through. My new e-mail is: Annie.Sasco@isped.u-bordeaux2.fr.

Denise Scholtens (Ph.D. ‘04)
Denise sends word that Anna Jeanne Scholtens was born on March 22, 2006!

Catherine Spino (Sc.D. ’89)
Cathie Spino has accepted the position as the Clinical Statistics Head for Inflammation and Dermatology in the Midwest Statistics Organization. In addition, Dr. Spino will have statistical oversight for Ann Arbor TA-led studies that are conducted in the Ann Arbor Research Clinic. In her new position, Dr. Spino will join the Midwest Statistics Leadership Team. Cathie received her Sc.D. in Biostatistics from the Harvard University School of Public Health. After an academic appointment at Harvard and a 2-year position at Astra, Cathie joined Parke-Davis in the Spring of 1999. Initially, Cathie supported programs in the cardiovascular area. Subsequently, Cathie moved to support Viagra PH, lasofoxifene for FSD and VA. More recently, Cathie provides statistical leadership on the development program for Factor Xa.

Robert Strawderman (Sc.D. ‘92)
After spending 8 great years in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan, I moved to Cornell University in 2000, where I am now a Professor in the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology and in the Department of Statistical Science. I also serve as the Director of Graduate Studies for the field of Statistics at Cornell. I was elected fellow of the ASA this year. My wife Myla is working in the Division of Nutritional Sciences as a consulting statistician. Our two kids, Tommy (8) and Emma (6), have far too many activities to list here!

Ann Muir Thomas (SM ‘03)
Well, it's not "fresh" news by now, but you could say that I am now working as a biostatistician for the Harvard AIDS Initiative.

Alicia Toledano (Sc.D. '93)
My husband, Lee, took a job in Toronto, Canada, where we have moved to be closer to his family. It's been almost a year now, and we are settling in and enjoying seeing family and Canadian friends more often. Toronto is a great city, there's always something to do or see! Along with that, I left the faculty of Brown University's Center for Statistical Sciences to start my own consulting company. I am still working as a co-investigator on a couple of the key projects that I was involved with at Brown, and currently have other clients in the US, Canada, and Europe. The biggest news is also the "littlest" - baby Eric Gabriel Shekter was born on April 20, 2006! We were very fortunate to have one of my dearest friends, Marian (Pugh) Ewell, come to stay with our family for a few days to help take care of our two older boys (Jacob, age 8, and Dylan, age 6) while I was in hospital. Keeping in touch by email and telephone is good, but the in-person visits, even though they don't happen often, are the best!

Qi Zeng (Sc.D. ‘96)
After a few years in New York City, Qi Zeng has returned to Boston as the Head of Global Quantitative Research for State Street Global Markets. As a Managing Director and Senior Vice President of State Street Corporation, she is currently leading a group of stock research analysts to provide investment insights to global investors. She looks forward to reconnecting with her old classmates of Biostat 1996. She can be reached at qzeng@statestreet.com.

Bin Zhang (Sc.D. ‘05)
I am going back to school again. I'll be an assistant professor at The Clinical Epidemiology Research and Training Unit at Boston University Medical School and the Department of Biostatistics, BU School of Public Health starting this July.