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Biostat Connections
October 1997

From the Department: the Chair's Corner

by Nan M. Laird

Last year at this time I was completing a very rewarding and successful sabbatical year learning about current research in statistical genetics. This is an exciting field with many fascinating problems for biostatisticians. The use of molecular level data will grow in prominence in health and medicine, posing challenges and opportunities for those of us involved in applied research. We have already begun the process of introducing courses in statistical genetics and I anticipate a growing research basis in this area for us in the future.

My first year back in the department has been marked by several major events. In early October the department held the fourth annual Myrto Lefkopoulou Memorial Lecture. The lecture was delivered by Dr. Trevor J. Hastie, Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics, Stanford University, who spoke on "Models and Metrics for Handwritten Digit Recognition." The annual Myrto Lefkopoulou Distinguished Lecture continues to serve as a vehicle to honor and remember the outstanding life and career of the department's beloved former faculty member and student, Myrto Lefkopoulou.

As most of you know, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the founding of the School of Public Health and the 50th anniversary year of the founding of our Department of Biostatistics. Many of you attended our celebration in Memphis at the ENAR meetings in March. Several of our distinguished alumni spoke at that event, including Manning Feinleib, Judy Goldberg, Ralph Buncher, Stuart Baker, and Rebecca DerSimonian.

Our fifth annual Harvard Biostatistics/Schering-Plough Workshop was held at the end of May in Boston, with a record number of attendees. The theme of this year's workshop was "Contemporary Issues in Clinical Trials", and discussants included David Cox, Francis Cuss, David DeMets, David Feigal, Judy Goldberg, Robert O'Neill, Stuart Pocock, Ross Prentice, and Ram Suresh. I am pleased to report that our partnership with Schering-Plough has been renewed for another five years. The partnership was initiated to foster collaborations between our Department and Schering-Plough Research. During the first five years we have had regular visits by faculty, students, and Schering scientists, informal discussions, presentations, as well as the annual workshops. The partnership has provided funding for students and junior faculty research.

In conjunction with our Workshop we presented our first Marvin Zelen Leadership Award in the Statistical Sciences to Professor Emeritus C. Frederick Mosteller. Mosteller has led the wider science community and the general public in teaching them about the value of statistics. He was a pioneer in the evaluation of social innovations and experiments, and of technology assessment in health and medicine. Professor Mosteller's inaugural address was entitled "The Importance of Clinical Trials in Education." The Award is supported by an endowed fund which many of you generously contributed to; it will be given annually to an individual in government, industry, or academia, who by virtue of his/her outstanding leadership has greatly impacted the theory and practice of statistical science.

I am sorry to note that several faculty and former faculty will be leaving us this year. Butch Tsiatis is enjoying life in North Carolina; he is getting firmly entrenched in the Statistics Department at North Carolina State and setting up collaborations with various groups at Duke University Medical Center. He is resigning as of this fall; he will be terribly missed by all of us. Cathie Spino, currently Research Associate with CBAR, formerly faculty, postdoc, and student in the Department, will be leaving in July to take a position with Astra Pharmaceuticals. We will miss Cathie's unfailingly cheerful enthusiasm for her work at the School and her many friends here. After spending one year on leave at North Carolina State, Marie Davidian has resigned her position in the Department as Associate Professor, effective July 31,1997; she will return to her former position at NC State. We are very sorry to see her leave; she was a big asset to our academic and research program. Mary Kathryn Cowles will be leaving us to join the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Iowa; students will miss Kate's gifted teaching and her generous help with statistical computing problems. Jonathan Haines, Associate Professor of Neurology at HMS and secondary in our Department, has left to take up a position at Vanderbilt Medical School. Jonathan was a valued colleague who provided support for students and faculty interested in statistical genetics.


We are delighted to have several new faculty joining us next year. Three are currently spending a postdoctoral year in the department before joining the faculty: Sudeshna Adak, Kathy Lunetta and Peter Gilbert. Four others who will join us next year are Matt Wand, Garrett Fitzmaurice, Lily Xu and Florin Vaida. Matt Wand comes to us from the University of New South Wales in Australia where he is senior lecturer. His major research interests are nonparametric curve estimation, Markov chain monte carlo and computational statistics; Matt will be an associate professor, and work with Louise Ryan and others on several projects in the environmental area. Garrett Fitzmaurice graduated from our Department in 1993, and has spent the last three years as a research fellow at Nuffield College at Oxford University. His major research interests are multivariate binary and mixed discrete and continuous outcomes, missing data problems, overdispersion and psychiatric epidemiology. Kathy Lunetta comes to us from University of Michigan where she received her PhD in Biostatistics, working in the area of statistical genetics. Sudeshna Adak received her PhD in Statistics from Stanford in 1996; her major areas of research include spectral analysis of nonstationary time series, time-varying ARMA modeling, generalized linear models and statistical software developmentfor exact risk analysis. Lily Xu completed her PhD at UC San Diego in 1996; her major research interests include survival analysis, goodness of fit, robust inference under misspecified models, change point problems, and statistical genetics. Kathy, Sudeshna and Lily will be based at the DFCI. Peter Gilbert comes to us from Seattle, where he received his PhD in Biostatistics from University of Washington in 1996; his main research interests include statistical methods for HIV and AIDS research, with an emphasis on vaccine trials, efficient estimation in semiparametric models, survival analysis, biased sampling models, clinical trials and empirical process theory. Florin Vaida will join us after finishing his PhD in Statistics from University of Chicago; his major research interests include Markov chain Monte Carlo methods and varying coefficient models for longitudinal data. Peter and Florin will be working with the CBAR. We are pleased to have such a talented group of new faculty for next year.

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Last Update: 9 October 1997