2016 Holiday Message from Xihong Lin

As we approach the holiday season, I would like to express my warmest appreciation to faculty, students, postdoctoral fellows, staff, alumni, and friends of the Harvard Biostatistics Department for your many contributions and support this past year, and for making the Department a special place for all of us.

In April, our dear colleague and long-term former Dean for Academic Affairs, Jim Ware, passed away. It was a huge loss to the Department, the school and the statistical community.  Jim was a distinguished biostatistician and leader who helped many people and made a profound impact in many dimensions. He will be greatly missed.

Supporting students and recruiting top faculty continues to be of high importance to the Department.  I am very pleased to announce that, with the generous contributions of colleagues and friends, the Department has established the James Ware Fellowship Fund and the Nan Laird Financial Aid Fund, to honor the enormous contributions both Jim and Nan have made to the School, our Department, our students, and to the discipline of biostatistics. Both funds are fully endowed and will be used to support students in perpetuity.   I am also very grateful for the ongoing fundraising efforts by the department’s friends to establish the Marvin and Thelma Zelen Assistant/Associate Professorship to honor the enduring legacy of the Zelens and their countless contributions, and the significant gifts that have already been made.

Promoting diversity is also an important mission of the Department.  Under the long-term leadership and dedication of Rebecca Betensky, the Summer program has been a great success in furthering that goal.  This year, the program brought in 14 undergraduates and post-baccalaureate interns.  The annual symposium was attended by approximately 100 people in July.  In addition, our doctoral students Jaffer Zaidi, Tom Madsen, Zack McCaw, Kelly Mossesso, Sam Tracy, and Octavious Talbot and the faculty leader Marcello Pagano had another impressive year with the StatStart Program, a summer program geared towards under-represented minority and low income students from the Boston area.

Our faculty, especially junior faculty, are currently thriving.  The Department was very pleased to welcome new assistant professor Jeff Miller, who joined us in the summer.  Jeff works on developing statistical methods for big data in health science, and has already played a key role in the department, co-organizing with Sheila Gaynor and Nils Gehlenborg at DBMI, the very popular new Biostatistics-Biomedical Informatics Big Data Seminar (B3D) Series, a joint seminar with the new Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) at Harvard Medical School.  In other news, Jukka-Pekka Onnela hosted the White House Chief Data Scientist Dr. DJ Patil this fall, Cory Zigler successfully obtained his first R01 grant on Causal Inference with Interference for Evaluating Air Quality Policies, and Scott Carter will offer a new course on Cancer Genome Analysis starting in the spring.

As featured in the newsletter, our faculty, postdocs and students made great strides in research and education, with a long list of awards and grants.   I’d like to especially thank our Directors of Graduate Programs, John Quackenbush, Paige Williams, and David Wypij for all their excellent efforts to advise and mentor our students. Our new Health Data Science MS program was approved in Spring by the University, and we are looking forward to the first cohort of the HDS MS students join us in fall 2017.  The Department also underwent a major renovation of the student and postdoc offices this year.  The new spaces are open, modern and promote more interaction and collaboration. All of these activities would not have been made possible without our outstanding and dedicated staff.   Please join me in thanking them for their tireless work this past year.

I encourage alumni and friends of the Department to subscribe to our popular weekly newsletter and to contribute information about your activities so we can share them with the larger Biostats Community. Please also visit our Facebook and Twitter pages, and stop by in person whenever you are in Boston.  I would particularly would like to invite you all to attend the joint stat/biostat 60th/70th birthday celebration event on May 5, 2017.

I wish you and your family very Happy and Peaceful Holidays and a Happy and Healthy New Year!