2019 Message from the Chairs

As the fall semester approaches its end, many of us are beginning to look to the winter break, the start of new year, and the opportunity to relax and spend time with friends, family, and loved ones. But as Chairs of the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, we also want to invite everyone to take a look back at 2019 with pride in all of the things that the department, though the work of all of its members, has achieved throughout the year.

As summarized elsewhere in this newsletter, 2019 has been a remarkable success for our department. We’ve recruited two outstanding new faculty, Rachel Nethery and Briana Stephenson, who strengthen our department’s core expertise while opening new areas of research that will expand the horizons of everyone in our department. We are extremely proud of our students. They continue to run the Biostatistics Student Consulting Center, making biostatistical support available to other graduate students training in the life sciences at Harvard. They also lead the way as student ambassadors in several school- and university-wide programs focusing on pressing public health issues. Our student body consists of students from programs across the country, and our graduating students continue to move into positions at leading institutions around the world. Our blossoming Career Development Program serves to link together these current and former students, with seminars and panels of alumni sharing their experience across multiple job sectors with current members of the Department. Our postdoctoral fellows also represent the best and brightest in the world, with many leaving for faculty positions or leadership roles in government and industry. And we continue to be supported by an administrative team composed of extraordinarily dedicated and talented individuals who make our department a shining example for others to aspire to.

The department’s faculty continue to excel as leaders in the development and application of new quantitative methods that use the unparalleled data resources that we now have available to tackle the most challenging problems in public health. Our faculty have yet again achieved a strong record of funding, and a number of them play leadership roles in school-wide research centers and national consortia. Our faculty also maintain five training grants that fund the majority of our doctoral students and many postdoctoral fellows. And, as you will read, our alumni have similarly excelled in their professional lives.

Our department as a whole has demonstrated its commitment to recognizing the importance of our members as people. Our PhD students took the lead in addressing student mental health issues. The survey they helped develop, administer, and interpret, has been an example for the rest of the School and has led us to take constructive steps to identify times of high stress and better support students during those times. We have initiated Title IX training for faculty, staff, and students to ensure everyone is aware of the importance of treating all members of our department with equal respect. Finally, we have worked with our students to take positive steps that promote diversity within our department and are providing resources to enable our students to self-organize around shared interests and shared experiences so that they, and we, can better support each other.

As we look to 2020, our department continues to evolve to provide not only leadership in quantitative public health research, but also to train the next generation of leaders who are prepared to work in a rapidly changing environment. Nowhere is our success in meeting this challenge more apparent than in sheer number of applicants to our MS and PhD programs, which have greatly exceeded totals in previous years.

We want to thank all of you for your continued support of our department and for making it an amazing place to work, to learn, and to become, each day, better versions of ourselves. The opportunity to belong to the community of scholars that is the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard Chan School makes coming to work every day incredibly rewarding.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,

John Quackenbush and Brent Coull