Interview With New Assistant Professor Rui Duan!

Rui DuanPlease help us welcome Dr. Rui Duan, who has recently joined the Department as Assistant Professor of Biostatistics! Her official start date is July 1st.

See what inspired Rui to study biostatistics, her plans for her time in the Department, and what she enjoys outside of work.


What led to your decision to join Harvard Biostats?

I was really attracted to Harvard Biostats because of the broadness of the research areas, the leading roles of the faculty members in their respective domains, and the rich opportunities in the Boston area. Additionally, as a genuine book lover, the Widener Library at Harvard is a dream place for me to spend some joyful time of my life.

Where did you grow up? Can you point to something in your life that may have influenced your decision to study biostatistics?

I grew up in Xi’an, a city in China with a very long history which was home to the ruling houses of the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang dynasties. I had an early interest in mathematics and decided to study math at college. Despite the interesting knowledge I learned from pure math courses, I sometimes felt a lack of motivation, and kept searching for an area in which I could transform the power of mathematics into solutions for real-world problems. After a few internships and research experiences related to healthcare research, I went to Duke Biostats for my graduate study. It was there that my passion for biostatistical research was incubated through working with my thesis advisor, Dr. Terry Hyslop, on a sequence of breast cancer studies. I found it very exciting to raise interesting questions and seek evidence in real-world datasets through rigorous quantitative methods. I was fascinated by how biostatisticians could contribute to science and promote human health, which further motivated me to pursue a PhD degree and an academic career in biostatistics.

What was your previous educational and work experience before joining the Department?

I got my Bachelor’s degree in mathematics at Fudan University, my Master’s degree in Biostatistics at Duke University, and my doctoral degree in Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

What do you enjoy most about your job so far and what research directions are you planning to pursue?

The most exciting and rewarding part of my current job is the opportunity to work with amazing people with various backgrounds. I enjoy learning from different perspectives and believe that helps to construct a more comprehensive understanding of a problem. To me, genuine thinking is to put many things together– a gathering. Therefore, one of my future research directions is to combine information and evidence from multiple data sources in order to extract more reliable evidence that can be further used to accelerate knowledge discovery and enable better clinical decision making. Additionally, I am interested in developing methods for electronic health record (EHR) based research and accounting for suboptimality of real-world data.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

I enjoy reading while my pair of zebra finches are singing and flying around. I also enjoy hiking, classical music, and exploring good restaurants.