Get to Know Our New PhD Students!

Over the next few weeks we’ll be introducing you to our first year doctoral students.

Parker KnightHi! My name is Parker Knight, and I grew up in Ocala, Florida, which is about two hours north of Orlando. I graduated in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Florida.
I first became interested in biostatistics my first year of college, while working in a behavioral neuroscience lab at UF’s McKnight Brain Institute. There, I analyzed functional connectivity networks constructed from fMRI data to understand the cognitive effects of various drug treatments in mice. I found I most enjoyed the interdisciplinary element of the work, in which I could combine my interests in biology, math, and computer science.
In the summer of 2019, I interned at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where I was a member of Dr. Tim Randolph’s group. My work focused on methods for high-dimensional statistical inference for data that has complex correlation structure, especially microbiome data.
Through this experience I grew broadly interested in genomic applications, and upon returning to UF I joined Dr. Rhonda Bacher’s group in the department of biostatistics. Here, I worked on computational methods for single-cell genomic data analysis, with a particular focus on pseudotime estimation tools for single-cell RNA-seq data. I also led the development of “methylscaper,” an R/Shiny app for visualizing and manipulating DNA methylation data.
During this time, I completed a senior honors thesis under Dr. Sara Pollock, in which I studied adaptive smoothing penalties for high-dimensional regression problems.
With support from the genomics training grant, I’m looking forward to learning more about the breadth of research opportunities in statistical genetics and genomics at Harvard. I also look forward to learning more about areas of biostatistics that I haven’t spent too much time on, especially causal inference and Bayesian methods.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, running, and breaking my Emacs configuration.

Phillip NicolHi! My name is Phillip Nicol, and I am originally from Columbus, Ohio. I recently graduated from Harvard college with a degree in mathematics and computer science. I became interested in biostatistics and bioinformatics after spending a summer researching with Professor Kevin Coombes at Ohio State University. At OSU, I developed probabilistic graphical models to infer the temporal order of mutations in cancer. I also developed mathematical models and simulations to make predictions about intratumor heterogeneity. Most recently, I have been developing statistical methods to analyze single-cell RNA-seq data in the lab of Professor Shirley Liu (at DFCI).
I am very excited to join the Department of Biostatistics, where I will be funded through the Cancer Training Grant. I plan to continue my research on cancer evolution, but I hope to be exposed to other areas of biostatistics as well. I look forward to meeting everyone!
Outside of work, I am an avid runner and swimmer. I also enjoy playing piano and board games whenever I have the time.