Meet Our New PhD Students!

We’ll be featuring mini-profiles of our new PhD students over the next few weeks. We look forward to welcoming them into our community!

Stephanie ArmbrusterStephanie Armbruster

Hi! My name is Stephanie Armbruster and I am German- American. I graduated from the University of Munich with a BS in Statistics and minor in Biology. I have spent the past year in the UK pursuing a MSc in Statistical Science at the University of Oxford.

Ever since my school days I have been fascinated by the intersection of statistics and public health – an interest that has been fostered throughout multiple internships at the Pharmaceutical company Novartis. During a summer internship with Dr. Linus Schumacher at the Centre of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh I dabbled into the world of Computational Biology by modeling the early embryogenesis of mouse stem cells as a neural cellular automata. In collaboration with Dr. Sabine Hoffmann at the Institute for Medical Information Processing, Biometry and Epidemiology at the University of Munich, I explored the unresolved replication crisis which many scientific fields, including biology, are facing. I investigated the performance of statistical metrics to determine the replicability of observational studies, distorted by different factors. Currently, I am working together with Dr. Gesine Reinert in Oxford on Network Time Series Models, comparing their predictive performance on COVID-19 data across differently constructed networks to establish how network construction can be optimized as a hyperparameter in network-based models.

Both my BS and MSc degrees have laid a theory-focused foundation across the broad field of statistics. While my research interests thus far have been very multifaceted, I am looking forward to bridging the gap between my two passions, statistics and biology, during my PhD and exploring how statistics can contribute to actual real-world change in the Public Health context.

In my free time, I enjoy going to theatre plays and classical concerts, reading and running. The most recent hobby I picked up is rowing – a sport I hope I can continue in Boston.

I am very much looking forward to joining the Department of Biostatistics and meeting everyone!

Salvador BalkusSalvador BalkusHello there! My name is Salvador Balkus and I grew up in Franklin, MA, a town about an hour outside of Boston. I recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with a bachelor’s degree in Data Science.As an undergraduate, my first research experience began at the UMassD Public Policy Center, where I analyzed socioeconomic data for clients such as local governments and hospitals. Inspired by the potential policy impact of research, in mid-2020 I shifted to a more technical role at the Computational Statistics and Data Science Lab. Here, I worked on methods for smart health, including federated learning, data harmonization for dietary studies, and small-area epidemic forecasting. Concurrently, as the president of the university’s Big Data Club, I spent a lot of time mentoring underclassmen, leading data science competition teams, and consulting for external clients.Apart from health-related topics, I’ve also worked in various other areas. These include natural language classification and cooperative autonomous driving at UMassD, forest cover clustering at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, and satellite tracking simulation for the Aerospace Corporation at the UCLA Research in Industrial Projects for Students (RIPS) program.At Harvard, I hope to focus on spatial statistics and small-area modeling, especially their applications to environmental health. My overarching professional goal is to create a positive impact on public health policy.Outside of academics, I enjoy hiking, indoor rock climbing, skiing, playing board games, and broadening my music taste. I look forward to meeting everyone!