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!

Kevin KapnerKevin KapnerHi! My name is Kevin Kapner and while I grew up in West Orange, New Jersey, I’m finding myself saying that I’m from Boston after having been here for the past nine years! I obtained both my BS in Biochemistry and Mathematics and my MS in Biomedical Engineering from Tufts University. Since graduating with my MS in 2019, I have been working as a computational biologist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in a pancreatic cancer research lab.My path to biostatistics was a little serpentine. My undergraduate research took place in the wet lab working with in-vitro Parkinson’s disease modeling.

I soon realized my interests were in the data portion of biomedical science, and not in the actual hands-on biology part. With my mathematics background, I was able to quickly jump to a machine learning internship with the United States Air Force Research Labs and that eventually led me to my most recent position as a computational biologist at DFCI. I worked as the sole dry-lab member of the Aguirre Lab and ended up working with most of the other pancreatic cancer labs and many of the clinicians in the GI department at DFCI as a result. My research primarily focused on identifying genomic drivers in KRAS wild-type pancreatic cancer through the utilization of genomic sequencing data from DFCI’s entire pancreatic cancer patient cohort. Although throughout my tenure there, I also got to work on clinical trials, pancreatic cancer related epidemiological studies, and novel compound testing.My time at DFCI motivated me to pursue biostatistics as I wanted to be on the forefront of methodology development and research for analyzing the new biological tools that seem to be coming out almost daily. I am hoping to work on methodology for data integration and the experimental design of genomic and single-cell RNA-seq studies. With that being said, I am extremely open to new ideas, and I hope to learn more about all the various subfields of biostatistics!Outside of work and school, I like to go on hikes with my beagle Mozart, try out new recipes, watch reality TV with friends, and share pigeon facts, as I am a proud pigeon dad to a King pigeon named Pudge.

Xiaonan LuXiaonan Liu

Hello! My name is Xiaonan Liu. I’m Chinese and I’ve been living in the UK for the past 9 years throughout my education and career. I completed a BSc in Mathematics at University of Bristol and a MSc in Statistics at Imperial College London. Before starting my PhD, I was working as a medical statistician at the Translational Epidemiology Unit (TEU) at University of Oxford for 3 years.

At TEU, I focused on genetics research using large-scale data. My research has included 1) developing a pipeline for calculating polygenic risk scores (PRS) for 500,000 individuals in the UK Biobank; 2) identifying genetic and phenotypic predictors for breast cancer by integrating a machine learning model with Cox models; 3) assessing causality of blood pressure with renal cancer using Mendelian Randomisation; 4) adding PRS to risk prediction algorithms (e.g. the Leicester risk assessment tool) to improve type 2 diabetes screening. Through these projects, I have realised the potential of genomics in advancing healthcare, which motivated me to study this field further.At Harvard, I wish to further train in statistical genetics, computational biology, and cancer and clinical research. My current interests lie in developing and applying methodologies to integrate multimodal data (e.g. multi-omics, environmental, clinical data) for precision medicine and omics characterization of cells for understanding disease mechanisms.Outside of academia, I enjoy meeting up with family and friends. My ultimate hobby is dancing (hip hop or any cool choreography). I’m super looking forward to meeting everyone!