The Lagakos Distinguished Alumni Award

We are extremely pleased to announce that Dr. Rui Wang, Associate Professor in the Department of Biostatistics, will be the recipient of the 2023 Lagakos Distinguished Alumni Award !

Dr. Rui Wang is scheduled to give an in-person lecture at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health on Thursday, October 19th, 2023 in Kresge G3 at 4:00 PM.

Rui Wang’s Talk will be on : 
A Journey of Joyful Learning and Exploration: Navigating the Seas of Heterogeneity 

Heterogeneous data arise from many sources, such as variations in study populations, measurement methods, and data collection processes. To draw meaningful conclusions from complex biomedical data with inherent heterogeneity manifesting in multiple ways, we need statistical approaches that not only account for the variability but also leverage it to uncover valuable insights. In this presentation, I will share some of our work on the design and analysis of individually- and cluster-randomized trials, where intriguing statistical challenges have spurred the development of new methodologies to address various forms of heterogeneity. I will also reflect on invaluable lessons from Dr. Lagakos and my colleagues during this enlightening journey of learning and exploration.

Dr. Wang has distinguished herself not only by her intellectual ability, but in terms of the depth of knowledge she brings to her research area, her dedication to her work, and her deep engagement with public health. Her commitment and passion for biostatistical endeavors shine through her research and professional interactions, and her spirit, humor, care, and compassion have positively influenced many of her colleagues.

After receiving her BS in Mathematics from Beijing University, Dr. Wang came to Harvard to obtain a  PhD in Biostatistics. Under the guidance of Dr. Stephen Lagakos, she wrote a dissertation on Nonparametric Methods for Inference After Variable Selection, Comparisons of Survival Distributions, and Random Effects Meta-Analysis, and Reporting of Subgroup Analyse.  After graduating she continued developing expertise in theoretical statistics to work on problems related to HIV/AIDS. With Dr. Lagakos she published work on estimating HIV incidence and problems related to permutation inference with applications to HIV/AIDS trials.

Dr. Wang began collaborating on the design and analysis of the Botswana Combination Prevention Project (BCPP), which fueled her interest in cluster randomized trials (CRTs). She completed an NIH R01 grant on robust estimation of the intraclass correlation coefficient, and advised a number of PhD students and postdoctoral fellows on the design and analysis of CRTs. Additionally, she studied methods to model HIV viral load trajectories to allow identification of post-treatment viral controllers, influencing the ultimate design of HIV cure trials.

In addition to her work on HIV/AIDS, Dr. Wang has contributed to many other health care fields. From 2011 to 2016, she was Director of the Biostatistics Core in the Sleep Disorder and Cardiovascular Disease Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has worked on numerous sleep studies, including randomized trials to assess the impact of mild sleep disorder treatments in children and the impact of nocturnal oxygen on hospital admissions in adults with heart failure.

Since 2017 she has served as Director of the Division of Biostatistics at the Department of Population Medicine (DPM) within the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. In this role she works on methods for profiling hospital performance, as well as infrastructure to facilitate multi-site studies, including CRTs, within the health care system. In this role, she has demonstrated an impressive commitment to teaching and mentorship, leading a sizeable group of faculty, staff, research fellows, and students who provide statistical guidance and expertise for investigators involved in innovative clinical research. She has become a highly productive scholar not only because of her own creativity, technical skill, and dedication, but also due to the efforts of this superb group of mentees.

Throughout her career, Dr. Wang has worked on projects ranging from methods for the monitoring of ongoing cluster randomized trials to semiparametric methods for the analysis of cluster randomized trials subject to missing data. Beyond these topics, she has made her mark both as a highly successful collaborative biostatistician as well as an outstanding methodologist with an international reputation in post-model selection inference, nonparametric inference in random effects models, subgroup analysis in randomized trials and cross-sectional estimation of HIV incidence.

But Dr. Wang’s focus goes well beyond handling the statistical issues that arise in research, extending to all aspects of clinical or observational research projects that impact the ability to produce reliable and reproducible results. Her methodological work stands out particularly because it advances knowledge in statistical theory and has an immediate impact on statistical practice. For example, her New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) paper coauthored with Dr. Lagakos on subgroup analysis not only assesses the quality of subgroup analysis reporting in papers published by the journal, but also provides a set of explicit guidelines for subgroup analyses reporting, standards which have been adopted by the NEJM since 2007.

In summary, Dr. Wang has consistently maintained the highest standards of professional achievement and personal integrity when working with administrators, students, and collaborators-whether clinical or quantitative.  From her achievements in methods and collaborative research to her roles as group supervisor and mentor, Dr. Wang has demonstrated outstanding leadership and engagement –not only in biostatistics but also more broadly in education and public health.

About the Award300h

The annual Lagakos Distinguished Alumni Award has been established in memory of Dr. Stephen Lagakos, a faculty member and former chair of the Department of Biostatistics who passed away in a tragic automobile accident in 2009.

Professor Lagakos was a leader in the Department, the School of Public Health, and more broadly, in the international community of quantitative biomedical researchers. Steve’s qualities of commitment, passion, intellectual brilliance, and personal generosity had a direct personal impact on our lives; and his contributions to biostatistics and to AIDS research were fundamental.

This award serves to honor Steve’s distinguished career, and to recognize Department alumni whose research in statistical theory and application, leadership in biomedical research, and commitment to teaching have had a major impact on the theory and practice of statistical science.  The award will be open to all who have an earned degree through the department, regardless of length of time since graduation or type of degree.

The award recipient will be invited to the school to deliver a lecture on their career and life beyond the Department.


Nominations are welcome for next year’s award, to be given in October 2023.

Please send nominations via email

Nominations should include contact information for yourself and your candidate, and the candidate’s curriculum vita, if available. Please include a letter describing the contributions of the candidate, specifically highlighting the criteria for the award. Supporting letters and materials would be extremely helpful to the committee, but are not required.

Nominations must be received by Friday, August 11, 2023.

Previous Award Winners

2022 Andrea S. Foulkes
2021  Scarlett Bellamy
2020 Joseph Hogan
2019  Fong Wang Clow
2018  Amy Herring
2017  Nicholas Horton
2016  Judith Goldberg
2015  Victor DeGruttola
2014  Michael Daniels
2013  Jesse Berlin
2012  Melissa Begg
– renamed The Lagakos Distinguished Alumni Award –
2011  Manning Feinleib
2010  Daniel Scharfstein
2009  John Simes
2008  Robert Strawderman
2007  Takeuchi Masahiro
2006  Daniel Siegel
2005  Christl Donnelly
2004  Stuart Baker