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Alumni News: Fall 2008 Biostat E-News

This bulletin is for alumni and friends of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Washington. To include your news in future issues, please contact E-News Editor Elaine Riot.

UW Biostatistics Ranks First in Nation: The University of Washington Department of Biostatistics ranked first among public universities (third overall), in a recent review of U.S. biostatistics departments by the Chronicle of Higher Education. The publication rates academic departments annually, based on the Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index.

According to the review, the top 10 biostatistics departments in the nation are: 1) Harvard University; 2) Johns Hopkins University; 3) University of Washington; 4) Columbia University; 5) University of Minnesota; 6) University of North Carolina; 7) University of Michigan; 8) University of California Los Angeles; 9) Case Western Reserve; and 10) Boston University.

The productivity of each faculty member was measured on: books published (2002-2006); journal publications (2004-2006); citations of journal articles (2003-2006); federal-grant dollars awarded (2004-2006); and honors and awards. To read more about the rankings and how the numbers were calculated, click here.

In related news, the University of Washington was tied for third among American public research universities and 12th among both public and private institutions, in a recent report by the Center for Measuring University Performance. The center states that, in ranking universities, “research matters more than anything else in defining the best institutions. While dollars provide a good approximation of research activity, it is the faculty who provide the critical resource for university success.” Check out the complete report here. A similar graduate school survey in 2007, reported by US News and World Report, ranked the UW SPHCM fourth in the nation, second among publicly funded universities.

Norman Breslow Honored in Belgium: In September, Professor and former Chair Norman Breslow was honored by two Belgian universities for his extraordinary contributions to the field at a two-day celebration in Belgium.

The celebration was threefold, serving to mark the 20th anniversary of the Master in Biostatistics degree at the University of Hasselt (UHasselt); the 10th anniversary of UHasselt’s Center for Statistics (CenStat); and the start of a new inter-university program, the International Institute for Biostatistics and Statistical Bioinformatics, which joins together the biostatistics programs of the UHasselt and the Catholic University of Leuven (KULeuven). (Event photos, as well as an article in Dutch, can be accessed here).

As part of the festivities, Norm was awarded the biennial Herman Callaert Leadership Award in Biostatistics Education and Dissemination. The committee cited Breslow’s seminal contributions to statistical literature, particularly in survival analysis, overdispersed Poisson data, generalized linear mixed models, clinical trials (Wilms tumor), and epidemiology. In addition to his research prowess, he was recognized for his international collaboration (fostered by his fluency in several languages), mentoring biostatistical scientists, broad leadership in the field, and his reputation as a “role model for the world: honest and fair, impartial, with broad views and natural authority.” Norm met Herman Calleart, who co-founded and manages the M.S. program in biostatistics of UHasselt since 1988.

The big news of the trip for Breslow was that he also received an historic inter-university honorary doctorate, the first awarded jointly by the two universities. He is pictured here flanked by the two rectors of UHasselt and KULeuven who presented him with the Doctor Honoris Causa.

“I was overwhelmed,” said Norm. “The science faculty at UHasselt can offer such a doctorate only once every five years. The fact that they selected a statistician I think speaks volumes about the success of Geert Molenberghs in demonstrating the relevance and importance of our discipline.”

The awards ceremony included the signing of the protocol forming the new inter-university institute by the rectors of the two universities and by “the two Geerts”--Professor Geert Molenberghs of UHasselt and Professor Geert Verbeke of KULeuven, who were heads of the two biostatistics programs when the agreement was forged. Geert Molenberghs is head of the new institute.

“The two Geerts are well known to our faculty,” said Breslow. “They are internationally recognized biostatisticians who have collaborated on several influential books and presented short courses together worldwide.” Molenberghs also succeeded Breslow as president of the International Biometric Society after the sudden death of President-elect Rob Kempton.

“Our alumnus Michal Kulich (Ph.D. 1997, Lin), now at Charles University in Prague, was an invited speaker at the celebration at Hasselt,” Breslow added. Kulich, who was a graduate of the Hasselt MS program before he came to UW, presented a talk entitled “The impact of measurement error on the shape of the regression function.”

Congratulations to Norm on receiving these well-deserved international honors! This has been a banner year--check out his further achievements in the Honors and Awards section, below.

Sir David Cox to Deliver 2008 Breslow Lecture: Sir David Cox, distinguished professor of statistics at Oxford, will deliver the 2008 Norman E. Breslow Endowed Lecture, “The Theory of Statistics: Some Challenges” at the University of Washington Hogness Auditorium on November 6, 2008, at 1:30 p.m.

Professor Cox is a world renowned statistician who has made pioneering contributions to the field of statistics and applied probability. In 1990 he won the Kettering Prize and Gold Medal for Cancer Research for the development of the proportional hazard regression model, widely used in the analysis of survival data. The Cox Process, a stochastic process which is a generalization of a Poisson process, is named after him.

Cox has been bestowed many honors in his long, illustrious career. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1985 and became an Honorary Fellow of the British Academy in 2000. He has been awarded Guy Medals in Silver (1961) and Gold (1973) from the Royal Statistical Society. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1973, and has served as president of the Bernoulli Society, the Royal Statistical Society, and the International Statistical Institute. Sir David Cox is now an Honorary Fellow of Nuffield College and a member of the Department of Statistics at the University of Oxford.

The Norman E. Breslow Endowed Lectureship was established to fund an annual distinguished lecture in the Department of Biostatistics in honor of Professor and former Chair Norman Breslow.

New Biostatistics Faculty

Three new faculty members were recruited this year, Susanne May, Timothy Thornton and Kwun Chuen “Gary” Chan (pictured above from left to right). May, from the University of California, San Diego, joined the faculty in September as Associate Professor of Biostatistics. Thornton, who will join the faculty next year in fall of 2009, will be appointed as a tenure-track assistant professor. Chan, who recently received his Ph.D. in biostatistics from Johns Hopkins University, will hold a tenure-track assistant professor position, jointly appointed in Biostatistics and Health Services. All three will assume important roles within the department.

Dr. May was formerly an assistant professor in the Division of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at UCSD, and is currently working at ROC. She received her M.S. in mathematics from the Universitat Karisruhe in Germany, and her doctoral degree in biostatistics from University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Susanne‘s methods research has focused on survival and longtitudinal data analysis, and her applied research has been in the field of neuroscience and HIV/AIDS.

“I am very happy to join the Biostat faculty and work with Scott Emerson (Ph.D. 1988, Fleming) on the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium,” said May, who arrived in Seattle in early September.

Dr. Thornton will help build the department’s program in statistical genetics, with teaching responsibilities in biostatistics/statistical genetics as well as in public health genetics/genetic epidemiology. Since 2006, he has served at UC Berkeley as the UC President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, working with Professor Terrence Speed on projects using statistical methods to “identify susceptibility genes for complex traits in samples with related individuals.”

Tim received his doctoral degree from the University of Chicago in 2005, where his research area was genetic association and complex traits.

“I am honored to join the faculty at the University of Washington Department of Biostatistics,” said Thornton. “This department is world renowned and I am certain that it will provide a fruitful environment for my research in statistical genetics. I look forward to teaching and working with the graduate students in the years to come.”

Dr. Chan is slated to join the faculty in November of this year. He received his B.Sc. in actuarial science from the University of Hong Kong. His research interests include statistical methods for analyzing medical cost, statistical models for stochastic processes, truncation and prevalent cohort data and multiple comparisons in regression models.

Alum Katherine Halvorsen Named ASA Fellow: Katherine Halvorsen (M.S. 1978, Breslow), professor of mathematics and statistics at Smith College, was recently named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association for her outstanding contributions to statistics education. Halvorsen was acknowledged for her leadership in the field, namely as an advocate for statistics and data analysis in K-12 curriculum, her development of the ASA’s “Meeting Within a Meeting” program for K-12 teachers, and for her contributions to the Advanced Placement Statistics program.

Katherine received her masters from UW Biostat and a D.Sc. in biostatistics from Harvard School of Public Health. At Smith, she teaches undergraduate courses in introductory statistics, experimental design, regression analysis, probability, and mathematical statistics. Her current research focuses on statistics education and statistical consulting. Halvorsen chairs the Advisory Committee on Continuing Education for the American Statistical Association (ASA), and has served on the Executive Committee of the ASA’s Section on Statistics Education and as chair of the Mathematics Department at Smith College. Her research interests constellate statistical methods in medical research, with current research involving the problem of analyzing data assembled from different sources.

Two other friends of the department were also named ASA Fellows this year: Nilanjan Chatterjee (Ph.D. Stat 1999, Breslow and Wellner) and Hongzhe Li (Ph.D. Stat 1995, E. Thompson), who are both pictured here. Early this year, Chatterjee was named Chief of the Biostatistics Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute. He was recognized for his service to the profession, including leadership in developing study methods for epidemiologic studies and making major contributions to high-impact scientific studies. Hongzhe Li, professor of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, was acknowledged for his development of survival analysis methods for mapping genes for complex diseases and methods for network-based analysis of genomic data and strong service to the profession.

Congratulations, all!

Biostatistics Storms the Tower!

Several faculty and staff from the Department of Biostatistics have moved to the University Tower (formerly Safeco Tower). All are members of one of four relocated research groups, led by Biostatistics faculty members: the Center for Biomedical Statistics (CBS), headed by Patrick Heagerty; the Northwest PRECEDENT Data Coordinating Center, led by Brian Leroux; Bruce Weir’s Genetics Coordinating Center; and the Statistical Genetics Laboratory, Ellen Wijsman’s group.

“The view is spectacular,” said Bryan Comstock (M.S. 2004, D. Pauler Ankerst advisee), Core Director of the Center for Biomedical Statistics. Bryan provided this photo, taken from his office, of the sweeping view of Lake Washington and Lake Union, with the Seattle cityscape and the Space Needle in the distance.

The UW bought the tower from Safeco Insurance in September 2006, leasing it to Safeco until the end of 2007. In January the UW started to ready the tower for UW occupancy. There are four buildings in all: the tower, and buildings S, O and C, which will ultimately get different names. Biostat groups occupy the entire 15th floor of the tower; approximately 46 people so far, leaving a little extra space to accommodate growth.

Student Charlotte Gard Awarded Research Traineeship: Kudos to grad student Charlotte Gard, who got some great news in May. She received a Predoctoral Traineeship Award from the Breast Cancer Research Program at the US Department of Defense. The award will support Gard’s dissertation work with Professor Elizabeth Brown. The traineeship, which begins this fall, will provide up to three years of funding at $30K per year.

“I am excited to receive this funding, which will support my research with my advisor, Professor Brown,” said Gard. “Dr. Diana Miglioretti is my co-mentor for this award. I work with her as an RA at the Statistical Coordinating Center for the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium.”

Gard described the ongoing research project. “Recently developed breast cancer risk prediction models include breast density measured categorically on the four-point BI-RADS scale,” she said. “However, radiologists differ in how they assign BI-RADS breast density, and density measures are subject to considerable misclassification. My research involves developing statistical methods to incorporate radiologist-specific information about breast density misclassification into breast cancer risk prediction models. By taking misclassification into account, we hope to improve the predictive accuracy of the risk models.”

Campaign UW: Creating Futures, Creating History: UW Biostat is helping to build a strong foundation for future generations of biostatistical scientists. Department development funds provide support for collaborative research and other heightened educational experiences for students; student aid; department, center and program support, facilities, and equipment; and recruitment and retention monies to support our outstanding faculty.

One fund the department depends upon is called the Biostatistics Excellence Fund. “We use this money for recruitment and important guest hosting,” said Administrator Cynthia Marks. “The fund supports special events for students, faculty, staff and guests--things that help with recruitment and hospitality and add to collegiality and the quality of life within the department.”

To peruse all funds established for the department, please click here.


November 6: Sir David Cox will deliver the Norman E. Breslow Endowed Lecture, “The Theory of Statistics: Some Challenges” in Hogness Auditorium, at 1:30 p.m.

December 1-2: Bayesian Modeling and Computation for Networks Workshop at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.


November 20-23, 2010: 4th Seattle Symposium in Biostatistics: Clinical Trials

August, 2011: 8th International Conference on Forensic Inference and Statistics

Check out forthcoming issues of Biostat E-news for details of these future events.


Congratulations to...

- Professor Norman Breslow, the recipient of the 2008 Marvin Zelen Leadership Award in Statistical Science, given by the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health to an individual who has made a great impact on statistical science. Norm is pictured left, along with Dr. Zelen and presenter Dr. Xihong Lin (Ph.D. 1994, Breslow), professor of biostatistics at Harvard. Norm was also honored as the 2008 Greenberg Lecturer in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of North Carolina, and the winner of the 2008 Callaert Leadership Award in Biostatistical Education and Dissemination from Universiteit Hasselt, Belgium.

- Professor Elizabeth Thompson, who was elected to the National Academy of Sciences for her research originality and excellence. Read the NAS news item, here.

- Professor Ross Prentice, who delivered the 2008 Fisher Lecture at JSM: “The Population Science Research Agenda and the Women’s Health Initiative.”

- Professor Paula Diehr, pictured left, who was inducted into the UCLA Alumni Hall of Fame last year for her pioneering contributions to public health and her outstanding reputation as an educator and researcher.

- Professor Steven Self (Ph.D. 1981, Prentice), the first Ross L. Prentice Professor of Biostatistics, who delivered the 2008 Ross Prentice Lecture, “Results from the STEP Trial: How Small Amounts of Data Can Have a Very Large Impact.”

- Alum Carolyn Hutter (Ph.D. 2008, Rice), winner of the Gilbert S. Omenn Award for Academic Excellence from the School of Public Health.

- Grad student Abby Shoben, the winner of the Donovan J. Thompson Award. Shoben also won best poster as voted by the first year students at the recent Student-Faculty Retreat. Her topic: “Estimates of Information Growth Accommodating Model Misspecification.”

- Grad students Michael Sachs and Paramita Saha, also best posters winners at the Student-Faculty Retreat. Sachs won the most votes from Biostat students overall for his poster, “Verification Bias in Diagnostic Test Studies;” Saha’s poster, “Time Dependent Predictive Accuracy in the Presence of Competing Risks,” was chosen as the favorite of the faculty.

Grad student Julian Wolfson (pictured with Chair Bruce Weir), winner of the UW Biostat 2008 Outstanding Student Award.

- Alum Katherine Guthrie (Ph.D. 2001, Sheppard), who was recently promoted from assistant member to associate member in the Clinical Research Division at FHCRC.

- Alum Rebecca Hubbard (Ph.D. 2007, Inoue), who won the 2008 David P. Byar Young Investigator Award from the American Statistical Association. The $1,000 award is given annually to a young investigator for the best paper to be presented at the JSM.

- UW Biostat‘s 2008 Outstanding Staff Award winner, Alex MacKenzie, our curriculum coordinator in the on-campus office.

- Stat Alum Nilanjan Chatterjee (Ph.D. Statistics, 1999), who was named Chief of the Biostatistics Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute. He specializes in developing efficient design and analytic methods for modern molecular epidemiologic studies.

- Alum James Anderson (Ph.D. 1979, Prentice), who was named 2007 Distinguished Scientist by the University of Nebraska Medical Center, where he has served as Group Statistician for the Children’s Oncology Group and head of the Statistics and Data Center grant since 2005.

- Grad student Kumar Bharat Rajan, who won two prizes in the WNAR student paper competition this summer: runner-up for the best oral presentation, and runner-up for the best written paper. The title of the paper: “Regression Methods for Area Under the ROC Curve for Diagnostic Studies with Ordinal Data.”

Congratulations Graduates!

The Department of Biostatistics had our own Graduation Ceremony on June 13 at South Campus Center. Professor and Chair Bruce Weir, Graduate Program Director David Yanez and Professor and former Chair Thomas Fleming spoke at the intimate celebration.

Lin Chen (Ph.D. 2008, John Storey advisee), pictured left, has taken a position with the Biostatistics Modeling and Methods group at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her thesis: Causal Modeling in Quantitative Genomics.

Benjamin French (Ph.D. 2008, pictured with advisor Patrick Heagerty ) has taken a position as assistant professor in Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Senior Scholar in the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. His thesis: Analysis of Aggregate Longitudinal Data with Time-dependent Exposure.

Jeffrey Leek (Ph.D. 2008, John Storey advisee) is a postdoctoral fellow working with advisor Giovanni Parmigiani in the Department of Biostatistics at Johns Hopkins University. His thesis: Surrogate Variable Analysis.

Elisabeth Rosenthal (Ph.D. 2008, pictured with advisor Ellen Wijsman ) is a UW postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Ellen Wijsman, performing linkage analysis on lipids data. Her thesis: Linkage and Segregation Analysis Allowing for Multiallelic Inheritance.

Kyle Rudser (Ph.D. 2008, Scott Emerson advisee) is serving as a postdoctoral fellow at ROC. His thesis: Variable Importance in Predictive Models: Separating Borrowing Information and Forming Contrasts.

Leslie Taylor (Ph.D. 2008, Andrew (Xiao-Hua) Zhou advisee) is an is a mathematical statistician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. Her thesis: Estimating Causal Treatment Effect in Randomized Clinical Trials with Noncompliance and Outcome Nonresponse.

Xuesong Yu (Ph.D. 2008, Li Hsu advisee) authored the following thesis: Statistical Methods for Analyzing Genomic Data with Consideration of Spatial Structures.

Hua Zhong (Ph.D. 2008, Ross Prentice advisee), pictured with Professor Dave Yanez, took a position with Rosetta Inpharmatics. Her thesis: Bias Reduced Estimators and Confidence Intervals for Odds Ratios in Genome-wide Association Studies.

David Coblentz (M.S. 2008, Kathleen Kerr advisee) is engaged in postdoctoral studies in religion at the UW. His thesis: Distributional Assumptions and the Reliability of Mixture Models Methods for P-Values.

Carolyn Hutter (M.S. 2008, Kenneth Rice advisee), pictured with Professor Dave Yanez, took a position with the Cancer Prevention Program at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Her thesis: Mendelian Randomization: A Simulation Study Evaluating Violations of the Underlying Core Conditions.

Eric Johnson (M.S. 2008, Andrew (Xiao-Hua) Zhou advisee) is a statistician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System. His thesis: A Comparison of Multiple Imputation Methods in Widely Used Software Packages.

Frankline Onchiri (M.S. 2008, Barbra Richardson advisee) will work as a fellow for nine months in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Nairobi before taking a permanent position at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Africa. Her thesis: Modeling Recurrent Bacterial Vaginosis: An Application of a Two-state Markov Transition Model.

Robert Schmicker (M.S. 2008, Lianne Sheppard advisee) has accepted a position with ROC. His thesis: Do Time-Series Studies Provide Reasonable Health Effect Estimates for Ozone?

News Bits

Professor Thomas Fleming published an important editorial in the September 3rd issue of The New England Journal of Medicine: Identifying and Addressing Safety Signals in Clinical Trials. The editorial gets a mention in this Wall Street Journal health blog entry.

Professor Jonathan Wakefield (pictured with wife Zoe Moodie (Ph.D. 2001, Prentice) and daughter Ellie) wrote a featured article, &ldquol;Spatial Epidemiology and the Ecological Fallacy,” in the Winter 2008 issue of SPHCM Spotlight on Research.

A study by Biostat’s Resucitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC), headed up by Professor Scott Emerson (Ph.D. 1988, Fleming), is featured in this University Week article: Survival after emergency cardiac arrest treatment varies widely.

Professor Louise Ryan (pictured left), chair of the Department of Biostatistics at Harvard University, visited UW Biostat in April. Dr. Ryan was selected as the 2008 student-sponsored seminar speaker, and met with students individually during her stay.

Professor Elisabeth Cardis (Ph.D. 1985, Crowley) has taken a position at the Center for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL) in Barcelona.

Professor Thomas Lumley (Ph.D. 1988, Heagerty), pictured left, gave an invited Translational Lecture at the 48th Conference on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Heart Disease. The topic was “Measurement error and clinical trials: some problems randomization can’t fix.”

Professors Norm Breslow and Thomas Lumley (Ph.D. 1988, Heagerty) gave a one-day course on two-phase studies in epidemiology at the WNAR meeting in Sacramento, June 22.

Alum Tom Braun (Ph.D. 1999, Feng), University of Michigan, organized a JSM session for the Biometrics Section: “Methods for the Analysis of Multivariate Dental Data.”

Alum Todd Alonzo (Ph.D. 2000, Pepe), pictured left, is President Elect of Western North American Region (WNAR) of the International Biometric Society (IBS).

Alum Daniel Gillen (Ph.D. 2003, Emerson), Associate Professor of Statistics at UC Irvine, will be Program Chair (WNAR) of the 2009 Joint Statistical Meetings in Arlington, VA.

Professor Jim Hughes (Ph.D. 1980, Chapman) is teaching an online Biostatistics I course. It is the first of a three-course Distance Learning sequence in introductory biostatistics, targeting working medical and public health professionals and extending a key portion of the departmental curriculum to the larger community.

The admin staff of Biostatistics and Statistics recently held a joint retreat at Woodland Park Zoo. Pictured is Administrator Cynthia Marks, Graduate Program Counselor Renee Albert, and Computer Guru Carl Riches, cleverly disguised as spiders. And for you old timers, a happy note: former longtime Biostat fiscal manager, Vickie Graybeal, is now the administrator of the Department of Statistics.

Alum John McDonald (Ph.D. 1980, Fisher) is Professor of Longitudinal Social Statistics at the Institute of Education, one of the colleges of the University of London. He is Director of Methodology for the Centre for Longitudinal Studies, which houses three internationally renowned birth cohort studies: the 1958 National Child Development Study, the 1970 British Cohort Study, and the Millennium Cohort Study.

Alum Debashis Ghosh (Ph.D. 2000, Lin) served as the Biometrics Section Program Chair to the 2008 JSM Program Committee.

Welcome Sandra Coke, our new on-campus Administrative Coordinator. Sandra will serve as our event coordinator, information specialist, and website manager.
Welcome to Sheila Shapiro, who is our new Secretary Senior in the on-campus office. Sheila will provide primary faculty secretarial and classroom teaching support, serve as seminar coordinator, manage the keys/access cards and other admin duties.
Welcome to Mi Kuen “May” Fung, Fiscal Specialist, who serves as the department’s payroll coordinator.

- Farewell to our longtime administrative manager at CHS, Alison Shaw, who moved to Orcas Island. Welcome to her successor, Nick Yasinski.

- Farewell to Information Specialist Pete Mesling and Secretary Jennifer Hopkins. Pete took a position as Manager of Anesthesiology at Harborview.

- Welcome to our newest affiliate faculty members John Storey (affiliate associate professor), who took a position with Princeton earlier this year; and I-Li Lu (affiliate assistant professor) of Boeing.

- Welcome to Senior Fellow Chris Delaney, who recently received his Ph.D. from McGill University.

- Farewell to Visiting Assistant Professor Amy Anderson, from Western Washington University in Bellingham, who has spent the summer in Seattle. Milestones

- Alex MacKenzie, curriculum coordinator, just sold a story to the online magazine, Abyss & Apex, a professional, award-winning science fiction/fiction market. Read the story, “Walking Across the Bomb.” Alex is pictured left with Chairman Bruce Weir, after winning the Outstanding Staff Award for 2008.

- Congratulations to Professor David Yanez, his wife Miriam and their son Malcolm on the birth of new baby Sofia, born August 30 at 5:13 a.m. She weighed 7 lbs 14 oz and was 20.0 inches long.

- Alum Nancy Flournoy (Ph.D. 1982, Fisher) and her husband Len Hearne took a long awaited dream trip to Peru over the summer. “It has been on my list of places to visit for a long time,” said Nancy.

Alumni Event at JSM: UW Biostat and Stat alums visited at an informal reception in Denver during the Joint Statistical Meetings.

Yuying Jin (current student), unknown guest, Professor Andrew Zhou, Danping Liu (current student), and former postdoctoral fellow Liansheng Tang.

You’ll have to take our word for this, since the angle isn’t great, but pictured left is Professor Ross Prentice, speaking with student Lihong Qi (Ph.D. 2003, Prentice); Leah Jaeger (stat alum) speaking with unknown guest; behind them, Kyle Rudser (Ph.D. 2008, Emerson) and Associate Professor Peter Hoff; Professor Scott Emerson (Ph.D. 1988, Fleming) talking to Professor Danyu Lin of UNC Chapel Hill; then Bryan Shepherd (Ph.D. 2005, Gilbert); Philip Dinh (Ph.D. 2006, Zhou); student Yuying Jin (looking down); and Jeff Leek (Ph.D. 2008, Storey).

Alumni Profiles

Name: Debashis Ghosh (pictured with wife Emily and daughter Mira)

Biostat Degree/Year: Ph.D. 2000 - Danyu Lin, advisor

Current Job/Employer: Associate Professor of Statistics and Public Health Sciences, Penn State University

Research interests: computational biology, cancer biomarker modeling, analysis of survival and longitudinal data, multiple testing procedures.

Current research: There has been a lot of buzz and potential about the use of gene expression signatures to guide clinical decision making in cancer settings. Currently, a clinical trial called MINDACT to test the utility of a famous “70-gene” breast cancer signature is underway. However, many other gene expression signatures for breast cancer have been developed which had virtually no overlap with this “70-gene&rdquo signature. Using pathway analysis tools, we found that while there was no overlap between the individual genes that comprised the various signatures, there is in fact strong overlap in the pathways represented by the different signatures. This finding suggests that a new approach to thinking about building genomic classifiers might be in order.

Interesting publication: Liu, D., Lin, X. and Ghosh, D. Semiparametric regression of multidimensional genetic pathway data: least-squares kernel machines and linear mixed models. Biometrics. 2007 Dec;63(4):1079-88.

This is an article written by a doctoral student jointly advised by Xihong Lin (Ph.D. 1994, Breslow) and myself while we were all at Michigan. In it, we took a technique proposed by computer scientists, support vector machines, and demonstrated its equivalence under certain conditions to best linear unbiased predictors from mixed effects models. The upshot is that you can use PROC MIXED in SAS or lme in R/Splus to fit this machine learning technique.

Personal milestones: I have just moved to the Statistics department at Penn State University (PSU) after spending seven years in the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The head of the department at PSU is Bruce Lindsay (Ph.D. 1978, Breslow), also a UW Biostatistics alumnus. At Michigan, I met my wife, Emily, who is now an assistant professor of English at PSU. We got married to each other with three ceremonies in 2005 (locations: Tulsa, OK; Gainesville, FL; Kolkata, India). The really big news for us is that we are now parents!

Our daughter, Mira Cecile Harrington Ghosh, was born at 7:58am on June 5th, 2008. She weighed in at 8lb 1oz, and is almost 22” long. We are thrilled, overjoyed and excited about being parents, although we are up a lot later at nights than we used to be! I have attached a photo (see above) of the three of us (taken very recently).

Favorite book: (Tie) “Atonement” by Ian McEwan and “Bel Canto” by Ann Patchett

Favorite Web site: Slate (, a site that deconstructs the current news of the day in a contrarian fashion.

Hobby: My current hobbies are running and reading.

Favorite Biostat memory: Most of the memories that I remember with any sort of detail now are actually not about the classes, but one thing that comes to mind was the department retreats. It was a great way to get people from the department together in a beautiful location (they were held in Pack Forest and Whidbey Island when I was there) and in a relaxed setting (lots of beer!). The entertainment part of the retreat was also a blast. Once, Craig Chin (M.S. 1997, Barlow) and I got to satisfy our inner rock stars by performing the song “Spiderwebs” by the band No Doubt. That is the first and last time I ever sing in public.

Fellow alumni are welcome to contact me at:

Name: Tony Mwatha (pictured with wife Tolani and sons Themba and Talli; and on Mt. Ranier)

Biostat Degree/Year: M.S. 1996 - Jim Hughes, advisor

Current Job/Employer: Statistical Res. Associate, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Research interests: Randomized clinical trials, epidemiologic data analysis, and mother to child transmission of HIV.

Current research: I am currently involved in developing a web based application that statisticians in our group can use to track progress of manuscript analysis work and also to catalog the body of work (analysis plans, programs, results etc.) that goes into a manuscript.

Interesting publication: An interesting publication related to the work just described is the recent paper in Lancet for which I was a joint first-author: Risk of cancer after transfusion of blood from donors with subclinical cancer; Lancet 2007, 369: 1724-30. Also an editorial in Lancet 369: 1670-71.

Personal milestones: In September 1998 I married the love of my life, Tolani, and we have two sons Themba and Talli aged 7 and 4. This spring I celebrated my 40th birthday with a jaunt up Mt. Rainier.

Favorite book: This one is hard, I have too many favorites. Here are some books I have enjoyed recently: “Shades of Difference” by Padraig O’Malley, “Disgrace” by Coetzee, and “The Things They Carried” by Timothy O’Brien.

Favorite Web site:

Hobby: Biking. I recently discovered the Centennial Trail in Snohomish County and did a 24-mile ride with my 7 year old.

Fellow alumni are welcome to contact me at:

Special thanks to Dave Yanez, Renee Albert, Sandra Coke, Debashis Ghosh, Tony Mwatha, Nancy Flournoy, Andrew Zhou, Norm Breslow, Alex MacKenzie, Carl Riches, Bruce Weir and Cynthia Marks for their contributions to this issue of the Biostat E-News.

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