About

History

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Celebrating 50 Years

The University of Washington (UW) Department of Biostatistics was founded in 1970 and is a recognized leader in the statistical sciences. Together with the School of Public Heath, we are celebrating 50 years of academic and research excellence. 

Origins

The UW first established a degree in biostatistics in 1965 through an interdisciplinary program called the Biomathematics Group. At the time, there was a biostatistics division within the medical school. For many years, the Biomathematics Group enjoyed wide and active participation from faculty in the departments of Mathematics, Biostatistics, Zoology, Fisheries, Forestry, Genetics and other campus units. In 1970, the School of Public Health formed a Department of Biostatistics. 

In 1979, the UW Department of Statistics was established with the enthusiasm and support of the Department of Biostatistics. While Statistics was formed separately from Biostatistics, the departments have a long history of collaboration and collegiality. 

A Legacy of Leadership

The Department of Biostatistics has benefited from the leadership and vision of seven outstanding chairs:

2019-present Lurdes Inoue
2014-2019 Patrick Heagerty
2006-2014 Bruce Weir
1993-2005 Thomas R. Fleming
1983-1993 Norman Breslow
1973-1983 Donovan Thompson
1970-1973

Edward Perrin

As the scale and complexity of data in biology, medicine, genomics, and other health sciences continues to grow, the development of new biostatistical tools and concepts to analyze such data must keep pace. Our faculty are scientific leaders who engage in pioneering projects that change people’s lives through research in HIV, air pollution, oncology, cardiovascular health, and other health-related conditions. The department has also been a leader in providing advanced training in data science to both students at UW and to the broader biomedical research community.

Training the Next Generation

Many university programs relate mathematics or statistics to one particular biological field. The goal of our biostatistics graduate program is to equip students to develop and apply quantitative techniques of mathematics, statistics, and computing appropriate to medicine, biology, and other health science disciplines.

Our programs include a Master of Science Capstone, Master of Science Thesis, and Doctor of Philosophy focused on quantitative methods as applied to the medical and biological sciences. Our students come from programs in mathematics, statistics, and biology and are selected on the basis of their quantitative ability and potential.

Our faculty include members of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine as well as fellows of the American Statistical Association. They have led national and international efforts to harness the power of biomedical data using advances in biostatistics, data science and machine learning.

The department is a center of excellence for the development and application of statistical methodology across the health sciences, and our students benefit from collaborative partnerships with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterChildren’s Hospital Research InstituteKaisier Permanente Health Research Institute, and the Veterans Administration. To complement our research, our Center for Biomedical Statistics provides consulting and collaborative services.

Our alumni hold leadership roles in academia, government and industry worldwide. Many support students through internships, projects, and assistantship opportunities.

Timeline

1963: A Biomathematics Group is established that includes faculty from Biophysics, Chemistry, Fisheries, Genetics, Mathematics, Medicine, Preventive Medicine and Zoology.

1965: The Biomathematics Group receives degree-granting authority for MS and PhD degrees in Biostatistics. (Administered by the Graduate School.)

1970: The Department of Biostatistics (Biostat) is established with Edward Perrin as the first chair.

1986: Degree-granting authority transfers from the interdisciplinary Biomathematics Group to the Department of Biostatistics.

1995: Biostat hosts the first Seattle Symposium in Biostatistics in honor of the 25th anniversary of the UW School of Public Health and Community Medicine. The symposium has been held every five years since addressing cutting-edge topics. (The 6th Seattle Symposium will be held in November 2020 with keynotes, panels and short courses under the umbrella of Precision Health in the Age of Data Science.)

2006: Biostat assumes organization of the Summer Institutes in Statistical Genetics, which eventually expands to include Statistics in Modeling & Infectious Diseases, Statistics in Clinical & Epidemiological Research, and Statistics in Big Data.

2007: The Center for Biomedical Statistics is established to promote statistical consulting and collaboration in both basic and clinical medical science.

2019: Biostat welcomes the first Master of Science Capstone class for students who wish to enter the job market upon graduation. (The MS Thesis is tailored to students who wish to pursue a doctoral degree or research position in biomedical, clinical and laboratory settings).

2019: Lurdes Inoue becomes the first woman to chair the Department of Biostatistics.