UW Biostatistics students recognized at regional competition

July 26, 2016

Jonathan Fintzi, a PhD student in the Department of Biostatistics won the oral competition for the 2016 Western North American Region of The International Biometric Society Student Paper Competition. Joshua Keller, also a PhD student in biostatistics at the School, was runner-up for the competition’s written category. 

Fintzi, together with his advisors, developed an efficient data augmentation framework that enables exact inference for stochastic epidemic model parameters without resorting to much more computationally-intensive methods.

“In the study of infectious diseases, we are often interested in learning about various aspects of the disease dynamics,” Fintzi says. “For example, how fast will the disease spread? What is the distribution of the final epidemic size? How likely is a large outbreak?”

Stochastic epidemic models are classic tools in epidemiology that are used to model and predict the spread of a disease in a population, Fintzi notes. However, the task of performing inference on the parameters that govern these models is complicated.

“Our framework enables us to analyze datasets that would have previously been impossible to study without resorting to highly computationally-intensive bleeding edge methods,” Fintzi says. “I am very excited about the usefulness of this framework for applied researchers studying infectious diseases in both endemic and epidemic contexts.”

His advisors include Vladimir Minin, associate professor of statistics and biology and adjunct associate professor of biostatistics, and Jon Wakefield, professor of statistics and biostatistics. Both are faculty members at the UW.  Adam Brand, Arjun Sondhi and Qian Zhang, all PhD students in UW Biostatistics were also cited for their excellent submissions in the student competition.

Read the full article on the UW School of Public Health website.