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Department News

May 2016

On May 13, 2016, the Department celebrated Donald Hebert as the 2015-2016 recipient of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship. Donald’s research focuses on developing a novel family of global tests for the analysis of multiple outcomes in randomized trials. His work can be applied in clinical scenarios where evaluating an overall treatment effect is desirable. His research also focuses on the problem of missing data, especially with data resulting from the repeated measurements of multiple outcomes over time.

The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Master's Degree Ceremony was held on May 14, 2016. Eight students in the department were awarded degrees. Benjamin Chapman received the Master of Science in Medical Statistics degree. The Master of Arts in Statistics degree was awarded to: Guanqing Chen, Yu Gu, Madhurima Majumder, Valeriia Sherina, Bokai Wang, Shiyang Ma, and Hao Sun. Congratulations to all!

April 2016

Congratulations to Ziji Yu who successfully defended her PhD thesis, "Theory and Application of the Mode Centric M-Gaussian Distribution," on April 20, 2016. Ziji's advisor is Govind S. Mudholkar.

January 2016

Congratulations to Amit Chowdhry who successfully defended his PhD thesis, "Missing Data in Meta-Analysis," on January 11, 2016. Amit's advisor is Michael McDermott.

November 2015

Drs. Sally Thurston, David Oakes, Michael McDermott, and Ollivier Hyrien are mentors for the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences (the “Math Alliance”), an NSF-funded community of mathematical sciences faculty and students.  Founded in 2001, one goal of the Math Alliance is to "be sure that every underrepresented or underserved American student with the talent and the ambition has the opportunity to earn a doctoral degree in a mathematical science". Drs. Thurston, Oakes, McDermott and Hyrien recently applied to become a Graduate Program Group, which is a group of Math Alliance graduate faculty in a mathematical sciences department of sufficient size and seniority to be able to mentor many underrepresented minority graduate students, and who have committed themselves to a set of best practices.   Their application was accepted in October 2015 (see

October 2015

A recent Forbes article places a Master’s degree in Statistics at number 2 in its list of the 10 Best Master’s Degrees for Jobs Right Now, while Fortune places a Statistics PhD at number 1 and a Biostatistics Master’s degree at number 2 on its list of Best graduate degrees for jobs in 2015. Both lists were based on data from in areas including projected employment growth of jobs associated with each degree, mid-career salaries, and intangible factors such as stress and job satisfaction.

The Goergen Institute for Data Science is searching for interdisciplinary faculty in data science and related disciplines. Qualified candidates may apply to both departmental searches and the interdisciplinary search. Please visit for more information.

September 2015

On Saturday, September 26, 2015, the Department hosted an Open House for prospective graduate students. This event provided students potentially interested in graduate study in biostatistics and statistics with an opportunity to learn about our programs, to meet with current students, faculty, and program alumni, and to gain some perspective on the many career opportunities this exciting field has to offer. Thank you to all faculty, students and staff who contributed to the success of this event!

Our T32 training grant “Training in Environmental Health Biostatistics” (T32ES007271) has just been renewed by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH for 5 years, starting September 30, 2015. Dr. Sally Thurston is the new Principal Investigator, taking over for Dr. David Oakes, who successfully led this grant for 20 years. Trainers for the grant include Drs. Thurston, Oakes, Brent Johnson, Tanzy Love, Michael McDermott and Rob Strawderman from Biostatistics, and Drs. Emily Barrett from OB/GYN, Deborah Cory-Slechta from Environmental Medicine, and Drs. David Rich and Edwin van Wijngaarden from Public Health Sciences. The first 20 years of the grant supported 16 predoctoral students and 14 postdoctoral fellows. The grant will support three predoctoral students and one postdoctoral fellow each year.

Two of our faculty were recognized for their outstanding service to graduate programming at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation on September 9, 2015.

  • Dr. Mike McDermott is the recipient of the 2015 Outstanding Graduate Program Director Award, given to an outstanding graduate program director who has made exceptional and/or unique contributions to a graduate program and the graduate student experience within his/her respective program.
  • Dr. Matt McCall is this year's recipient of the Graduate Student Society (GSS) Advocacy Award, in recognition of his significant contributions in promoting excellence in the various realms of graduate education through participation, facilitation, and promotion of GSS goals and events.

June 2015

In June 2015, the University of Rochester Center for Biodefense Immune Modeling (Dr. Hulin Wu, Co-PI) hosted the NIAID Modeling Immunity for Biodefense program’s annual summer school and symposium. The goal of these events is to promote the understanding and use of computational modeling approaches in immunology research and provide training in mathematical/computational modeling techniques to computational immunologists.

June was a busy month for our students, as 3 PhD candidates successfully defended their theses:
      Thanh Van Tran: "Threshold Boolean Network Inference and Experimental Design"; Anthony Almudevar, PhD, advisor
      Changming Xia: "Generalized Semiparametric Linear Mixed-effects Models"; Hua Liang, PhD and Sally W. Thurston, PhD, advisors
      Tian Chen: "A New Class of Functional Response Models for Robust Regression Analysis"; Xin M. Tu, PhD, advisor
Congratulations, Van, Changming and Tian!

March 2015

The following Department faculty are 2015 recipients of the University of Rochester CTSI's Novel Biostatistical and Epidemiology Methods pilot awards:

  • Brent Johnson, PhD, "Novel Methods to Evaluate the Efficacy of Interventions Promoting Regular Testing". The goal of the project is to develop rigorous definitions of routine testing and then develop methods to evaluate behavioral interventions or public health programs designed to increase routine testing. The initial substantive area of application is HIV prevention and awareness.
  • Wan Tang, PhD, "Variable Selection Methods for Semi-parametric Models". This study will develop novel Least Absolute Shrinkage and Selection Operator type methods for longitudinal data analysis with missing values and apply them to the NIDA Clinical Trial Network 0018/19 data to study the effect of intervention on HIV-risk sexual behaviors among drug users.

These one- to two-year awards are intended to stimulate the development of novel biostatistical and epidemiologic methods to help overcome specifically identified limitations that will significantly enhance the validity, accuracy, scope or speed of translational research. Congratulations to our 2015 awardees!

December 2014

Congratulations to Anthony Almudevar, PhD, who was honored at the University of Rochester's seventh Annual Celebration of Authorship on December 10, 2014. This event, hosted by Provost Peter Lennie, featured printed and electronic books, edited volumes, and texts as well as published compositions and recordings produced by University faculty and staff from all fields. Professor Almudevar is author of Approximate Iterative Algorithms, published by CRC Press in 2014.

November 2014

Congratulations to Tian Chen, recipient of the inaugural award of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship. Tian’s statistical methodological research focuses on modern variable section methods, mixture models, rank regression and integrations of all these models within a unified framework built upon the Functional Response Models (FRM), a paradigm for modeling between- and within-subject attributes, rather than the within-subject attributes only as in standard regression models. Her work has significant applications, especially in the Big Data era where dealing with between-subject attributes and an excessive number of variables is the norm, rather than the exception.

On Saturday, November 1, 2014, the Department hosted an Open House for prospective graduate students. This event provided students potentially interested in graduate study in biostatistics and statistics with an opportunity to learn about our programs, to meet with current students, faculty, and program alumni, and to gain some perspective on the many career opportunities this exciting field has to offer. Thank you to all faculty, students and staff who contributed to the success of our first open house!

October 2014

We are pleased to announce that Department chair Robert L. Strawderman, ScD was awarded the Donald M. Foster M.D. Distinguished Professorship in Biostatistics, one of three endowed professorships awarded by the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

August 2014

Fei Ma successfully defended her PhD thesis on August 29, 2014 ("Composite Likelihood Inference for Multivariate Finite Mixture Models and Application to Flow Cytometry"; advisors, Ollivier Hyrien and Xin M.Tu). Congratulations, Fei!

July 2014

The Department is very pleased to welcome Brent A. Johnson, PhD, who joined our faculty as associate professor on July 1, 2014. Brent's methodological research focuses primarily on semiparametric regression in missing data problems, including measurement error, censored data, observational data.

The following Department faculty are 2014 recipients of the University of Rochester CTSI's Novel Biostatistical and Epidemiology Methods pilot awards:

  • Anthony Almudevar (Predictive Models for Longitudinal Technological Home Monitoring Data)
  • Changyong Feng (Allowance for Center Effects in the Analysis of Randomized Clinical Trial with Time-to-Event Outcomes
  • Xing Qiu (A Unified Method for Differential Expression and Differential Association Analyses)

These one-to-two year awards are intended to stimulate the development of novel biostatistical and epidemiologic methods to help overcome specifically identified limitations that will significantly enhance the validity, accuracy, scope or speed of translational research. Congratulations to our 2014 awardees!

June 2014

The Department congratulates Jason Morrissette and Yu Han on their successful PhD defenses. On June 10, 2014, Jason defended his thesis, "Order Restricted Analysis of Covariance with Interactions", advisor, Michael P. McDermott. Yu successfully defended on June 14, 2014 ("New Semiparametric Methods for Clustered Time-to-event Data"; advisors, Changyong Feng and Xin M. Tu).

April 2014

Congratulations to Xiao Zhang, who successfully defended her PhD thesis, "Hypothesis Testing Problems Involving Order Restricted Parameters", on April 24, 2014. Xiao's advisor is Michael McDermott.

December 2013

Congratulations to Hui Yang, who successfully defended her PhD thesis, "Model Selection and Model Averaging for Longitudinal Data with Applications in Personalized Medicine", on December 3, 2013. Hui's advisor is Hua Liang.

November 2013

The Department is pleased to announce a new graduate offering for fall 2014 - the PhD in Statistics with a concentration in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology. Doctoral students accepted to this concentration will learn core statistical methods and obtain training in data analysis methodologies and computational skills and techniques necessary for handling “Big Data” in the biomedical and public health sciences. Please visit our Statistics PhD with bioinformatics and computational biology concentration web page for further information.

October 2013

Human interactions via internet and mobile apps are increasing and ubiquitous among all walks of life. We stand on the cusp of a new opportunity due to: improvements in computing, the rapidly growing ubiquity of smart environments, and a resulting duality in contemporary society, that is, the norm of living simultaneously within virtual as well as geophysical proximal interactions and community contexts. Supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences in response to a joint call for Big Data proposals by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health, a multidisciplinary team with PIs Hua He and Naiji Lu from the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology and Ann Marie White from the Department of Psychiatric will lead a three-year investigation on modeling the human interactions and their impacts on health and health related behavioral outcomes, along with several other investigators from these departments and the Department of Computer Science at both the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology as well as local community leaders. They will be developing new methods to address flaws in conventional statistical models for such between-subject attributes and integrate such information when modeling traditional individual behavioral and health outcomes, or within-subject attributes and associated social dynamics. Their research will greatly facilitate intervention and prevention research in the Big Data era, as more disciplines and research studies embrace the new opportunities afforded by this scientific revolution.

Congratulations to Katie Evans, who successfully defended her PhD thesis, "Extensions to Model-Based Clustering for Mixed-Type Data: A new model framework, variable selection, and outlier identification", on October 18, 2013. Katie's advisors are Drs. Tanzy Love and Sally Thurston.

September 2013

Congratulations to Dr. Chris Beck, who was selected as the 2013 recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Student Teacher Award, presented at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation, September 12, 2013. The selection of the awardee is based on the instructor’s record of excellence in classroom instruction, as reflected by the letter of nomination from students enrolled in one or more courses in which the teacher has delivered a significant number of lectures and by course-instructor survey evaluations.

We welcome Dr. Tong Tong Wu, who joined the Department in September 2013 as Associate Professor. Dr. Wu received her PhD in Biostatistics from the Department of Biostatistics, UCLA School of Public Health in 2006. Prior positions include postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Human Genetics, UCLA and Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Maryland, College Park in 2007. Dr. Wu is a biostatistician with interests in high-dimensional data analysis; survival analysis; machine learning; computational statistics; computational biology and statistical genetics; and longitudinal data analysis.

Postdoctoral fellow Matthew McCall has been awarded a K99 grant from the National Human Genome Research Institute to develop the statistical methodology necessary to estimate gene regulatory networks. Estimation of these networks is crucial to understanding cellular mechanisms, detecting differences between cell types, and predicting cellular response to interventions. Dr. McCall’s goal is to further our understanding of complex cellular networks by drawing on the fields of statistics, systems biology, and genetics. Dr. McCall's advisor is Dr. Anthony Almudevar.

Fourth-year graduate student Jason Morrissette and his advisor, Michael P. McDermott, PhD, published a paper in the September issue of the Journal of the American Statistical Association entitled “Estimation and Inference Concerning Ordered Means in Analysis of Covariance Models with Interactions”. In the usual analysis of covariance model, when interactions between the grouping variable and covariates are present, group comparisons may be performed using the Johnson-Neyman technique which identifies ranges of the covariates for which the group means significantly differ. In this paper, methods for estimation and inference are extended to the case where the group means are assumed to satisfy an order restriction across all levels of interacting categorical covariates and across pre-specified ranges of interacting continuous covariates. This work is part of Jason Morrissette’s doctoral dissertation.

July 2013

The Department congratulates Pan Wu and Yao Yu on their successful PhD defenses. On July 17, 2013, Pan defended his thesis, "A New Class of Structural Functional Response Models for Causal Inference and Mediation Analysis", advisor, Xin M. Tu . Yao followed up with a successful defense on July 18, 2013 ("Single-index Model with Application in Estimation of ODE and Gene Regulatory Network"; advisor, Hua Liang).

June 2013

On June 13, 2013, Juofan (Iris) Chen successfully defended her PhD thesis, "State Space Models and Differential Equations for Dynamic Gene Regulatory Network Identification" (advisor, Hulin Wu). Congratulations, Iris!

May 2013

Several Department faculty were honored at the University's sixth annual Celebration of the "Book" on May 7, 2013. Wan Tang and Xin Tu are editors of Modern Clinical Trial Analysis (Springer, 2013). Drs. Tang and Tu, together with Hua He, are co-authors of Applied Categorical and Count Data Analysis (Chapman and Hall/CRC, 2012). Watch a brief video of the event here.

February 2013

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has awarded an R24 grant to a research team led by Dr. Dongwen Wang. This project will tackle the challenging issue of disseminating evidence-based clinical practice guidelines to HIV healthcare providers through integrating various information technologies and social organizational contexts. Dr. Wang and his collaborator Dr. Amneris Luque, an HIV specialist from the Infectious Diseases Unit, have been working in this area for the past seven years and accumulated significant experience and resources. In particular, they have developed an online clinical education program sponsored by the New York State Department of Health HIV Clinical Education Initiative (CEI), and been engaging in dissemination of HIV clinical knowledge with online CME/CNE courses, multimedia learning modules, interactive case simulation tools, and mobile training resources. Serving in dual roles as the Technology Center and the Resource & Referral Center for the CEI program, their team has been collaborating with five other CEI Centers in New York State to disseminate the latest findings from HIV clinical research to frontline healthcare providers. Since its launch in 2008, the CEI online education program has reached out to 31,000 individuals from all 50 U.S. States and 160 countries around the world. Clinicians have completed online training through this program and acquired 2,100 CME/CNE credits. The CEI website ( has recorded 64,000 visits and 278,000 page views, and is now consistently ranked by Google and other search engines as a top site for HIV clinical education.  This newly funded three-year $900,000 grant from AHRQ will significantly enhance the existing program through developing partnerships, conducting multi-disciplinary dissemination research, building an online repository of HIV/AIDS information products, and evaluating the usability of program resources and their impacts to knowledge translation. Other members of the research team are Terry Doll, Matt Bernhardt, Hung Le, Tom DellaPorta, Monica Barbosu, and Keith Bourgeois.

November 2012

In honor of and recognition for Jack’s dedication to the University of Rochester, for his lifetime of achievements in several areas of mathematical statistics, and especially for his love of the Statistics graduate program and its students, the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology is embarking on an endeavor to endow the creation of the William Jackson (Jack) Hall Graduate Student Fellowship. This is a merit-based fellowship that intends to recognize one or more Statistics doctoral students in their last semester or year of study whose academic record reflects the major cornerstones of Jack’s highly distinguished career. The scholarship announcement in our 2012 Newsletter provides some additional details on the fellowship along with instructions on how to make a gift to this fund.

October 2012

The Department is deeply saddened to announce the death of Professor Jack Hall on October 14, 2012 at the age of 82. Jack arrived at the University of Rochester in 1969 and remained as an active member of the faculty until his retirement on July 31, 2012. He will be greatly missed by colleagues, students and staff. To learn more about Jack's highly distinguished career and his tremendous impact on colleagues and students, please see the URMC news article and David Oakes's tribute in our 2012 Newsletter.

September 2012

Zhen Chen successfully defended his PhD thesis on September 14, 2012 ("A Flexible Copula Model for Bivariate Survival Data"; advisors, David Oakes and Ollivier Hyrien). Congratulations, Zhen!

We congratulate postdoctoral fellow Shuang Wu, PhD on her appointment as Research Assistant Professor.

Michael McDermott, PhD, received a renewal for R01 NS052619, “Coordination and Statistics for Coenzyme Q10 in Huntington’s Disease (2CARE)”, from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The five-year award, totaling more than $12 million, is for project coordination, data management, and statistical analysis for 2CARE, an international randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of coenzyme Q10 involving more than 600 participants with early-stage Huntington’s disease. The scientific hypothesis being tested is that chronic treatment with coenzyme Q10 (2400 mg/day) will slow the progressive functional decline in Huntington’s disease. Enrollment in the study began in 2008 and the final participant will complete the scheduled five years of follow-up in 2017. Additional UR participants in the project include David Oakes, PhD, Xueya Cai, PhD, and Arthur Watts from the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, and Karl Kieburtz, MD and Lisa DeBlieck, MPA from the Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics.

August 2012

Robert L. Strawderman, ScD and Hulin Wu, PhD were honored with appointments as Dean's Professors at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Convocation on August 30, 2012.

July 2012

We are delighted to announce the appointment of Robert L. Strawderman III, ScD, as Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, effective July 1, 2012.

Robert L. Strawderman III, ScD, chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, has been named a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS). An induction ceremony took place on July 11, 2012 at the 8th World Congress in Probability and Statistics in Istanbul, Turkey. Professor Strawderman received the award for innovative methodological contributions to survival analysis, recurrent events, and small sample asymptotics and their applications, as well as for excellence in editorial service. Each Fellow nominee is assessed by a committee of his/her peers for the award. In 2012, following a review of 47 nominations, 17 were selected for Fellowship. Created in 1935, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics is a member organization which fosters the development and dissemination of the theory and applications of statistics and probability. The IMS has 4,300 active members throughout the world. Approximately 8% of the current IMS membership has earned the status of fellowship.

Professor Jack Hall retired in July 2012 after more than 40 years at the University of Rochester.