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Sally W. Thurston, PhD

Sally Thurston, PhDAssociate Professor of Biostatistics
Associate Professor of Oncology
Ph.D. (1997) Harvard University

Contact Information

University of Rochester
Dept of Biostatistics and Computational Biology
265 Crittenden Boulevard, CU 420630
Rochester, New York 14642-0630
Office: Saunders Research Building 4145
Phone: (585) 275-2406
Fax: (585) 273-1031


Research Interests

Much of my statistical research is motivated by problems arising in environmental and occupational health. Research interests include Bayesian inference, modeling multiple outcomes, correction for measurement error bias, informative prior specification, latent variable models, and environmental health applications.

I collaborate with many investigators in the Department of Environmental Medicine and am a member of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center ( My primary collaboration is with the Seychelles Child Development Study (, a study of the effects of prenatal mercury exposure from maternal fish consumption on childhood and adolescent development. Other collaborations include studies of air pollution effects on birth outcomes in Beijing and cardiac outcomes in Rochester. I recently became the Principal Investigator for our Department’s T32 grant "Training in Environmental Health Biostatistics”.

I received an A.B. in Biology from Oberlin College, an M.S. in Natural Resources from Cornell University, and a Ph.D. in Statistics from Harvard University. Prior to coming to Rochester in 2002, I was a postdoctoral fellow and then a research associate in Biostatistics at Harvard School of Public Health. I am a member of the American Statistical Association and the International Biometric Society, and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute.

Selected Publications

Statistical Methods

  • Love TMT, Thurston SW, and Davidson PW (2015). Finding vulnerable subpopulations in the Seychelles Child Development Study: effect modification with latent groups. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, to appear.
  • Evans K, Love TMT, and Thurston SW (2015) . Outlier identification in model-based cluster analysis. Journal of Classification, 32:63-84 .
  • Xiao L, Thurston SW, Ruppert D, Love TMT, and Davidson PW (2014). Bayesian models for multiple outcomes in domains with application to the Seychelles Child Development Study. Journal of the American Statistical Association 109:1-10.
  • Woodard DB, Love TM, Thurston SW, Ruppert D, Sathyanarayana S, and Swan SH (2013). Latent factor regression models for grouped outcomes.  Biometrics 69:785-794.
  • Thurston SW, Ruppert D, and Davidson PW (2009). Bayesian Models for Multiple Outcomes Nested in Domains. Biometrics 65(4):1078-1086. PMCID:  PMC3031784.
  • Liang H, Thurston SW, Ruppert D, Apanasovich T, and Hauser R (2008). Additive Partial Linear Models with Measurement Error. Biometrika 95(3):667-678.

Environmental Health

  • Thurston SW, Mendiola J, Bellamy AR, Levine H, Wang C, Sparks A, Redmon JB, Drobnis EZ, and Swan SH (2015). Phthalate exposure and semen quality in fertile US men. Andrology, to appear.
  • Rich DQ, Liu K, Zhang J, Thurston SW, Stevens T, Pan Y, Kane C, Weinberger B, Ohman-Strickland P, Woodruff T, Duan X, and Zhang J (2015). Differences in birth weight associated with the 2008 Beijing Olympics air pollution reduction: results from a natural experiment. Environmental Health Perspectives 123:880-887 (with commentary).
  • Barrett ES, Chen C, Thurston SW, Haug LS, Sabaredzovic A, Furbert A-S, Fjeldheim FN, Frydenbert H, Lipson SF, Ellison PT, and Thune I (2015). Perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) and ovarian hormone concentrations in naturally cycling women. Fertility and Sterility 103(5):1261-1270.
  • Strain JJ, Yeates AJ, van Wijngaarden E, Thurston SW, Mulhern MS, McSorley EM, Watson GE, Love TM, Smith TH, Yost K, Harrington D, Shamlaye CF, Henderson J, Myers GJ, and Davidson PW (2015). Prenatal exposure to methyl mercury from fish consumption and polyunsaturated fatty acids: Associations with child development at 20 months of age in an observational study in the Republic of Seychelles. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 101:530-537.
  • Orenstein ST, Thurston SW, Bellinger DC, Schwartz JD, Amarasiriwardena C, Altshul LM, and Korrick SA (2014). Prenatal organochlorine and methylmercury exposure and memory and learning in school-aged children. Environmental Health Perspectives 122:1253-1259.
  • van Wijngaarden E, Thurston SW, Myers GJ, Strain JJ, Weiss B, Zarcone T, Watson GE, Zareba G, McSorley EM, Mulhern MS, Yeates AJ, Henderson J, Gedeon J, Shamlaye CF, and Davidson PW (2013). Prenatal methyl mercury exposure in relation to neurodevelopment and behavior at 19 years of age in the Seychelles Child Development Study. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 39:19-25.
  • Barrett ES, Tran T, Thurston S, Furberg A-S, Ellison P, and Thune I (2013). Marriage and motherhood are associated with lower testosterone concentrations in women. Hormones and Behavior 63:72-79.
  • Strain JJ, Davidson PW, Thurston SW, Harrington D, Mulhern M, McAfee Al, van Wijngaarden E, Shamlaye CF, Henderson J, Watson G, Zareba G, Cory-Slechta  DA, Lynch M, Wallace JMW, McSorley EM, Bonham MP, Stokes-Riner A, Sloane-Reeves J,  Janciuras J, Wong R, Clarkson TW, and Myers GJ (2012). Maternal polyunsaturated fatty acid status but not prenatal methylmercury exposure is associated with children's language functions at age five years in the Seychelles. Journal of Nutrition 142:1943-1949.
  • Sagiv SK, Thurston SW, Bellinger DC, Altshul LM, and Korrick SA (2012). Neuropsychological measures of attention and impulse control among 8-year-old children exposed prenatally to organochlorines. Environmental Health Perspectives 120:904-909.
  • Stokes-Riner A, Thurston SW, Myers GJ, Duffy EM, Wallace J, Bonham M, Robson P, Shamlaye CF, Strain JJ, Watson G, and Davidson PW (2011). A longitudinal analysis of prenatal exposure to methylmercury and fatty acids in the Seychelles. Neurotoxicology and Teratology 33(2):325-328.
  • Thurston SW, Bovet P, Myers GJ, Davidson PW, Georger LA, Shamlaye C, and Clarkson TW (2007). Does prenatal methylmercury exposure from fish consumption affect blood pressure in childhood? NeuroToxicology 28(5):924-930.  PMCID:  PMC2104472, NIHMSID:  NIHMS33069


  • Oster RA, Lindsell CJ, Welty LJ, Mazumdar M, Thurston SW, Rahbar MH, Carter RE, Pollock BH, Cucchiara AJ, Kopras EJ, Jovanovic BD, and Enders FT (2015). Assessing statistical competencies in clinical and translational science education: one size does not fit all. Clinical and Translational Science 8(1):32-42.
  • Thurston SW (2013). Biomarkers, in Encyclopedia of Environmetrics, 2nd ed., El-Shaarawi AH and Piegorsch WW (editors), John Wiley and Sons Ltd: Chichester, UK. DOI: 10.1002/9780470057339.vab019.pub2. Published online 1/15/2013..
  • Thurston SW, Liu G, Miller DP and Christiani DC (2005). Modeling lung cancer risk in case-control studies using a new dose metric of smoking [with Commentary]. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 14(10):2296-2302.