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Sally W. Thurston, PhD

Sally ThurstonAssociate Professor of Biostatistics
Associate Professor of Environmental Medicine
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 direct the Biostatistics Core of Rochester’s Environmental Health Sciences Center. One of my major collaborations is with the Seychelles Child Development Study, which examines the associations between prenatal and postnatal mercury exposure from maternal fish consumption and multiple outcomes in childhood and adolescence. Other major collaborations examine associations between air pollution and birth outcomes in Beijing, and between air pollution and cardiac outcomes in Rochester. I am 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 became a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2019.

Full List of Publications

My most recent and complete publication list can be found here.

Selected Publications

Statistical Methods

  • Zavez, A., McSorley, E., Yeates, A., & Thurston, S.W. (in press). Modeling the effects of multiple exposures with unknown group memberships: a Bayesian latent variable approach. Journal of Applied Statistics.

  • LaLonde, A., Love, T., Thurston, S. W., & Davidson, P. W. (2019). Discovering structure in multiple outcomes models for tests of childhood neurodevelopment. Biometrics, to appear. doi:10.1111/biom.13174
  • Love, T.M.T., Thurston, S.W., & Davidson, P.W. (2017). Finding vulnerable subpopulations in the Seychelles Child Development Study: effect modification with latent groups. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, 26(2): 809-822.
  • Evans, K., Love. T.M.T., & Thurston, S.W. (2015). Outlier identification in model-based cluster analysis. Journal of Classification, 32:63-84.
  • Xiao, L., Thurston, S.W., Ruppert, D., Love, T.M.T., & Davidson, P.W. (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, D.B., Love, T.M., Thurston, S.W., Ruppert, D., Sathyanarayana, S., & Swan, S.H. (2013). Latent factor regression models for grouped outcomes. Biometrics, 69:785-794.
  • Thurston, S.W., Ruppert, D., & Davidson, P.W. (2009). Bayesian Models for Multiple Outcomes Nested in Domains. Biometrics, 65(4):1078-1086. PMCID:  PMC3031784.
  • Liang, H., Thurston, S.W., Ruppert, D., Apanasovich, T., & Hauser, R. (2008). Additive Partial Linear Models with Measurement Error. Biometrika, 95(3):667-678.

Environmental Health

  • Yeates AJ, Zavez A, Thurston SW, McSorley EM, Mulhern MS, Alhamdow A, Engstrom K, Wahlberg K, Strain JJ, Watson GE, Myers GJ, Davidson PW, Shamlaye CF, Broberg K, van Wijngaarden E (2020). Maternal long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid status, methylmercury exposure, and birth outcomes in a high-fish-eating mother-child cohort. Journal of Nutrition, 150(7): 1749-1756.

  • Rich DQ, Thurston SW, Balmes JR, Bromberg PA, Arjomandi M, Hazucha MJ, Alexis NE, Ganz P, Zareba W, Thevenet-Morrison K, Koutrakis P, Frampton MW (2020). Do ambient ozone or other pollutants modify effects of controlled ozone exposure on pulmonary function? Annals of the American Thoracic Society, 17(5):563-572.

  • Jusko TA, Singh K, Greener EA, Oktapodas Feiler M, Thevenet-Morrison K, Lawrence BP, Wright RO, Thurston SW (2019). Blood lead concentrations and antibody levels to measles, mumps, and rubella among U.S. children. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(17): 3035.

  • Zareba W, Thurston SW, Zareba G, Couderc JP, Evans K, Xia J, Watson GE, Strain JJ, McSorley E, Yeates A, Mulhern M, Shamlaye CF, Bovet P, van Wijngaarden E, Davidson PW, Myers GJ (2019). The association of prenatal and recent methylmercury exposure with heart rate variability in young adults: the Seychelles Child Development Study. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 74, 106810.

  • Barrett E, Mbowe O, Thurston SW, Butts S, Wang C, Nguyen R, Bush N, Redmon JB, Sheshu S, Swan SH, Sathyanarayana S (2019). Predictors of steroid hormone concentrations in early pregnancy: results from a multi-center cohort. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 23(3): 397-407.

  • Mikelson CK, Troisi J, LaLonde A, Symes SJK, Thurston, SW, Dire LM, Adair CD, Miller RK, Richards SR (2019). Placental concentrations of essential, toxic, and understudied metals and relationships with birth outcomes in Chattanooga, TN. Environmental Research, 168: 118-129.

  • Rich DQ, Utell MJ, Croft DP, Thurston SW, Thevenet-Morrison K, Evans KA, Ling FS, Tian Y, Hopke PK (2018). Daily land use regression estimated woodsmoke and traffic pollution concentrations and the triggering of ST-elevation myocardial infarction: a case-crossover study. Air Quality, Atmosphere, & Health, 11(2): 239-244.
  • van Wijngaarden E, Thurston SW, Myers GJ, Harrington D, Cory-Slechta DA, Strain JJ, Watson GE, Zareba G, Love T, Henderson J, Shamlaye CF, Davidson PW (2017). Methyl mercury exposure and neurodevelopmental outcomes in the Seychelles Child Development Study Main Cohort at age 22 and 24 years. Neurotoxicology and Teratology, 59: 35-42.
  • Barrett ES, Sathyanarayana S, Mbowe O, Thurston SW, Redmon JB, Nguyen RHN, Swan S (2017). First-trimester urinary Bisphenol A concentration in relation to anogenital distance, an androgen-sensitive measure of reproductive development, in infant girls. Environmental Health Perspectives, 125(7): 77008, 1-8.
  • Yeates AJ, Thurston SW, Li H, Mulhern MS, McSorley EM, Watson GE, Shamlaye CF, Strain JJ, Myers GJ, Davidson PW, van Wijngaarden E, Broberg K (2017). PUFA status and methylmercury exposure are not associated with leukocyte telomere length in mothers or their children in the Seychelles Child Development Study. Journal of Nutrition, 147 (11):2018-2024.
  • Thurston SW, Mendiola J, Bellamy AR, Levine H, Wang C, Sparks A, Redmon JB, Drobnis EZ, and Swan SH (2016). Phthalate exposure and semen quality in fertile US men. Andrology, 4(4): 632-638.
  • 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.
  • 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, Devick KL, Thurston SW, Larson JL, Welty LJ, Nietert PJ, Pollock BH, Pomann G-M, Spratt H, Lindsell CJ, Enders FT (2020). Learning gaps among statistical competencies for clinical and translational science learners. Journal of Clinical and Translational Science. DOI:

  • Waters CF, Dickens MA, Thurston SW, Lu X, Smith T (2020). Sustainability of early intensive behavioral intervention for children with autism spectrum disorder in a community setting. Behavior Modification, 44(1):3-26.

  • Enders FT, Lindsell CJ, Welty LJ, Benn EKT, Perkins S, Mayo MS, Rahbar MH, Kidwell KM, Thurston SW, Spratt H, Grambow S, Larson J, Carter RE, Pollock BH, Oster RA (2017). Statistical competencies for medical research learners: What is fundamental? Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, 1(3): 146-152.

  • Quinn CR, Liu C, Kothari C, Cerulli C, Thurston SW (2017). Psychological distress among youth probationers: Using social determinants of health to assess suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Adolescent Psychiatry, 7(2): 89-104.
  • 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.

Last updated: November 6, 2020