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Sally W. Thurston, PhD

Sally ThurstonProfessor of Biostatistics
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, hierarchical 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 health outcomes in Beijing, China and Rochester, NY, and associations between endocrine disrupting chemicals and gender-specific outcomes in pregnant women and children. I am the Principal Investigator for our Department’s T32 grant "Training in Environmental Health Biostatistics”. I am also the Department's Diversity and Inclusion officer. 

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. I was elected a member of the International Statistical Institute in 2006, and was elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2019. In 2016 I received the Outstanding Graduate Course Director Award for my teaching of Advanced Bayesian Inference, and in 2022 I received the Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award; both are awards from the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. 

Full List of Publications

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

Selected Publications

*PhD student or postdoctoral trainee


  • Weisenthal SJ*, Thurston SW, Ertefaie A. (2023). Relative Sparsity for Medical Decision Problems, Statistics in Medicine, to appear

  • Zavez AE*, McSorley EM, Yeates AJ, Thurston SW (2023).  A Bayesian partial membership model for multiple exposures with uncertain group memberships, Journal of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Statistics,

  • Thurston SW, Harrington D, Mruzek DW, Shamlaye C, Myers GJ, van Wijngaarden E (2022). Development of a long-term time-weighted exposure metric that accounts for missing data in Seychelles Child Development Study, Neurotoxicology, 92:49-60.

  • Zavez, AE.*, McSorley, E., Yeates, A., & Thurston, S.W. (2022). Modeling the effects of multiple exposures with unknown group memberships: a Bayesian latent variable approach. Journal of Applied Statistics, 49(4):831-857.

  • LaLonde, A.*, Love, T., Thurston, S. W., & Davidson, P. W. (2020). Discovering structure in multiple outcomes models for tests of childhood neurodevelopment. Biometrics, 76(3):874-885.
  • 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.
  • Thurston, S.W., Ruppert, D., & Davidson, P.W. (2009). Bayesian Models for Multiple Outcomes Nested in Domains. Biometrics, 65(4):1078-1086. PMCID:  PMC3031784.

Environmental Health

  • Thurston SW, Myers G, Mruzek D, Harrington D, Adams, H, Shamlaye C, Van Wijngaarden E (2022). Associations between time- weighted postnatal methylmercury exposure from fish consumption and neurodevelopmental outcomes through 24 years of age in the Seychelles Child Development Study Main Cohort, Neurotoxicology, 91:234-244. 

  • Barrett ES, Corsetti M*, Day D, Thurston SW, Loftus CT, Karr CJ, Kannan K, LeWinn KZ, Smith AK, Smith R, Tylaysky FA, Bush NR, Sathyanarayana S (2022). Prenatal phthalate exposure in relation to placental corticotropin releasing hormone (pCRH) in the CANDLE cohort, Environmental International, 160:107078.

  • Zavez AE*, Thurston SW, Rand, MD, Mruzek DW, Love T, Smith T, Shamlaye CF, vanWijngaarden E (2021). Delivery mode and child development at 20 months of age and 7 years of age in the Republic of Seychelles, Maternal and Child Health Journal, 25(12):1930-38.

  • Barrett E, Thurston SW, Harrington D, Bush NR, Sathyanarayana, Nguyen R, Zavez AE*, Wang C, Swan, S (2021). Digit ratio, a proposed marker of the prenatal hormone environment, is not associated with prenatal sex steroids, anogenital distance, or gender-typed play behavior in preschool age children, Journal of the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, 12(6):923-932.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

Last updated: April 2023