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Department News

Shirley Eberly retires after 38 years

July 2024

Shirley Eberly and David OakesShirley and her celebration cakeShirley Eberly, MS, retired on July 1, 2024 after 38 years at the University of Rochester, working in the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology and its predecessors. A department luncheon and cake celebration was held in her honor. Her presence will be missed by all.

Much of Shirley’s work involved collaboration with investigators from the Parkinson Study Group and Huntington Study Group. In particular, she contributed to studies that assisted in securing FDA approval of rasagiline (AZILECT) for treatment of Parkinson’s disease and deutetrabenazine (AUSTEDO) for treatment of chorea associated with Huntington’s disease.

Dr. Sally Thurston featured in URMC Newsroom: New Model Could Help Provide Expectant Mothers a Clearer Path to Safe Fish Consumption

June 2024

Journal coverFish consumption is an important route of methyl mercury exposure, however, efforts to understand the health risks posed by mercury are complicated by the nutritional benefits from fish. A new study appearing in the American Journal of Epidemiology  based on a cohort of residents of a coastal community in Massachusetts is working to produce clearer guidance to fish consumption for pregnant mothers.

Dr. Sally Thurston discusses her contributions to this research in the URMC Newsroom. Read the full story.

Postdoc Dr. Dana Boebinger receives $229,932 in NIH funding to study the effect of noise on the temporal integration of speech

June 2024

Profile photoPostdoctoral associate Dana Boebinger, advised by Professor Sam Norman-Haignere, has been awarded a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NRSA fellowships provide up to three years of support for promising postdoctoral researchers who have the potential to become productive, independent investigators within the broad scope of biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research.

Dr. Boebinger’s proposed research will reveal how the brain integrates information about speech over time, both in silence and in the presence of background noise. The results of these experiments will further our knowledge of the computations that enable speech recognition in noisy real-world conditions, as well as how auditory cortex flexibly adapts to changing environments. Answering these questions is a critical step towards understanding the deficits in listening in noise that are present in auditory neurodevelopmental and attentional disorders.

NIDCD awards $2.67 million grant to Dr. Norman-Haignere to study temporal integration of speech structure in the human brain

May 2024

Information in speech is conveyed by time-varying structures, such as phonemes, words, and phrases, which have highly variable durations. To understand how the brain derives information in speech and language, the brain must have neural mechanisms for flexibly integrating across these different timescales. This project uses intracranial recordings from human patients to measure the extent to which neural integration timescales flexibly vary with the duration of speech structures. Data collection is done in collaboration with the neurolosurgical and neurology team at the University of Rochester (collaborators: Dr. Webster Pilcher, Dr. Tom Wychowski) and the University of Iowa (collaborator: Dr. Matt Howard, Site PI: Dr. Kirill Nourski). Functional MRI experiments will be conducted at UR to map the functional organization of structure-yoked integration with high spatial resolution. New computational methods will be employed and developed to measure the extent of structure-yoked integration from the human brain and from nonlinear encoding models of neural function. The research will answer foundational questions about the the neural mechanisms of that support normal speech and language understanding, which is important for understanding how these mechanisms are impacted by auditory and speech perception deficits.

NINDS awards $1.925 million grant to Drs. Matthew McCall and Sally Thurston to develop statistical methods for confocal microscopy images of microglia

March 2024 

Microglia are immune cells that act as the primary first-responding sentinels in the brain. Although direct comparisons between microglia morphology and function are hard to make, it is clear that morphology changes in response to many diseases. Improved methods of microglia image processing and analysis are needed to directly link morphological changes with their corresponding functional consequences in models of many human disease processes. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) will fund Drs. McCall and Thurston, as well as Dr. Ania Majewska, to develop statistical methods to model microglial morphology that fully leverage the wealth of information present in the imaging data and provide interpretable parameter estimates and corresponding measures of uncertainty. The overall goal of the proposed research is to develop statistical methodology that will lead to improved analysis of microglial images and uncover the changes in morphology that are most predictive of alterations in microglial function.

Dr. Ernesto Aparicio-Puerta receives $312,396 in funding through the prestigious Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellowship

February 2024

Postdoctoral associate Ernesto Aparicio-Puerta, hosted by the McCall group, has been awarded the European Commission’s highly competitive Marie Sklodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Global Fellowship. The selection process evaluates the applicant's merits as well as the scientific quality of the host laboratory and the proposed project.

Ernesto’s miRAQEL project aims to optimize several aspects of microRNA sequencing analysis to overcome the limitations of currently available methods. Changes in microRNA expression have been linked to numerous diseases so improving the estimation of microRNA levels has the potential to boost our understanding of their roles in health and disease. The fellowship provides additional funding to establish collaborations with other leading labs in the field including Michael Hackenberg’s group (University of Granada) who will host Ernesto for the last 12 moths of this fellowship.

Collaborative award from NSF to Dr. Norman-Haignere ($769,112) and ANR ($468,021) to Dr. Boubenec to study the neural computations of adaptive temporal integration in auditory cortex

January 2024

Deriving meaning from complex sounds such as speech and music requires the brain to flexibly integrate across multiple timescales, but relatively little is known about the neural mechanisms of adaptive temporal integration in the auditory cortex. This project uses electrophysiological recordings and computational modeling to understand the mechanisms of temporal integration in the ferret auditory cortex. The project will test whether the brain can adapt its integration window over short and long timescales depending on the duration of sound structures (e.g., words), and whether this flexibility depends on the types of sounds that one hears and their behavioral relevance. The study will leverage a new paradigm for studying temporal integration windows from nonlinear systems and computational encoding models derived from deep neural networks.

NIEHS awards $1.79 million grant to Drs. Ertefaie, Strawderman, and Dominici to study causal mechanisms by which air pollution affects the recurrence of cardiovascular events

December 2023

One of our era’s greatest scourges is air pollution, and it is well documented that exposure to fine particles (e.g., PM2.5) increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and death. There remain two critical knowledge gaps. First, existing studies have mainly considered the occurrence of the first adverse health event as health outcomes; hence, the impact of overall disease burden and PM2.5 exposure on disease progression remains unknown. Second, there are no studies assessing the causal pathways by which exposure to air pollutants impacts recurrent cardiovascular events. This 3-year NIH grant, a joint effort involving MPIs from the University of Rochester and Harvard University, addresses these two critical gaps, the overarching goals being to elucidate (i) the impact of PM2.5 on the burden and progression of CVD; and, (ii) the key causal pathways by which air pollution exposure impacts such events. Accomplishing such goals will be facilitated by new analyses of an unprecedented data collection consisting of an already harmonized and linked Part A Medicare data (33+ million subjects 2000 to 2019) at both the individual and zip code levels.

Congratulations to our newest group of Master's graduates

December 2023

The end of the Fall 2023 semester marked degree completions for several students in our Master of Arts in Statistics and Master of Science in Biostatistics programs. We look forward to celebrating their achievements at May Commencement and wish them great success in their future academic and career plans.

  • Xingyi Lu, MA
  • Kevin Spath, MS
  • Hongzhe Xu, MA
  • Hao Zhang, MA
  • YiTong Zhang, MA

Post-degree job search advice from program alumnus Dr. Bokai Wang

October 2023

event flyerBokai Wang (MA ‘15, PhD ‘19) will join two other School of Medicine and Dentistry alumni at a November 1 panel to share their experiences navigating the job search process as an international student, including tips on how they showcased their experience, skills, and talents.

Current graduate students and postdocs are asked to register on Handshake for this myHub and International Student & Scholars Association sponsored event. Lunch will be provided.

Qiuyi Wu receives the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award

September 2023

Profile photoPhD candidate Qiuyi Wu was selected as the 2023-2024 recipient of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award. This merit-based fellowship 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 Professor Hall’s distinguished career.

Qiuyi’s research attempts to bridge the gap between mathematics and statistics by applying mathematical techniques in novel ways to solve statistical problems. For her thesis work, she has developed a new kernel smoothing-finite element method (FEM) which applies the FEM method for discretizing partial differential equations to kernel smoothing tasks. The new method is designed to ensure efficiency and stability in high-dimensional scenarios. The primary applications for her work are in image processing and denoising tasks, which play an essential role in neuroimaging studies.

NHGRI awards $1.27 million R25 grant to Drs. Larracuente, McCall and Fay to grow and diversify genomics data science in education at Rochester

August 2023

A new award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will grow and diversify genomics data science education at Rochester. The R25 Genomic Intensive Data Science Research, Education and Mentorship Award targets data science master’s students from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds, supporting their data science education and providing mentorship and genomics research opportunities to train the next generation of biomedical, behavioral, and clinical scientists. Spearheaded by the GIDS life sciences and biomedical data science working group co-chairs Amanda Larracuente, Matthew McCall, and Justin Fay, the new genomics training program will commence this fall, matriculating students from the incoming GIDS master’s cohort and creating a new, applied genomics application area for the master’s program. The Goergen Institute for Data Science is pleased to announce that a new track in Genomics has been approved by the New York State Department of Education for the masters of science (MS) in data science program. The curriculum will be available to any student in the data science MS program and will be required for Genomic Intensive Data Science Research, Education and Mentorship (GIDS-REM) fellows. The Genomic Intensive Data Science Research, Education and Mentorship (GIDS-REM) will award fellowships to applicants interested in the genomics track. For fellows, the training program encompasses three goals:

1.   Solid training in the fundamentals of data science, including data mining and statistics.

2.   Developing practical and curricular training in genomics to prepare students for genomics research experiences including algorithms commonly used in computational biology and coursework in statistical genomics.

3.   Making fellows competitive for top genomics research positions in industry or PhD programs.

Admitted students to the data science MS in Fall 2023 are eligible to participate in the new track.

For more information about this program see our website: https://www.sas.rochester.edu/dsc/graduate/ms-genomics.html

The 33rd Annual Odoroff Lecture Held with Speaker Dr. Ed George

April 2023

Faculty around dinner tableIn honor of Dr. Charles L. Odoroff, the founding Director of the Division (now Department) of Biostatistics at the University of Rochester, the Department hosts an annual lecture by a distinguished statistician. This lecture series is supported by funds contributed by family and friends of Dr. Odoroff after his untimely death in 1987 at age 49.

On April 27, 2023, Dr. Ed George, the Universal Furniture Professor Emeritus of Statistics and Data Science of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, delivered the 33rd lecture in this series. Pictured are Drs. Thurston, Johnson, Love, Wahed, Oakes, Strawderman, Wells, Strawderman, George, Wu, and McDermott at Tournedos Steak House for the Odoroff dinner.

The Department Welcomes Abdus Wahed, PhD

January 2023

The Department is very pleased to welcome Abdus Wahed, PhD, who joined our faculty as a tenured Full Professor on January 1, 2023. Dr. Wahed comes to Rochester from the University of Pittsburgh, where he had been on the faculty since 2003.  His methodological research focuses primarily on personalized medicine – that is, development of statistical methods for testing dynamic treatment regimes (adaptive treatment strategies) through sequentially randomized designs and for screening viable treatment regimes from observational data. He also has numerous other methodological research interests in sequential and adaptive clinical trials, causal inference,  and survival analysis. He has wealth of experience as statistical co-investigator in multi-center observational studies and clinical trials.  

The Department Welcomes Seong-Hwan Jun, PhD

January 2023

The Department is very pleased to welcome Seong-Hwan Jun, PhD, who joined our faculty as a Research Assistant Professor on October 1, 2022. Dr. Jun’s methodological research focuses primarily on Bayesian models and computational algorithms for high-dimensional biology with a focus multi-omics approach toward resolving intra-tumor heterogeneity in cancer.

Department of Biostatistics & Computational Biology Faculty Promotions

January 2023

The Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology would like to congratulate the following Faculty on their recent promotions: Tanzy Love, to Associate Professor with tenure (effective 7/1/22); and Sally Thurston, Full Professor with tenure (effective 5/1/2022). 

Willi Artman selected for William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship

October 2022

Artman profile photoPhD candidate Willi Artman was named as the 2022-2023 recipient of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award. This merit-based fellowship 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 Professor Hall’s distinguished career.

Willi’s research has focused on the design and analysis of sequential multiple assignment randomized trials (SMARTs) for the construction of dynamic treatment regimes. Dynamic treatment regimes account for patient heterogeneity when choosing treatments sequentially. The applications include treating substance use disorders and adjusting for partial compliance in SMARTs.

Dr. Sally Thurston recognized for Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring

September 2022

Sally Thurston and Sima SharghiDr. Sally W. Thurston received the 2022 Excellence in Postdoctoral Mentoring Award at the School of Medicine and Dentistry Awards and Philosophy Meeting on September 13, 2022. This annual award is given to one faculty member to recognize their dedication to postdoctoral trainees and their significant contributions to the career development and professional advancement of postdoctoral trainees.

Dr. Thurston was nominated by her postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Sima Sharghi, who wrote "Even writing this letter makes me so emotional, describing the level of support I have received from this woman. Sally is selfless! She is the best mentor, teacher, boss, and advisor I have EVER had. Sally is highly educated and knowledgeable of many areas of statistics, but she patiently waits for me to learn on my own speed. She pays attention to the details that I could easily miss...corrects my mistakes in the nicest manner...gives me space to be creative, and to learn how to collaborate with researchers from other universities. Because of Sally’s manners and behavior towards me, I feel I belong."

One of Dr. Thurston's colleagues in Biostatistics also noted that a common theme in Dr. Thurston's work with students is her "selfless dedication and her amazing ability to inspire her mentees to believe in themselves."

NIDCR awards $3.5 million R01 grant to Drs. Xiao, Gill, and Wu to Predict Severe Childhood Tooth Decay in Early Infancy

June 2022

Although largely preventable, Early Childhood Caries (ECC)—severe tooth decay among young children—affects one third of socioeconomically disadvantaged and racial/ethnic minority preschool children in the U.S. While ECC is an infectious disease initiated by cariogenic pathogens, it is now understood to be a multifactorial and ecology-based disease, with the interplay between host, environment, and oral microbiota affecting the onset and severity of ECC. The Oral Microbiome in Early Infancy (OMEI) study will address the urgent need to understand biological factors related to pediatric dental caries among the low-income and racial/ethnic minority groups and develop caries prediction models adjusting multilevel factors.

The OMEI will be the first study to our knowledge to comprehensively evaluate the longitudinal development of early life oral microbiome and their relation to dental caries among low-income minority infants. The study results will build a foundation for developing early life salivary diagnostic tools to predict ECC and further prevent ECC by shaping an infant's oral microbiome and other related multilevel factors. Dr. Michael Sohn will contribute his expertise in metagenomics sequencing to this study. Learn more about this study.

Student competition winners announced at UP-STAT 2022 conference

May 2022

UP-STAT 2022, the 10th joint conference of the Upstate New York chapters of the American Statistical Association, brings together statistical, computational, and data scientists, as well as other professionals from related fields from upstate NY and its neighboring regions. As part of the conference, student paper, poster, and data analytics competitions are held with winners receiving award certificates and prizes.

Students holding award certificate

A team of 2nd year PhD students (Jonathan Klus, Samantha Manning, and Luke McHan) won top honors at the UP-STAT 2022 Data Analytics Competition for their work entitled “Marginal Gains.” The competition’s theme was “Statistical Science at the Service of Social Justice” and contestants were challenged to investigate disparities in educational discipline and their relationships with jailing rates in the United States. Using data gathered from government and non-government sources, the student team developed a model to explain the association between these two areas of interest at the state and county level across the United States. 

Student in front of posterSamuel Weisenthal, a 4th year PhD student, received a 2nd place cash prize in the UP-STAT 2022 Student Poster Competition. His work, “Relative Sparsity,” involves a method developed to estimate a treatment strategy that improves patient outcomes, yet only differs from the standard of care in a way that is easy to explain. Working with his advisors, Professor Sally Thurston and Professor Ashkan Ertefaie, the research may help facilitate the adoption of data-driven decision aids into routine medical practice.

The 2022 hybrid conference was held May 2-4 in Buffalo, NY. Department faculty and PhD program alumni serving on UP-STAT conference organizing committees include Tanzy Love, Gregory Wilding (PhD `03), Lili Tian (PhD `01), Katherine Grzesik (PhD `17), and Mike McDermott.

Jeremiah Jones receives Distinguished Student Paper Award from ENAR

April 2022

Announcement of presentationJeremiah Jones received the Distinguished Student Paper Award from ENAR for his paper called "Causal Mediation Analysis: Selection with Asymptotically Valid Inference." The paper focuses on helping researchers understand how treatments effect outcomes by selecting the important pathways through which treatments operate. They also propose a tool for valid inference after selection of the pathways and provide proof for the characteristics of the methods.

Up to twenty Distinguished Student Paper Awards are given each year to assist students in presenting contributed papers at the ENAR Spring Meeting. Each winner receives a certificate, reimbursement for travel expenses up to $650, tuition waiver for one ENAR short course of choice, and an invitation to the Monday evening ENAR President's reception.

Rochester alumna to join Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine

April 2022

Profile photo of Dr. MaCongratulations to Dr. Shiyang Ma who will join the Clinical Research Institute at Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in October 2022. She entered the University of Rochester as a Master of Arts in Statistics student in Fall 2014, transferred to the PhD Statistics program in Fall 2015, and graduated in Fall 2019 under the supervision of Professor Michael P. McDermott and Professor David Oakes. Since leaving Rochester, Dr. Ma has been a postdoctoral research scientist in the Department of Biostatistics at Columbia University, working with Professor Iuliana Ionita-Laza, and researching fine-mapping gene-based associations via knockoff analysis of UK Biobank data. Dr. Ma has published work in PNAS, Statistics in Medicine, Biometrical Journal, American Journal of Human Genetics, and elsewhere. We wish her all the best!

Dr. Norman-Haignere develops new methods on how the brain responds to sounds

March 2022

graph with dotsAssistant Professor of Neuroscience and Biostatistics and Computational Biology Samuel Norman-Haignere, Ph.D., with the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester has identified neurons in the brain that 'light up' to the sounds of singing, but do not respond to other types of music. Learn more about this research

Dr. Iris Chen to talk with students about her post-graduate experiences

February 2022

Profile photo of Dr. ChenDr. Iris Chen will share her experiences in industry at a myHub presentation called "Embrace and learn from your own career life adventure."

Since completing the University of Rochester Statistics PhD program in 2013, Dr. Chen has worked in a variety of settings ranging from small startups to one of the world's largest independent biotechnology companies. Students can learn more about her career journey and growth during the March 18th virtual event.
 

William Consagra excels in the JSM 2022 Student Paper Competition

January 2022

Profile picture William ConsagraPhD candidate William Consagra was recognized for his paper “Optimized Diffusion Imaging for Brain Structural Connectome Analysis” in the JSM 2022 Student Paper Competition Section on Statistics in Imaging. Papers were scored for statistical novelty, innovation and significance of contribution to the field of application, and professional quality.

Based on his work with Dr. Zhengwu Zhang and Dr. Arun Venkataraman, Mr. Consagra developed a new statistical framework that incorporates data from prior large-scale imaging studies in order to improve the efficiency of human brain structural connectome estimation. He will receive a cash prize and present his paper in a topic-contributed session at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Washington, D.C., in August 2022.

Drs. Land and McCall hone in on shared network of cancer genes

December 2021

In a new study led by Hartmut "Hucky" Land, the Robert and Dorothy Markin Professor of Biomedical Genetics and deputy director of the Wilmot Cancer Institute, and Matthew McCall, an associate professor of Biostatistics and of Biomedical Genetics, the Wilmot Cancer Institute researchers used network modeling to hone in on a set of gene interactions that are critical to making cells malignant and are likely to be fertile ground for broad cancer therapies. Learn more about this research.

Professor Ashkan Ertefaie selected as an associate editor for the Harvard Data Science Review

September 2021

Harvard Data Science Review is an open access journal published by MIT Press and hosted online by PubPub. The first issue was published in 2017.  Harvard Data Science Review is a 2021 prose award winning publication for best new journal in science, technology and medicine. Dr. Ertefaie will join an editorial staff of approximately 75 associate editors. 

Jeremiah Jones receives the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award

September 2021

Jeremiah JonesPhD candidate Jeremiah Jones was named as the 2021-2022 recipient of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award. This merit-based fellowship 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 Professor Hall’s distinguished career.

Jeremiah's research focuses on developing methods for causal inference that combine machine learning and interpretable statistical modeling. His research has found application in mediation analysis, which seeks to estimate and infer the magnitude of treatment effect flowing through different causal pathways. His research has also been applied to estimating dynamic treatment regimes, which assign patients to a predicted optimal treatment as evidence accumulates over time.

NINDS awards $3.14 million grant to Drs. Ertefaie, McDermott, and Venuto to advance personalized medicine in Parkinson’s disease using harmonized multi-site clinical data.

October 2020

Parkinson’s disease (PD) manifests as a heterogeneous clinical syndrome and the variability in the clinical phenotype highlights the need to tailor the type and/or the dosage of treatment to the specific and changing needs of individuals. However, the relative lack of comparative evidence for different classes of drugs and the timing of their initiation has created challenges in devising recommendations to follow any specific therapeutic strategy. This two-phase study, funded by NINDS, will attempt to fill this important gap. The first phase (R61) focuses on creating a harmonized and curated data set by integrating data from six clinical trials and an observational study. In the second phase (R33), the harmonized data set will be leveraged to develop high quality individualized treatment strategies for PD with respect to several clinical outcomes. A robust marginal structural model will be developed that has better convergence properties than existing methods and leverages a non-parametric regression approach to mitigate the chance of misspecification of the nuisance parameters while providing valid inference (p-values and confidence intervals) for the parameters of interest.

NIGMS awards $1.97 million R01 grant to Dr. McCall to develop statistical methods for microRNA-sequencing experiments

September 2020

This grant aims to improve the analysis of microRNA-sequencing data by developing statistical methods that directly address the challenges unique to measuring expression levels of microRNAs. MicroRNAs are essential regulators of gene expression, alterations in which have been shown to disrupt entire cellular pathways, substantially contributing to a variety of human diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Despite their importance, our understanding of the role of microRNAs is hampered by a lack of statistical methods designed specifically to analyze microRNA-sequencing data. By developing such methods, this project will help us identify how changes in microRNA abundance contribute to many human disease processes. This grant provides additional funding for a long-term collaboration between Dr. McCall (URMC) and Dr. Halushka (JHMI).

Alexis Zavez selected for William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship

August 2020

Student standing in front of research posterPhD candidate Alexis Zavez was named as the 2019-2020 recipient of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award. This merit-based fellowship 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 Professor Hall’s distinguished career.

Ms. Zavez's research is on developing flexible Bayesian latent variable models that can be utilized by researchers to better understand relationships among multiple observed exposures in the context of a particular outcome. The primary application for her work is inflammatory marker data measured in the Seychelles Child Development Study. Specifically, she is investigating the association between several prenatal inflammatory markers and child birth weight. 

Biostatistics and Computational Biology Promotions

July 2020

The Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology would like to congratulate the following Faculty on their recent promotions: Changyong Feng, to Full Professor; Xing Qiu, to Full Professor; and Andrea Baran, to Senior Associate.

NIEHS awards another five years of T32 training grant funding

July 2020

The Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology’s T32 training grant “Training in Environmental Health Biostatistics” (T32ES007271) was awarded an additional five years of NIEHS funding starting in July 2020, following 25 years of prior NIEHS support. Dr. Sally W. Thurston has been the PI of this highly successful training program for the past five years, following many years of leadership by Dr. David Oakes. Other statistics trainers from the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology include Drs. Brent Johnson, Tanzy Love, Matthew McCall, Michael McDermott, and Robert Strawderman, and Environmental Health trainers Drs. Emily Barrett, Deborah Cory-Slechta, David Rich, and Edwin van Wijngaarden. The funding supports one postdoctoral fellow and three Statistics PhD students. 

NIDA awards $1.57 million R01 grant to Dr. Ertefaie to study the effect of partial treatment compliance in constructing individualized treatment strategies

March 2020

This grant aims to develop methodologies to adjust for partial compliance in constructing individualized treatment strategies using sequential multiple assignment randomized trials data. Existing tools that estimate the treatment effects using intention-to-treat analyses ignore information on patients’ compliance. The work to be done fills this important gap by providing a set of analytical tools that consider the noncompliance in the setting of sequential clinical decision making. Drs. Brent Johnson (URMC), Michael Kosorok (UNC-Chapel Hill), James McKay (UPenn) and Andrew Wilson (NYU) are co-investigators on this grant.

NIAAA awards $0.42 million R21 grant to Dr. Ertefaie to develop individualized treatment strategies for controlling alcohol use

March 2020

The overarching aim of this work is to address the need for robust, rigorous and efficient methods for estimating optimal treatment strategies in high-dimensional settings. Current methods for constructing individualized treatment strategies rely on certain modeling assumptions, and thus, the results can be very sensitive to the postulated models. The R21 aims to relax these unrealistic assumptions by leveraging the state-of-the-art nonparametric regression methods. Novel techniques for identifying key treatment effect modifiers from a large list of candidate variables are also to be developed. This work helps to pave the way for future studies that advance personalized medicine. Drs. Rob Strawderman (URMC) and James McKay (UPenn) are co-investigators on this grant.​

The Del Monte Institute awards a $50,000 grant to Dr. Ertefaie to study the comparative effectiveness of treatment strategies in Parkinson’s Disease

March 2020

Among neurological disorders, the fastest growing is now Parkinson's disease (PD), surpassing Alzheimer's disease. Existing guidelines for symptomatic drug therapy for PD can best be described as "permissive". The relative lack of comparative evidence for different classes of drugs has created challenges in devising recommendations to follow any specific therapeutic strategy; indeed, there remains substantial heterogeneity in the choice of treatment strategies. The proposal aims to fill this important gap. A specific goal is to use the data collected as part of the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI) study to identify a sequence of treatment decisions (drug classes) to optimize an outcome of interest; and construct a set of best treatment strategies. We will focus on motor complications, anxiety and depression scores measured at 3 and 24 months of treatment initiation as important clinical outcomes. Dr. Charles Venuto (URMC) is a co-investigator on this grant.

Drs. Rice, Strawderman and Johnson honored with award for "Best paper in Biometrics for 2018!"

January 2020

John Rice, a former postdoctoral fellow now at the University of Colorado School of Public Health, along with his co-mentors Rob Strawderman and Brent Johnson, were recently notified by the Editors of Biometrics, a premiere statistical methodology journal, that their paper, Regularity of a Renewal Process Estimated from Binary Data, was selected by a committee of current and former journal editors as the "Best Paper in Biometrics by an International Biometric Society (IBS) member" for the year 2018. The authors have been asked to present this work in a showcase session at the upcoming IBC meeting in July that will be held in Seoul, South Korea. The motivating example for this paper involves determining the effect of an intervention on the regularity of HIV self-testing behavior among at-risk individuals when exact self-testing times are not recorded. Assuming that these unobserved testing times follow a renewal process, the article develops suitable methods for estimation and inference for the renewal distribution parameters when only the presence or absence of at least one event per subject in each of several observation windows is recorded. The concept of "regularity" is also quantified and subsequently estimated by the coefficient of variation (CV) of the interevent time distribution. The paper applies these new methods to the data from the motivating example, concluding that the use of text message reminders significantly improves the regularity of self-testing, but not its frequency. The paper closes with a discussion on interesting directions for further research. 

Roberta K. Courtman Revocable Trust awarded $50K to Drs. Zhang, Baran and Lin to study the brain connectomes of Supernormal older adults

January 2020

The objective of this project is to utilize the structural connectome to study the missing structural aspect in the “reserve vs. compensation” phenomenon to enrich the understanding of Supernormals’ cognitive superiority. Supernormals here refer to a group of old adults who have superior cognitive capacity with superior memory compared to their peers and even normal middle-aged adults. We suspect that, similar to their functional profile, Supernormals will have stronger structural reserve while relying on alternative structural compensation to resist amyloid-deposition and support cognitive function compared to typical agers. Ultimately, our long-term goal is to identify therapeutic targets that can resist AD pathophysiology or reduce AD pathophysiology’s adverse effect on cognition using knowledge gained from Supernormals.

NIMH awarded $0.75 million grant to Drs. Dunson and Zhang to study human brain structural connectivity

January 2020

NIMH has awarded $0.75 million grant to Drs. Dunson and Zhang to study human brain structural connectivity through the Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience (CRCNS) program. This project focuses on developing transformative methods for better characterizing and studying variability in human brain structural connection networks in relation to traits of the individual, including cognitive abilities and substance use. Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and structural MRI can be used to infer locations of millions of white matter fiber tracts acting as highways for neural activity and communication across the brain. The collection of interconnected fiber tracts is referred to as the brain connectome. Improvements in technology have enabled routine collection of high-resolution connectomes; however, there is a fundamental gap between state of the art in image acquisition and the tools available to reconstruct the connectome and study how connectomes vary across individuals in relation to individual characteristics. This project will enable substantial breakthroughs to close this gap by developing fundamentally new ways to process, represent, and analyze brain connectomes.

Statistician is among the Best Jobs for 2020

January 2020

U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Statistician as the #1 Best Business Job and #6 in the Top 100 Best Jobs across all categories. Statistician also ranked #6 among the Best STEM Jobs, partially due to its above-average salaries, low unemployment, and future job prospects. With a projected growth rate of 31% between 2018 and 2028, statistics is one of the fastest-growing fields in the United States!

The joint Greater Data Science Cooperative Institute (GDSC) by UofR and Cornell funded by NSF

October 2019

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year grant to establish a Greater Data Science Cooperative Institute (GDSC) jointly by the University of Rochester and Cornell University that combines shared expertise from electrical engineering, mathematics, statistics, and theoretical computer science.

The UR-Cornell GDSC is based on two founding tenets: that enduring advances in data science require combining techniques and viewpoints across electrical engineering, mathematics, statistics, and theoretical computer science; and, that data-science research must be grounded in an application domain.  The following cross-disciplinary research directions are proposed: (i) Topological Data Analysis; (ii) Data Representation; (iii) Network & Graph Learning; (iv) Decisions, Control & Dynamic Learning; and, (v) Diverse & Complex Modalities. Additional cross-disciplinary research aims including the following are also integrated throughout these five research directions: combinatorial inference; multiple areas in machine and deep learning; and broadening machine learning with tools from signal processing, information & control theory.

The UR-Cornell GDSC specifically aims to consider applications in medicine and healthcare, an important application domain that represents a major strength of the UR,  and one for which advances in data science can have a direct, positive impact on society.

Dr. Tong Tong Wu (co-PI) from the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology will work with Dr. Mujdat Cetin (PI at UofR) from the Goergen Institute for Data Science and Dept. of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Dr. David Matteson (PI at Cornell) from the Dept. of Statistics and Data Science at Cornell, other co-PIs and faculty across both institutions to achieve the objectives of this new cooperative institute. Biostatistics faculty are anticipated to participate in foundational research efforts in several of the core areas, including data representation (e.g., through imaging and genomics); network and graph learning (e.g., through time-evolving networks); decisions, control and dynamic learning (e.g., through the study of dynamic treatment regimes); and diverse and complex modalities (e.g., through high-dimensional modeling without parametric structures).

Inaugural Michael P. McDermott Experimental Therapeutics Lecture held

July 2019

The inaugural Michael P. McDermott Experimental Therapeutics Lecture was held on July 18, 2019.  The lecture, titled “The Dark Past and Destiny of Clinical Trials”, was given by Dr. Clay Johnston, Dean of the Dell Medical School and Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. The lecture, to be held annually, was named in honor of Dr. McDermott for his long-standing dedication to the mentoring and education of fellows in the Experimental Therapeutics in Neurological Disease training program in the Department of Neurology.  The inaugural lecture was held as part of an event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the training program, in which Dr. McDermott has been involved since its inception.

Professor Sally W. Thurston named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association

April 2019

Sally Thurston profile pictureThe designation of ASA Fellow has been a significant honor for nearly 100 years where, under ASA bylaws, the Committee on Fellows can elect up to one-third of one percent of the total association membership as fellows each year. Selection for this honor is based on a nomination, letters of recommendation, and a positive vote of the Committee on Fellows. The honor is intended to recognize statisticians with an established reputation that have made outstanding contributions to statistical science. Dr. Thurston is the 4th member of the current faculty to be honored as an ASA fellow, the others being Michael McDermott (2017), Robert Strawderman (2006), and David Oakes (1993).

NIH awards $3.8 million grant to reduce antibiotic overuse

February 2019

Professor Derick Peterson (Co-Investigator) and Ms. Andrea Baran (MS statistician) from the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology will continue their productive collaborations with Drs. Ann Falsey & Thomas Mariani (Co-PIs in Infectious Diseases and Pediatrics, respectfully) and Drs. Angela Branche and Edward Walsh (Co-Investigators in Infectious Diseases), supported by a new 5-year $3.8M NIH grant to reduce antibiotic overuse. The primary goal is to discriminate between bacterial and non-bacterial respiratory infection via high-dimensional gene expression profiling of blood. Such a diagnostic test would allow physicians to optimally manage patients with acute respiratory infections, which are a leading cause of antibiotic overuse and are linked to the rise of antibiotic resistant organisms. This grant builds upon prior research done as part of the NIH-funded Respiratory Pathogens Research Center (RPRC).

William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Awarded to Hao Sun

January 2019

Student holding award plaquePhD candidate Hao Sun was named as the 2018-2019 recipient of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award. This merit-based fellowship 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 Professor Hall’s distinguished career.

Prospective graduate students learn about our Master's and PhD programs

September 2018

The department’s Annual Open House for Prospective Graduate Students was held on September 29, 2018. This event provides 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.

Students find summer opportunities across the United States

July 2018

Student standing outside the US FDAStudent standing in front of posterSummer is a popular time for students in the department to complete internships and travel to conferences. Internship sites this summer included AbbVie (biopharmaceuticals, Illinois), Ernst & Young (finance, New York), Travelers (insurance, Connecticut), Allergan (pharmaceuticals, California), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (federal agency, Maryland). Research was shared in presentations at the Society for Epidemiologic Research 51st Annual Meeting (Baltimore, MD), the Global Symposium of Innovation in Trauma Research Methods (Columbus, OH), and the Joint Statistical Meetings (Vancouver, Canada). We hope everyone has a fantastic summer!

$1 million grant awarded to Drs. Lamberti, Weisman, and Strawderman

May 2018

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to the University of Rochester Medical Center to evaluate Minnesota’s replication of the successful Rochester Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (R-FACT) program.

The R-FACT program was created 25 years ago by J. Steven Lamberti, M.D. and Robert L. Weisman, D.O., professors in the URMC Department of Psychiatry, to address high rates of arrest and incarceration of people with mental illness. Two years ago, officials in St. Paul and Minneapolis requested URMC’s expertise and began recreating the R-FACT model in their communities.

R-FACT has shown that strong collaboration between mental health and criminal justice professionals provides mentally ill individuals with more effective interventions, and ultimately reduces rates of criminal convictions, jail time, and hospitalizations by roughly 50 percent while doubling time in treatment compared to other programs.

The $1 million grant will allow Lamberti, Weisman, and Robert L. Strawderman, Sc.D., professor and chair of the URMC Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology, to evaluate the effectiveness of R-FACT in the Midwestern cities.

Department recognized for supporting the Greater Rochester community

April 2018

During the annual fundraising campaign for the United Way of Greater Rochester, more than $1.4 million was donated to the charity by members of the University of Rochester. The Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology was recognized for its generous support and high participation rate by winning a pizza party during a "25% participation in 25 days" drawing held towards the start of the campaign. Sheryl Hennekey, a department secretary who serves as one of the campaign coordinators, also received a Shining Star award for her efforts and enthusiasm. We are proud to support this strong tradition of giving back to the community and helping those in need.

Professor Matthew McCall selected as an associate editor for the journal BiostatisticsFront Cover of Biostatistics Journal

March 2018

Founded in 2000 by Scott L. Zeger and Peter J. Diggle, the objective of Biostatistics is to advance statistical science and its application to problems of human health and disease, with the ultimate goal of advancing the public's health. Biostatistics​ was the first journal to have a reproducibility policy and badge that could be earned for making a paper fully reproducible. Dr. McCall will join an editorial staff of approximately 40 associate editors and 2 co-editors.

Front Cover of Biometrics JournalProfessor Brent Johnson selected as an associate editor for the journal Biometrics

March 2018

Biometrics is the flagship journal of the International Biometric Society and is published quarterly both electronically and in print by Wiley. The first issue was published in 1947. Dr. Johnson will join an editorial staff of some 80 associate editors worldwide, 3 co-editors, and 1 executive editor.

Valeriia Sherina receives the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award

Photo of studentJanuary 2018

PhD candidate Valeriia Sherina was named as the 2017-2018 recipient of the William Jackson Hall Graduate Student Fellowship Award. This merit-based fellowship 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 Professor Hall’s distinguished career.

Students earn the Master of Arts in Statistics

December 2017

Students Ting Yin and Ruyue Zhang completed all degree requirements for the terminal Master of Arts in Statistics degree at the end of the Fall 2017 semester. The degree requires satisfactory completion of 32 credits and a final comprehensive written exam. We wish Ruyue and Ting the best as they begin their careers!

Department members enjoy a cruise along the Genesee River

October 2017

Department faculty, staff, and students spent the evening of October 9, 2017 on an authentic paddle boat viewing the beautiful fall foliage along the Lower Genesee Valley Gorge. The cruise offered a great opportunity to spend time with colleagues and celebrate the new semester. The event also featured a delicious feast of barbecue foods.

Professor Michael P. McDermott named a Fellow of the American Statistical Association

August 2017

It is a distinction only conferred upon one-third of one percent of the ASA’s membership. Dr. Michael McDermott was recognized as a Fellow at an awards ceremony held during the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM 2017) in Baltimore.

Students create The Rochester Data Science Society

April 2017

Shiyang Ma, a third-year doctoral student in the department, along with PhD students from the Health Services Research, Epidemiology, and Computer Science graduate programs have established The Rochester Data Science Society (RDSS). The mission of the RDSS is to enrich student understanding of how to use and manage data to solve complex problems while building bridges between students, alumni, industry, and Data Science Societies of neighboring universities. It is the first student organization at the University of Rochester for students interested in data science, statistics, computer science, engineering, health analytics, economics, and other related fields.

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