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Wilson Magnet Students Benefit from URMC Apprenticeship Program

Friday, May 23, 2008

Some of the best Rochester City School District math and science students will work closely on Thursday, May 29, with researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center through a program that exposes them to the practice of biostatistics in a professional setting and introduces them to the possibilities of pursuing a career in the field.
This is the third year for the Biostatistics Apprenticeship Outreach Program, which invites 15 select mathematics and statistics students from the Joseph C. Wilson Magnet High School – a mathematics, science, and technology magnet school – to immerse themselves in a unique academic atmosphere, offering them a hands-on look at biostatistics that they would find nowhere else. The program is coordinated by the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology and the Heart Research Follow-up Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC).
“We are thrilled to be able to again partner with the Rochester City School District to offer a distinctive opportunity to experience real-world work in the practice of biostatistics,” said Scott McNitt, research faculty member in the Heart Research Follow-up Program.
During their two days at URMC, the students engage in interactive sessions with the faculty. Biostatisticians and medical researchers describe their collaboration to the students and relate it directly to the students’ own previous coursework at Wilson. This approach provides a personalized learning environment for the students and prepares them for their own biostatistics research project in the weeks ahead. The students also break into small groups to talk with faculty about career opportunities in biostatistics.
Prior to the completion of the first day-long session, students are presented with their own research projects. The research questions and data are shared with the students for each project, followed by a period for questions and discussion. Students then spend part of every school day for the next three weeks learning statistical techniques and working on the research with their math teachers Shawn Haarer, Ph.D. (a co-coordinator of the outreach program) and Mike Atkinson. They subsequently return to URMC for a half-day session to present their data and receive feedback and additional career advice from URMC research faculty.
“This apprenticeship gives them a concrete sense of the needs for and rewards of biostatistics in furthering medical science,” said Michael McDermott, Ph.D., associate chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology. Through a brief but multifaceted experience, it is the program’s hope that “the value and richness of a career in biostatistics will be made real and become a leading candidate among the many professional career paths available to these talented mathematics students,” he added.
Haarer, too, cites the significant benefit the students receive. “The team at the Medical Center has been very generous in support of our students,” Haarer said. “The Wilson seniors see an application for the statistics they have learned, and they also learn new skills to apply when working with research data. It fits nicely as a senior project at the end of the International Baccalaureate program.”
University of Rochester Medical Center faculty who will share their insight with the students this year are:
Arthur J. Moss, M.D., professor of Medicine, professor of Community and Preventive Medicine, and director of the Heart Research Follow-up Program. Moss, a cardiologist, is an internationally recognized clinician-researcher whose work has changed the treatment of heart disease worldwide.
Sally Thurston, assistant professor of Biostatistics and assistant professor of Oncology. Thurston is a biostatistician who performs research in statistical methodology and collaborates with local and international research groups mainly in the area of environmental health sciences.

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Karin Christensen

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