Cornell U. Scholar to Chair URMC Department of Biostatistics

Feb. 22, 2012
Robert Strawderman, Sc.D

Robert L. Strawderman III, Sc.D., professor of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology and Statistical Science at Cornell University, and professor in the Department of Public Health at Weill-Cornell Medical College, has been named Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Pending approval by the UR trustees, Strawderman will start on July 1, 2012. Strawderman replaces David Oakes, Ph.D., interim chair and URMC professor of Biostatistics, who has been leading the department since the sudden death of Andrei Yakovlev, M.D., Ph.D., in February 2008. Yakovlev pioneered a major expansion of the department beginning in 2002, to one of the best-funded in the country, and Oakes has continued to drive that momentum.

Biostatistics and Computational Biology is at the core of all research and plays a pivotal role in planning for future research initiatives at the Medical Center, and Strawderman is an excellent choice to build on the legacy of Yakovlev and Oakes, said Mark B. Taubman, M.D., dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

“Dr. Strawderman is an outstanding scientist and a delightful person,” Taubman said. “I look forward to his galvanizing our efforts in all areas of biomathematics.”

Strawderman earned his master’s and doctorate degrees in biostatistics from Harvard University, where he also received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2008. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Rutgers College. He was a faculty member at the University of Michigan from 1992 to 2000, before moving to Cornell.

“Dr. Strawderman brings to Rochester the vision of a great leader, the experience of a great scholar, the patience of a great teacher, and the thoughtfulness of a true collaborator,” said Robert G. Holloway, M.D., chair of the URMC search committee, and professor of Neurology, and Community and Preventive Medicine. “We are so delighted to have him join our faculty and lead the department and its faculty to new heights of scholarship, collaboration, and training.”

Strawderman’s major research area is survival analysis, with a focus on problems involving recurrent event data. More generally, he is interested in statistical inference for point process data; outcome prediction in medicine, epidemiology and public health; evaluating the cost and quality of health care; demography and population studies; asymptotics (theory and approximation); and, various problems in statistical computing.

At Cornell he served as director of graduate studies for the fields of statistics and biometry, and director of the Statistics Core at Cornell Population Center. Since 1997 Strawderman also has continuously served as an associate editor at the Journal of the American Statistical Association (JASA Theory & Methods) and is an associate editor of The Electronic Journal of Statistics.

In addition, Strawderman is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board for Nature Source Genetics, an Ithaca, N.Y.-based company dedicated to solving computational and statistical problems related to biodiversity, quantitative genetics and breeding.

Strawderman said he recognizes the URMC’s strong reputation for both its research and clinical enterprises and the inherent importance of maintaining a focused and thriving Biostatistics department to reach future goals.

“The opportunity to step into such an important and challenging leadership role is very exciting,” he said. “I look forward to working with the department faculty and Medical Center leadership to implement a shared vision of excellence that further enhances our value and elevates the department to a new level of national prominence.”

The URMC Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology has 21 tenured or tenure-track faculty, two fully funded training grants from the National Institutes of Health in biostatistics for environmental health sciences and HIV/AIDS, and a consulting service for URMC faculty on study design and data management. Total funding to the department from 2004 to 2010 was $51 million.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Strawderman will be joining the department,” Oakes said, “and I am convinced that he will be a strong, effective, and supportive leader.”

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