Faculty Spotlight

Guan Yu

Guan Yu is an assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics at the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Can you explain your role in the Department of Biostatistics?

As a faculty member in the Department of Biostatistics, my duties involve a combination of research, teaching and service.

How did you get interested in this field?

My initial interest in statistics arises from the famous statistical book, The Lady Tasting Tea: How Statistics Revolutionized Science in the Twentieth Century, written by David Salsburg. The book made a lasting impression on me because it explained many complicated statistical ideas through interesting stories. From the book, I learned the basic idea of hypothesis test. It seems that many scientific problems can be solved by it. The various applications of statistics was fascinating so I became determined to learn more about it.

During my graduate studies, I felt very honored to have papers published in top statistical journals such as Journal of American Statistical Association, and was awarded the student paper award several times by American Statistical Association (ASA) and National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS). These acknowledgments were very encouraging and it further solidified my desire to pursue a career in academia and teaching.

What is the focus of your research?

My current research interests include the development of new statistical machine learning methodology such as sparse regression, classification, clustering, multi-task learning, and statistical inference for modern massive and complex data. Ultimately, I want to establish real applications of my research in various scientific areas.

What are the real world implications of your research?

My research about statistical machine learning can be widely used in many scientific areas. For example, our proposed sparse regression and multi-task learning methods can be used for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease using different types of medical images such as structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography (PET). Our proposed variable selection and statistical inference methods can be used to identify important genes for cancer research.

Why UB?

UB is the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York (SUNY) system. It is also one of the premier research-intensive public universities in the country. In addition, the Department of Biostatistics includes faculty members from UB and the Department of Biostatistics at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. These affiliations, in addition to the Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics, the College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, the College of Nursing, the School of Pharmacy and the School of Public Health and Health Professions, provide a rich environment for collaborations. All these factors have proved very beneficial for my collaborative research efforts and career development.

What is your greatest accomplishment while at UB?

Since 2016, I have collaborated with researchers at UB from various scientific areas such as biomedical engineering, environmental engineering, epidemiology, oral biology and so on. These collaborations enable me to develop new research areas and participate in many grant applications. In my second year at UB, I am a co-investigator on three awards from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).