University at Buffalo Biostatistician Named to Prestigious NIH Review Committee

Published October 3, 2014

“Statisticians commonly serve on the NIH study sections across other areas of scientific investigations.”
Alan Hutson, PhD, Chair, Department of Biostatistics

Marianthi Markatou, PhD, University at Buffalo professor of biostatistics, has been appointed to serve on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Biostatistics Methods and Research Design (BMRD) study section. The appointment is effective through June 30, 2020. The BMRD study section reviews applications that seek to advance statistical and mathematical techniques and technologies applicable to the experimental design and analysis of data in biomedical, behavioral, and social science research.

The group’s emphasis is on quantitative methods to aid in the analysis and interpretation of clinical-, genomic-, and population-based research studies, including analytic software development, novel applications, and secondary data analyses utilizing existing database resources.

Nomination to the committee is based on demonstrated competence and achievement in the individual’s scientific discipline as evidenced by the quality of their research accomplishments, publications in scientific journals, and other significant accomplishments and honors. Alan Hutson, PhD, chair of the UB department of biostatistics, stresses the importance of an appointment to the BMRD committee. “Statisticians commonly serve on the NIH study sections across other areas of scientific investigations,” says Hutson. “However, service on the Biostatistics Methods and Research Design study section, which focuses on advanced statistical and mathematical techniques in biomedical applications, is a particularly high honor since this is, in essence, the NIH study section developed specifically for our profession.”

Markatou says her BMRD obligations will include reviewing grant applications submitted to NIH, making recommendations on these applications to the appropriate NIH national advisory council or board, and surveying the status of research in the field of biostatistics and, in some cases, related fields.

She views the most important aspect of the BMRD appointment as having the chance to influence biostatistical research to expand beyond the traditional framework and continue addressing problems that impact both biomedical research and the fundamental core of the science of biostatistics. Markatou describes her own research as both disciplinary and interdisciplinary, but she thinks the reason she was appointed to BMRD was because of her work in the analysis of “big data.”

Her “big data” work addresses inferential challenges that turn data into knowledge in a reproducible manner. Recent work focuses on the role of kernels in data analysis and on developing methodology that addresses important challenges in the analysis of data, such as heterogeneity of scales and measurement errors in building models in the “big data” context. “This fundamentally statistical approach to ‘big data’ is absolutely necessary to avoid presenting data artifacts as scientific discoveries,” she says.