Campus News

Winter institute encourages future biostatisticians

left to right, Biostatistics Assistant Professor Jiwei Zhao, PhD, and Biostatistics Assistant Professor Guan Yu, PhD, discuss student Jonathan Hercules’s research poster during the Undergraduate Winter Institute for Biostatistics. Photo: Caryn Sobieski-VanDelinder.

From left: Jiwei Zhao and Guan Yu, both assistant professors of biostatistics, discuss Jonathan Hercules’ research poster during the Undergraduate Winter Institute for Biostatistics. Photo: Caryn Sobieski-VanDelinder

By GRACE LAZZARA

Published February 5, 2020

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“My main career path is biostatistics, and this was a good step-by-step overview and a chance to learn more about what you can do. One of our speakers invented a vaccine, so you realize you can make a difference in the world. ”
Catherine Krivokrysenko, student
Undergraduate Winter Institute for Biostatistics

You don’t have to be good with numbers to know that the demand for biostatisticians is booming.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average growth rate for all occupations is projected to be 5% from 2018-28.

For statisticians? It’s an astonishing 30%.

That’s clearly part of the reason why finding enough biostatisticians to fill the demand in academia, government and business is a challenge. And it’s precisely the reason behind the annual Undergraduate Winter Institute for Biostatistics, organized by the Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design (BERD) core of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

BERD offers biostatistical, epidemiological and research design support to investigators in the Buffalo Translational Consortium, and supports all stages of clinical and translational research, which helps scientific discoveries move from the laboratory into the real world.

BERD’s Winter Institute, held this year from Dec. 16 through Jan. 27, brought together nine students from disciplines like math, biomedical engineering, exercise science and computer science to learn more about biostatistics and career opportunities associated with the field.

“We want to stimulate interest and attract talented individuals into the field,” says Greg Wilding, professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Health Professions. According to Wilding, many students in quantitative disciplines haven’t been exposed to the research-based work of biostatisticians, and the institute aims to provide that introduction.

The institute started in December with a week focused on an overview of biostatistics and exploration of other topics, such as study design, statistical genetics, careers in biostatistics and more.

Brains primed, students then began a month-long project, guided by faculty mentors.

The projects culminated in a poster session at the end of January. There, students presented the results of their statistical inquiries into topics that ranged from an investigation of characteristics affecting the incidence of heart attacks to the effect of math final-exam scores on awards earned by high school students.

Bioinformatics and computer science student Catherine Krivokrysenko says her statistics professor, Dietrich Kuhlman, had recommended she attend the institute. Her poster described her work conducting a secondary analysis of the quality of life of cancer patients.

Krivokrysenko says she can already see the benefit of the experience. “My main career path is biostatistics,” she explains, “and this was a good step-by-step overview and a chance to learn more about what you can do. One of our speakers invented a vaccine, so you realize you can make a difference in the world.”