Biostatistics researcher awarded ASA’s Norman Breslow Prize for outstanding paper

February 10, 2017

Dr. Qingning Zhou

Dr. Qingning Zhou

Qingning Zhou, PhD, postdoctoral research associate in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s Department of Biostatistics, has received the American Statistical Association (ASA) Statistics in Epidemiology section’s Norman Breslow Prize for her paper, “Outcome-dependent Sampling with Interval-censored Failure Time Data.”

Zhou’s advisers – Haibo Zhou, PhD, biostatistics professor, and Jianwen Cai, PhD, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and interim chair of biostatistics – are co-authors.

Researchers who conduct epidemiological studies and disease prevention trials often characterize the relationship between an exposure and a “failure time,” or time-to-disease, outcome. In many applications, the failure rate is low, and the observed data suffer from interval-censoring, which occurs when the failure time is not exactly observed but known only to fall within a certain interval.

In such cases, large cohort studies may be required to reach a reliable conclusion on the exposure-failure time relationship. Conducting such studies, however, could be prohibitive for researchers on limited budgets, especially when the exposure measurements are expensive to obtain.

To enhance study efficiency and reduce costs, Zhou proposes an outcome-dependent sampling (ODS) design and an efficient inference procedure for studies concerning interval-censored failure time outcome.

The paper also illustrates how this design and method may be applied to a dataset on incident diabetes from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) prospective epidemiologic study.

“The basic idea of ODS design is to oversample subjects believed to be more informative in terms of the exposure-outcome relationship,” said [Qingning] Zhou. “We enrich the observed sample by selectively including subjects who experience the failure at an early or late time.”

The Norman Breslow Prize, the Statistics in Epidemiology section’s top award presented to young investigators, is given to papers with both methodological contributions and substantive epidemiological applications.

Norman Breslow, PhD, a prominent biostatistician, was known for his work on case-control study design, which compares disease exposure in a case group that has undergone certain outcome to exposure in a control group without that outcome. The development of ODS design was inspired by the case-control study design.

“This work provides a much needed statistical tool for epidemiologists to conduct studies more powerfully without increasing the study budget,” said Cai. “I am excited and proud that Qingning won this prestigious award.”

Zhou will present the paper at the 2017 Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), to be held in Baltimore from July 29 to Aug. 3. She has been awarded a $1,000 stipend to defray travel costs to JSM.

The UNC Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center, based in the biostatistics department, is the coordinating center for ARIC.


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Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: David Pesci, director of communications, (919) 962-2600 or dpesci@unc.edu