August 16, 2011


Representatives from UNC’s Department of Biostatistics were in top form at the annual Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM), held July 30-Aug. 4 in Miami. UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health graduate students won a video competition, a statistics team bowl competition and individual bowl awards, and numerous travel awards that allowed a large group of students to attend the conference. Several honors and awards for School faculty members also were announced.

The JSM is the largest gathering of statisticians held in North America. A joint effort of the American Statistical Association, the International Biometric Society (including the Eastern North American Region, or ENAR, and Western North American Region, WNAR), the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the Statistical Society of Canada, and the International Chinese Statistical Association, and the International Indian Statistical Association, the event attracts more than 6,000 people.

“A Statistical New World,” directed by doctoral student Diana Lam, won the “Promoting the Practice and Profession of Statistics” video competition, sponsored by the American Statistical Association’s Public Awareness Group. Lam worked with fellow students Eric Jay Daza, Christian Douglas, Alison Wise, Jennifer Clark, Suprateek Kundu, and Annie Green Howard, and with student services managers Melissa Hobgood and Veronica Stallings, to write lyrics, act and sing in the musical production. Professional camera operator Kurt Nolen, husband of biostatistics student Tracy Nolen, served as videographer and editor. The team was awarded $500 and (so far) more than 1,500 views on YouTube.

“The video was really fun to work on, and I am really impressed with how well it turned out,” Lam said. “I am amazed at all the diverse talent we have in the department. As biostatisticians, we utilize the right side/logical side of our brain a lot, and it was fun to have a change in pace and use the left/creative side of our brains.”

“The UNC entry succeeded in combining clever statistical content with high entertainment value, and was a winner in the face of stiff competition from 32 other entries,” said contest judge Roderick Little, PhD, Richard D. Remington Collegiate Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan.

“Congratulations,” Little told the UNC team, “and now … get back to your studies!”
UNC’s win in the statistical bowl team competition was powered by doctoral students Suprateek Kundu, Dustin Long and Ryan May. Kundu and Long also won first and second prizes, respectively, in the individual bowl competition.

Kundu says that when he and Long faced each other in the final round, “I told Dustin, ‘the best thing that can happen is UNC wins; the worst thing that can happen is…UNC wins!’ Most importantly, it was a fun experience. And UNC won – hands down!”

Dr. Gary Koch

Dr. Gary Koch

A session was held at the conference in honor of biostatistics professor Gary Koch,PhD, whose Festschrift was published in May as a special issue of the American Statistical Association’s journal Statistics in Biopharmaceutical Research. A Festschrift is a volume of articles or essays contributed by many authors to celebrate the life and work of a colleague, usually published on the occasion of retirement or to celebrate an anniversary.

Recognition was made at the conference of three faculty members recently named as American Statistical Association fellows – professor Fred Wright, PhD, and associate professors Donglin Zeng, PhD, and Hongtu Zhu, PhD. Zhu also was named as an Institute of Mathematical Statistics fellow.

Statistical organization leadership positions held by UNC faculty this year include professor Amy Herring’s role as president of the International Biometric Society’s ENAR and professor Jianwen Cai’s chairing of the American Statistical Association’s biometrics section.

“It was very gratifying to see our department shine at the annual statistical meetings,” said Michael Kosorok, PhD, professor and chair of the biostatistics department. “We truly have some of the finest students and faculty of any statistics or biostatistics program in the world.”


UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Ramona DuBose, director of communications, (919) 966-7467 or




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