Full Menu Close Menu



Welcome to the BiosBeat communication tool for the Department of Biostatistics at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health! Here you will find a collection of the latest department news, special features, dates to save, and much more. So, read on, enjoy, and be sure to regularly check back for updates!

In this edition:

Start of a new year!
BSPHer’s SAS internship offered valuable insight
Profile – Anastasia Ivanova
Alumnus DuBois Bowman moving to Michigan
Lancet published study – Hudgens team involved
Congratulations Ji-Hyun-Lee

Important Dates

Professor Ibrahim welcomes new class


Future biostatistician Tarek’s SAS internship offered valuable insight

BPSH student Tarek Zikry presents poster at SAS Intern Expo

Over the summer Tarek Zikry (BSPH expected Spring 2019) worked as a Technical Intern in the JMP Life Sciences R&D team at the SAS Institute in Cary, NC on a project to visualize and explore probability thresholds and error trade-offs in predictive models. His project was created based on requests from both industry and academia users of JMP in the desire to better understand and explore the tradeoffs associated with changing a model threshold.

JMP is a SAS product used for interactive, visual statistical discovery. The project goal was to create and implement a new JMP tool, in the form of an add-in, to give users a way to visualize model cutoffs and error tradeoffs simultaneously in a unified platform. When model that predicts a binary outcome (say disease presence) is created, you get a probability of whether a patient has the disease based on the patient’s characteristics. You then need to set a threshold between 0 and 1 to discriminate between positive and negative disease cases.

That is where Zikry’s add-in comes into play permitting the user to interactively change threshold value and see impact instantly. This is beneficial as thresholds are very context and industry dependent. In a business context, the user may want to minimize total errors (which could represent costs), but in a medical context, you may want to set your threshold based on weighting false negatives stronger than false positives. Users can also see the results propagated in performance measures, confusion matrices, and ROC Curves. The add-in also implements model scoring features to view lift curves, cumulative gains curves, and to calculate an optimal threshold based on possible classification costs. This tool is expected to be used by industry statisticians in optimization, and also by professors in academia as a valuable visual tool to teach introductory statistics.

Zikry used his skill set built up in the BSPH program to thrive on all fronts of the summer project – from backend development to mathematical and statistical modelling to being able to effectively communicate the work with non-statisticians. In addition to the poster presentation, he published a blog post to the JMP Community online with a worked through tutorial on how to use the add-in and how to interpret the results. Zikry will be returning to SAS in late October to present at the 2018 JMP Discovery Summit.

The SAS summer experience provided an interesting perspective on how statistical methodology and applications are developed in an industry setting. This fall he is working on an honors thesis under Dr. Michael Kosorok and Dr. Jeremy Purvis in the Genetics faculty, and after finishing his bachelor’s in biostatistics in the Gillings School of Public Health, he plans to pursue a PhD in biostatistics.


Anastasia Ivanova, PhD

Drs. Sotres and Ivanova (in front) circa 2000

Position: Professor, Department of Biostatistics
Teach: BIOS 660/672 Probability and Statistical Inference I and BIOS 752 Design and Analysis of Clinical trials
Time at the Gillings School: Since 1999
Big event of this year: CSCC got a 61 million grant to run a precision medicine adaptive trial in severe asthma. Lisa Lavange, the director of CSCC and associate chair of the dept of Bios, and myself are co-PIs of this PreCISE study.
What I do (and why I love it): I love downhill skiing. My favorite place to ski is a small place in Utah called Powder Mountain, it is 1.5 hours from Salt Lake City. Skiing there is like going for a walk in the woods because there are no obvious trails for the most part and you can ski anywhere. I also love interacting with my students. When I was a graduate student, my advisor Bill Rosenberger, had parties for students all the time. They were the highlight of my school years. I continue this tradition with BIOS752 parties. The photo on right was taken at BIOS660 party in 2000, the first class I taught at UNC.
First job or Internship I had was: My first internship was a summer internship with the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER) at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after my second year in the graduate school. Regulatory submissions by pharmaceutical companies were done in a paper form in those days rather than electronically and 2-3 feet high stacks of paper were wheeled around FDA in hand trucks.

For more information about CSCC and the PreCISE study, visit http://sites.cscc.unc.edu/cscc/
Dr. Ivanova was promoted recently to full professor and Dr. Sotres was promoted to Associate Professor


Bios Alumnus DuBois Bowman now University of Michigan’s dean of public health

Dr. DuBois Bowman

F. DuBois Bowman, PhD, an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, has been named dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, effective October 15th. He earned a Master of Science degree in biostatistics from the University of Michigan in 1995 and his doctorate in biostatistics from the UNC Gillings School in 2000. Read more here.


Biostatistics researchers are part of international team with paper in Lancet

Study demonstrates benefits among people living with HIV who inject drugs

Katie Mollan and Sarah Reifeis review Lancet publication

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health are part of an international team reporting promising findings related to the prevention of HIV transmission among a population of people who are HIV-positive and use injectable drugs and their partners.

The key findings of HPTN 074, part of the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), were published Aug. 30 in The Lancet.
Read more here.


Alum Dr. Ji-Hyun Lee, Professor, Elected as ASA Fellow

Dr. Ji-Hyun Lee, recently became a Professor in the Department of Biostatistics and Director of University of Florida Health’s Cancer Center’s, Division of Quantitative Sciences, over the summer was honored at an award ceremony held at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Vancouver, Canada where she was inducted as a Fellow in the American Statistical Association. ASA Fellows are nominated by their ASA member peers and must have outstanding contributions to statistical science through publications, position held with their employer, ASA activities, memberships and accomplishments and other professional activities. Being an ASA Fellow is a high honor as only one-third of one percent of the total association memberships are elected as Fellow. Congratulations, Dr. Lee!

Important Student Date Reminders

Sunday, September 9 – Biostatistics Student, Staff and Faculty Picnic

For more Gillings School events, view the school’s event calendar.

If you have news or a story idea you feel would fit BiosBeat, please submit them to Jeff Oberhaus.