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:

Bios is 70 – Register Now!
Professor Fei Zou Profile
Tar Heel Grad to Teach at Harvard
BSPH’r Undergraduate Research Work May Lead to Public Health Career

What is the CSCC?
Prestigious NSF Fellowships Announced
Biostatistics Senior Kate Boyer Swims to Success!
Important Dates


Click the image above to view the event website

Bios Plans to Mark 70th Anniversary – Register Now!

In celebration of the Department of Biostatistics’ 70th anniversary, the department is hosting a conference featuring Precision Health.

The Biostatistics’ 70th Anniversary Precision Health Conference will include speakers representing faculty, alumni, and students, and will take place on October 28th and 29th at the Carolina Club in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.

Session topics include Machine Learning, Causal Inference, Clinical Trials and Statistical Genetics. The celebration will also include a student poster session showcasing our students’ cutting-edge research, tours of the Gillings School and an alumni panel.

We hope you will join us to reconnect with colleagues, enjoy informative talks and celebrate the accomplishments of our department and its faculty, alumni and students.

More information is now available on the event website at: http://bios70.web.unc.edu/

If you have any immediate questions, please contact Jeff Oberhaus at Bios70@unc.edu.


Dr. Fei Zou

Dr. Fei Zou

Fei Zou, PhD University of Wisconsin – Madison, 2001

Professor Position: Professor of Biostatistics and Genetics

Time at the Gillings School: Since 2001

What I do (and why I love it): Cooking (with local farm fresh ingredients) and skiing (for fresh mountain air and feel of freedom)

First job or internship I had was: UNC biostatistics


Dr. Stephenson to teach at Harvard

Tar Heel returns to Cambridge

Brianna Stephenson, a post-doctoral researcher on the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HSHC/SOL) who also received a PhD from UNC, accepted a position as an assistant professor of Biostatistics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Brianna has been incredibly involved in the Gillings School, working on the National Birth Defects Prevention Study and on the NIH-funded HCHS/SOL, as well as teaching several courses.

After realizing she wanted to pursue a career in academia, Brianna sought out programs that would allow her to continue to develop new methods, teach, mentor and collaborate with people in other fields.

“While I explored a wide variety of academic positions during my search, my focus quickly narrowed in on tenure track positions in biostatistics within schools of public health,” Brianna said. “During my visit at Harvard, I saw all of my passions intersect amongst an impressive array of collaborative opportunities and amazing faculty. As an undergraduate at MIT, I often referred to Harvard as ‘that other school down the street.’ I am honored to become a member of their faculty and look forward to returning to the Boston area, which has continued to be an epicenter for biomedical research.”

In her new role, Brianna will be responsible for teaching, mentoring and advising students, and continuing her research on innovative model-based clustering aimed at providing smarter and interpretable solutions for improving population health.


BSPH’r Undergraduate Research Work May Lead to Public Health Career

Ellen Davis

Several experiences during Ellen Davis’ time at Cary High School led to her decision to study Biostatistics, which in her vision was the perfect intersection of public health and statistics. Ellen took AP statistics during her junior year of high school and slowly became interested in the topic. She attributes the development of her passion for statistics to her AP statistics teacher at Cary High, Mrs. Hood.

Ellen’s interest in the field of public health was piqued during late high school when her younger sister was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a chronic disease that had a huge effect on her family. The diagnosis made Ellen want to impact the field of public health and she thought one way she could do that was with her aptitude for statistics. After Ellen was accepted into UNC, she browsed through the different stem majors that were offered and discovered Biostatistics, which was a major that allowed her to combine her interest in statistics and public health into one field of study.

For Ellen, the biostatistics major has been very rewarding. “The best part of being a biostatistics student has been becoming close friends with several other students in our cohort,” Ellen said. “Another benefit of being a biostatistics student is having such a great adviser, Dr. Monaco. At times the major has been a challenge. I believe the most difficult part of the biostatistics major for me was learning coding for the first time in BIOS 511. However, after being exposed to coding throughout the major, I have become much more comfortable working with SAS and other languages.”

Outside of academics, Ellen holds a job and completes volunteer work. She has worked at the Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center on the MOMPOD study for almost 1.5 years. Working at the CSCC has helped Ellen better understand all the different stages of a study and all the people that work together to help a study run. Additionally, Ellen volunteers at UNC Hospitals in the administrative office and for the local Rainbow Soccer League as a Coach.
In terms of a career, Ellen wants to find a way to utilize her data analytic skills in the field of public health. Previously she has been able to do this through internships in the health insurance sector, however, she is eager to explore different opportunities and work in a new aspect of public health.

Ellen graduated from UNC in May with a degree in Biostatistics and a minor in mathematics and will be continuing her education at NC State where she will be studying for a Master’s degree in Science in Analytics.


Graduation Spring 2019

Grads take pictures at the Bell Tower

The hard work of students was recognized by the University at the Spring Commencement Ceremonies. After long semesters filled with classes, research, and club activities, students turned their tassels and started their next adventure. Whether it is the workforce, graduate school, or some other experience, Biostatistics students are leaving prepared for what lies ahead. Graduates were joined by their families, friends, advisors, classmates and faculty and staff in the celebration. Congratulations to our graduates!

Graduating with a PhD in Biostatistics
Reuben Adatorwovor, Nicole Butera, Chao Huang, Ruth Huh, Neha Joshi, Michael Lawson, Crystal Nguyen, Jin Wang, Adane Wogu, Fan Zhou

Graduating with a Dr in Public Health with a concentration in Biostatistics
Elizabeth Rowley, Laura Wiener

Graduating with a Master of Science in Biostatistics
Griffin Bell, Yen Chang, Karen Chen, Xiaoyang Chen, Liyong Cui, Brandon Gerringer, Peiran Guo, Kalyani Hawaldar, Kinsey Helton, Gloria Kim, Madeline Kowalski, Alec McConnell, Brian Orleans, Jeremy Saxe, Marcus Spearman, Catherine Wiener

Graduating with a Master of Public Health in Biostatistics 
Lorel Schmitzberger, Joo Young Yim, Dana Sessoms

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health
Jameson Blount, Kathryn Boyer, Christopher Cortina, Emma Crenshaw, Ellen Davis, Samveg Desai, Abigail Gancz, Matthew Gilleskie, Katherine Gora Combs, Shivani Kumar, Yirun Li, Tianyi Liu, Lukas Lyon, Wenwen Mei, Kyra Mulder, Alison Poffley, Cameron Tunnicliffe, Sarah Wotus, Yunhan Wu, Zeyun Xue, Janet Yan, Christina Yu, Tarek Zikry

What is the CSCC?

The Collaborative Studies Coordinating Center, often called the CSCC, is a large organization that is partnered with the Biostatistics Department. The CSCC’s history can be traced back to the 1971 National Institutes of Health award of the Lipid Research Clinics Program (LRC) coordinating center to the Biostatistics Department. After many successful years, the LRC Coordinating Center changed its name to reflect the new study coordinating centers that were added in 1984.
In its 48-year history, the CSCC has coordinated activities for over 40 large, multi-site clinical trials and epidemiology studies involving hundreds of clinical or field centers and hundreds of thousands of research subjects, and produced well over 1,000 research publications. The CSCC consists of approximately 100 faculty, staff, and students from the departments of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Nutrition, Medicine and Social Medicine, and collaborates with co-investigators in numerous other departments, centers, and schools across the UNC campus.

Team of CSCC staff collaborated with Habitat for Humanity recently to help build new homes

The CSCC has a distinguished history as a pioneer in clinical data management, implementing remote data entry on a national project in 1986 (the first NIH coordinating center to do so), followed by a web-based data management system in 2001. In 2010, the CSCC introduced its next-generation data management system, CDART (Carolina Data Acquisition & Reporting Technology). It was created with help from the TraCS Institute and was jointly funded by the CSCC and the UNC School of Medicine CTSA grant. CDART allows investigators anywhere real-time reporting, tracking, editing, and querying of data. Currently, all of the Center’s studies are supported on the CDART system.

CSCC projects span the clinical areas of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease, chronic lung disease, nutrition and obesity, periodontal disease, kidney disease, mental health, and child health. The longest running active CSCC project is the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study, begun in 1986 with continuing follow-up of a cohort of over 15,000 individuals. Another hallmark project is the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL), a prospective epidemiological study of 16,000 Hispanics living in the U.S. It is designed to evaluate the relationship between baseline risk factors such as acculturation, environmental exposures, diet, and exercise with health outcomes that include both cardiovascular and pulmonary endpoints for this fast-growing minority population.

Most recently, the CSCC was awarded the coordinating center role for the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network for HIV/AIDS Interventions (ATN), a large research program aiming to defeat the rising HIV epidemic among adolescents and young adults in the United States.

Currently, the CSCC is led by Dr. Lisa LaVange, who also led the center from 2005-2011. “I’m thrilled to be back at Carolina, the Department of Biostatistics, and especially the CSCC,” LaVange says. “At the FDA, I was frequently reminded of the many advances in public health that were made possible by great coordinating centers, such as ours. The CSCC has an excellent and unsurpassed reputation of study coordination and innovation, and I am proud to be back as its Director.”


Two Biostatistics PhD Students Named NSF Fellows

Biostatistics PhD students Samuel Rosin and Bryce Rowland were selected as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship recipients. Samuel and Bryce were selected by the program for their demonstrated potential for future accomplishments in STEM research.

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship is a program that recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based masters and doctoral degrees within the sciences. As fellows, they will receive support for their studies and education, as well as a stipend and other benefits including internships and supercomputing access.

“The NSF GRFP is a flexible source of external funding that will enable me to engage in meaningful research and teaching these next three years,” Samuel said. “I am honored and grateful to have received this award.”

To maintain the fellowship Samuel and Bryce will have to maintain good academic standing at UNC and provide research progress reports. Both Samuel and Bryce hope to pursue careers in academia after receiving their PhDs.

“I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities provided to me by this award,” Bryce said. “The award will give me more independence in pursuing my dissertation research, primarily methods development for the analysis of complex diseases within statistical genetics as well as developing methods to work with data from the 3D genome. It was also extremely valuable to go through the process of finding a question that I am interested in answering, proposing novel research, and receiving feedback from my advisor and now the NSF panelists.”

Biostatistics Senior Kate Boyer Wins Athlete GPA Award

Kate Boyer

Congratulations to Biostatistics senior Kate Boyer, who was named a Top Ten Scholar-Athlete as a member of the varsity swimming team. Kate was among the top 5 female GPAs for athletes and was recognized at the annual Scholar-Athlete Awards luncheon.

Sanusi receives ASA Biopharmaceutical Section Scholarship Award

Busola Sanusi

Busola Sanusi, a doctoral candidate in the biostatistics department at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has received the Biopharmaceutical Section Scholarship Award from the American Statistical Association (ASA).

The award is given annually to up to three graduate students across the United States in recognition of their notable research, academic achievement and applied project work related to the area of biopharmaceutical statistics.

“I am honored to have been selected as a recipient of this award,” Sanusi said. “I consider it a springboard into future opportunities in my career path.”
The full story first appeared on the Gillings School website and can be found here.


The week after graduation, the department has the annual Greenberg lectures, this year Professor Nicholas P. Jewell from UC Berkley traveled to Chapel Hill.
May 16, 10-11 a.m. Cluster Randomized Test-Negative Designs: Inference and Application to Vector Trials to Eliminate Dengue
May 16, 3-4 p.m.Current Status Data: Epidemiology, Avalanches, Individual and Group Screening
May 17, 10-11 a.m. Epidemiology of the Natural History of Diseases: Challenges, Causality, and Multi-state Models

Important Student Date Reminders

Biostatistics Boot Camp

August 5th-16th, Monday-Friday

NOTE: Watch soon for the BiosRhythms 2018 issue

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.  

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