NCI renews grant for genomics and cancer research training program at Gillings School

September 2, 2016

The Department of Biostatistics at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health has been awarded a renewal of the “Biostatistics for Research in Genomics and Cancer” grant by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Joseph Ibrahim

Dr. Joseph Ibrahim

The five-year training program is led by principal investigator Joseph G. Ibrahim, PhD, Alumni Distinguished Professor of biostatistics. The program trains pre-doctoral students in statistical genomics with a major emphasis on cancer genomics.

Goals of the program include training biostatisticians in the biology, etiology and genetics of cancer; teaching trainees to conduct state-of-the-art methodological research; and producing biostatisticians who have experience collaborating with other scientific researchers and oncologists to study genomics and cancer.

The 2016-2017 trainees are (back, L-R) Douglas Wilson, Joseph Ibrahim (adviser), Sean McCabe, (front, L-R) Ruth Huh, Paloma Hauser and Laura Zhou.

The 2016-2017 trainees are (back, L-R) Douglas Wilson, Joseph Ibrahim (principal investigator), Sean McCabe, (front, L-R) Ruth Huh, Paloma Hauser and Laura Zhou.

Trainees for 2016-2017 include doctoral students Paloma Hauser, Ruth Huh, Sean McCabe, Douglas Wilson and Laura Zhou.

During the eleven years that the training program has been funded at UNC, Ibrahim has seen a tremendous scientific impact in both the biostatistics department and the field at large. One example he recalls involves a group of trainees’ innovative work on the analysis of next-generation sequencing experiments to detect protein-DNA interaction sites.

“Sequencing biases, low sequencing depth and a lack of control experiments often complicate the detection of such sites from sequencing data,” Ibrahim said. “Trainees tackled this problem through the development of novel statistical methods to detect open chromatin regions across many different cell types.”

Academic courses in the training program include theoretical and applied statistics, genetics, cancer biology and epidemiology relevant to cancer research. To enhance collaboration on cancer genomics research, several members of UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center join biostatistics faculty during all phases of the training.

More information on the program is available from the Department of Biostatistics.


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


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