April 12, 2022
Bingxin Zhao, PhD, a 2020 doctoral alumnus of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and assistant professor of statistics at Purdue University, is one of four recipients of The Graduate School at UNC’s 2022 Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award.
Each year, The Graduate School recognizes four doctoral candidates or recent doctoral graduates for creating exceptional dissertations in each of the following fields: biological and life sciences; humanities and fine arts; mathematics, physical sciences and engineering; and social sciences. Along with Zhao, the 2022 recipients of the Dean’s Distinguished Dissertation Award are Rachel E. Bangle, Siddhartha Biswas and Mark Reeves. Each honoree receives a cash award; additionally, The Graduate School nominates two awardees each year for the national CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award.
The awards recognize the highest level of graduate student scholarship at UNC-Chapel Hill, based on originality, innovation, scholarly excellence, methodological sophistication, and significance to the field of study. A faculty panel from a broad range of disciplines selected this year’s recipients.
Zhao’s dissertation is titled “Topics in high-dimensional asymptotics of ridge-type estimators.”
“How do genetics control the human brain? Using neuroimaging and genetics data from more than 40,000 subjects, we describe the genetic influences on brain structures and functions,” Zhao explained. “More generally, we find that brain conditions are genetically related to a wide range of human behavior variables, mental health traits and brain disorders. Neuroimaging biomarkers from biobank-scale databases can contribute to understanding the biological pathways of brain-related traits and diseases.”
“This is a high-impact study on understanding the genetic architecture of the human brain and developing advanced analytical tools for dense and weak signals in biobank-scale datasets,” said Zhao’s dissertation advisor, Hongtu Zhu, PhD. Zhu is a professor of biostatistics with adjunct appointments in genetics, statistics, computer science and the Biomedical Research Imaging Center.
“Congratulations to these graduate students on their achievements, which have culminated in this award, said Suzanne Barbour, dean of The Graduate School. “From access to higher education to the inner-workings of the human brain, these are standout graduate students in their fields of study. They are well deserving of this notable award.”
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