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University at Buffalo Biostatistics Department Celebrates 10 Years

1 August 2013 162 views No Comment
Alan David Hutson

    In 2002, Alan Hutson joined the University at Buffalo (UB) from the University of Florida. He found there was just one faculty member and one lecturer left in the division from the old department of statistics and no active graduate program. A key development in the history of the department was that a new school of public health and health professions was formed in 2003 at UB through the merger of the department of social and preventive medicine and the school of health professions. The division of biostatistics was moved into the new school as part of this merger.

    With the support of the upper administration, the department of biostatistics was officially created in 2003. A critical agenda item for Hutson was to re-establish a graduate presence at UB for the newly formed department. A key to moving this process forward was the recruitment of Randolph Carter from the University of Florida.

    Carter and Hutson were the primary architects of new MA and PhD programs in biostatistics. The actual degree programs were a merger of the old MA and PhD programs in statistics with a newer set of biostatistical courses integrated. Also during this time, an MPH degree with an emphasis in biostatistics was established.

    In 2005, Hutson agreed to chair both the UB and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) department of biostatistics (now biostatistics and bioinformatics at RPCI), such that the department of biostatistics essentially spans two institutions and has 21 primary faculty members and several affiliated faculty members. Also in 2005, Carter took over as director of the Population Health Observatory, a key research center in the school with a mission similar to the original Bureau of Business and Social Research, established in the 1920s. The department also has strong participation within the Gynecology Oncology Group (GOG) with service on several GOG committees. The GOG statistics office is headed by John Blessing (UB graduate) and located in Buffalo.

    In 2006, the first four MA degrees in biostatistics were awarded. The department celebrates the annual Richard Schmidt Award for Outstanding PhD Student. In addition, the department established the Sidney Addelman Award for Outstanding MA Student and the M. Mahamunulu Desu Outstanding Student Paper Award. In 2007, the first graduate PhD degree in biostatistics was awarded to Antara Majumbdar. One highlight of that day is that C.R. Rao served as an honorary dissertation committee member. Rao now has a faculty appointment in the department.

    The department has been in continual motion since 2002. In 2012–2013, there were 55 graduate students in the program and more than 2,000 undergraduates were taught through service teaching. We anticipate 50 new graduate master’s and PhD students to arrive for Fall 2013.

    We developed an undergraduate minor in statistics, with the first new students enrolling in Fall 2010. We also established a new MS degree program in bioinformatics and biostatistics that started in Fall 2010, joint with RPCI. One of our most recent high-profile hires, Marianthi Markatou, is associate editor of JASA.

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