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What Does Susan Hilsenbeck Do When She Is Not Being a Statistician?

1 April 2017 310 views No Comment
This column focuses on what statisticians do when they are not being statisticians. If you would like to share your pastime with readers, please email Megan Murphy, Amstat News managing editor.


Susan Hilsenbeck

Susan Hilsenbeck

Who are you, and what is your statistics position?

My name is Susan Hilsenbeck, and I am a professor of medicine and the leader of the Biostatistics and Informatics Shared Resource in the Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. I spend most of my time working collaboratively with investigators on cancer research.

Tell us about what you like to do for fun when you are not being a statistician.

When I am not working as a biostatistician, I like to scuba dive and I like to fish, but most of all I like to quilt.

Susan Hilsenbeck scuba dives.

Susan Hilsenbeck scuba dives.

What drew you to this hobby, and what keeps you interested?

I’ve been quilting on and off since 1982, which means I started shortly after the ‘quilt renaissance’ of the 1970s. I got started because I watched a program on PBS and I wanted to make a present for a friend having a baby. Even for my first quilt, I aimed for something original, although I am a strong believer in mastering good technique and then branching out to make it your own.

I work pretty slowly and savor every aspect of the process. I’ve made very few bed-sized quilts and focus instead on baby-sized and wall art quilts.

One of the things I love about quilts is how the gift of a quilt expresses love and regard. The experience of making a group quilt is especially fun and can help build bonds of friendship. Over the last 17 years, since joining Baylor, my co-workers and I have made more than 30 lap/crib-sized group quilts to celebrate life events like babies, marriages, retirements, etc. The group quilts are usually more whimsical in style, while my solo quilts are more on the experimental and art side (or at least I like to think so).

Susan Hilsenbeck included a DNA molecule applique in this quilt she designed.

Susan Hilsenbeck included a DNA molecule applique in this quilt she designed.

The thing I like best about quilting—as a mode of expression—is the blend of analysis/engineering to figure how to put something together; the physical skill needed to execute the design; and the freer, artistic side of design, composition, color, etc. It seems like the perfect mix for all sides of my brain. There is also something incredibly relaxing and centering about spending a couple of hours focused on stitching. I keep at it because there is always more to learn and the possibilities are endless.

To view some of Hillsenbeck’s work, visit her blog.

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