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COPSS to Host First Scott Lecture, Fisher Lecture at JSM 2020

1 April 2020 No Comment

Editor’s Note: Due to Covid-19, dates and formats for meetings, conferences, and workshops may change. Please check event websites often for updates.

The Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) will host the 2020 Elizabeth L. Scott and R.A. Fisher lectures at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Photo shows Amita Manatunga will be the Elizabeth L. Scott Lecturer at JSM 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Amita Manatunga will be the Elizabeth L. Scott Lecturer at JSM 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Elizabeth L. Scott Award committee awarded the 2020 Scott Lecture to Amita Manatunga of Emory University. She was selected as this year’s recipient for her dedicated mentoring of the next generation of statisticians; committed leadership in expanding statistical opportunities for women and minorities at the individual, institutional, and professional society levels; and excellence in biostatistical research.

Manatunga is Donna Jean Brogan Professor of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics in the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. She was born and raised in Sri Lanka and earned her BS in physics and mathematics with first-class honors from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka. She earned her master’s in statistics from Purdue University and her PhD in statistics from the University of Rochester in 1990. Manatunga was an assistant professor of biostatistics at Indiana University before joining Emory in 1994.

Manatunga’s research is inspired by the need for innovative statistical methods in important and complex public health problems. Three primary areas of application she has worked on are mental health, epidemiology, and nuclear medicine. She has made substantial methodological contributions in multiple areas, including survival analysis, interpretation of diagnostic markers, agreement studies, and functional data. She has also published more than 125 peer-reviewed papers and been funded by numerous methodological and collaborative grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Manatunga is a recipient of many awards, including a FIRST award from NIH in 1996 and fellow award from the ASA in 2004.

Throughout her career, Manatunga has served as a mentor to many graduate students, junior faculty, and other researchers in biostatistics and the health sciences, with a focus on helping early-career women. She has chaired the ASA Committee on Women in Statistics and Gertrude Cox Scholarship for Women Award Committee and is deeply involved in multiple diversity initiatives. She is a co-founder (in 2010) and consistent supporter of ENAR’s Diversity Caucus and a frequent invited speaker at workshops aimed at increasing diversity. Her contributions to ENAR’s annual Fostering Diversity in Biostatistics Workshop—continuously since its inception—have had a lasting impact on the participants and many others who see her as a role model. Many of her former students are now in leadership positions in academia, government, and professional societies.

Manatunga’s Scott lecture is titled “Statistical Methods for Diagnosis of Complex Diseases with Complex Data.” She will speak about innovative statistical methods addressing challenging problems in the diagnosis of complex diseases and characterization of their underlying mechanisms in two specific contexts. One is mental disorders, complex and multifactorial conditions often lacking reliable tools for diagnosis. Multiple instruments are often used to quantify the same mental health trait, and combining them is a challenge. A statistical framework will be proposed for creating new scales and interpreting new instruments on different types of measurements.

In a different setting, nuclear medicine practitioners collect and analyze diverse and complex clinical data to characterize kidney obstruction, including renal images, renogram curves, and pharmacokinetic parameters. Due to the lack of well-established and objective guidelines for analyzing these data, clinical judgement of kidney obstruction heavily depends on the experience of the radiologist and typically has poor interrater agreement. A statistical model will be presented to effectively integrate information from different modalities and produce accurate interpretations and stable predictions of kidney obstruction.

Photo shows Kathryn Roeder will be the R.A. Fisher Lecturer at JSM 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kathryn Roeder will be the R.A. Fisher Lecturer at JSM 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Kathryn Roeder, UPMC professor of statistics and life sciences in the department of statistics and data science at Carnegie Mellon University, was chosen to give the R.A. Fisher Lecture.

Roeder, a former vice provost for faculty at Carnegie Mellon, is a professor in the department of statistics and data science and department of computational biology. Her research contributions are wide and deep in both statistical theory and applications. Her influences on the design and analysis of genetic studies are substantial.

Roeder earned a BS in biology from the University of Idaho and a PhD in statistics from Penn State. Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon, she held appointments of assistant and associate professor of statistics at Yale University. She has served in editorial roles for JASA, Biometrics, and Genetics. Roeder has supervised 19 PhD students and has been an outstanding mentor for numerous faculty members, particularly through her work on the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) New Researchers Committee.

Roeder has developed statistical approaches to exploiting and adjusting for heterogeneity in samples from populations using ideas of mixture modeling. Her solution to adjusting for confounding in genome-wide association studies, denoted genomic control, is now the standard. Roeder has also developed a framework to integrate information gathered from multiple types of study designs using Bayesian principles for gene discovery, a particularly valuable approach for high-dimensional data. Her development of an approach to identify discrete clusters whose membership may belong to two clusters, denoted semi-soft clustering, continues to make a profound impact on single-cell RNA sequencing analyses.

Roeder’s collaborative work focuses on identification of the genetic basis of complex disease. She is one of the leaders of the Autism Sequencing Consortium, an international organization dedicated to discovering the genetic etiology of autism. Her collaborative work has been published in Scientific American, Cell, Plos Genetics, and Nature.

Roeder is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences; a fellow of the ASA, IMS, and AAAS; and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. Her awards include the National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, COPSS Snedecor Award, COPSS Presidents’ Award, IMS Medallion Lecture Award, Janet L. Norwood Award, and Myrto Lefkapoulou Lecture Award.

Manatunga Also Named Donna J. Brogan Professor in Biostatistics

Kelly Jordan

Amita Manatunga has been named as the inaugural Donna J. Brogan Professor in Biostatistics. This endowed professorship recognizes Manatunga’s excellence in teaching and research—particularly as it relates to the field of biostatistics—and honors the legacy of Donna Jean Brogan.

“Being named as the Donna J. Brogan Professor is personally gratifying and deeply meaningful to me,” says Manatunga. “Donna is a mentor and a colleague who I have long admired and respected. She is a wonderful role model in light of her extensive contributions to the advancement of the careers of women, her scholarship, and her honesty and integrity. It is incredible to be a part of her legacy in this way.”
This is the first named professorship in the department of biostatistics and bioinformatics other than the Rollins Professorship, which is designated for the chair of the department.

Aside from recognizing Brogan’s illustrious career, this named professorship also serves to commemorate the contributions women have made to biostatistics, a field in which women have historically been underrepresented. Brogan is also hopeful it will help attract more exceptional people to the field (particularly women), like Manatunga.

“Amita is a good fit for the named professorship because of her excellence in all aspects of a model biostatistics career,” says Brogan, referencing Manatunga’s methodological research, collaborative research, teaching, service, and mentoring. “Her selection is a well-deserved acknowledgement of her past and ongoing contributions to the field.”

Manatunga has dedicated her more than 26-year career to advancing methods and applications of complex data structures to address critical public health problems, including mental health, epidemiology, and nuclear medicine. She has published more than 125 peer-reviewed manuscripts and is the senior biostatistician for Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Institute at Emory University and lead biostatistician for a phase-two clinical trial and another group randomized clinical trial.

Additionally, Manatunga has led seven major R01 grants on statistical methodology as principal investigator or multiple principal investigator and has served as a co-investigator to many collaborative, federally sponsored research grants. She has partnered with researchers across the university and helped establish a strong mental health methodology research group within the Department of Biostatistics that currently includes three full professors (all female).

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