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Department of Biostatistics
Training Program in Cancer Research
Overview of the departmental program
The graduate program in the Department of Biostatistics provides individualized programs of study directed towards applications of Biostatistics in a spectrum of biomedical areas, including health services, epidemiology, genetics, sampling, population studies, and clinical research. The existing program consists of three components: (1) A Biostatistics Core of courses required by all students; (2) a Breadth/Depth requirement of 15 credit hours of formal course work in biostatistics beyond the required core courses; the depth requirement must be based on a coherent advanced quantitative area on which study will be focused; and (3) A cognate requirement (a minimum of 9 credits) in an area of application of biostatistics.
Specific Cancer Training
The goals of the proposed training program are to give students who are obtaining a degree in Biostatistics, (i) a solid understanding of cancer biology, (ii) experience and ability to communicate and collaborate with cancer scientists, (iii) understanding of recent developments in cancer requiring innovative statistical research and (iv) independent research skills to identify new statistical research problems arising out of cancer research and the ability to write research papers and grant applications.
The proposed training will adopt the basic structure of the existing graduate program, but will tailor the breadth/depth and cognate components to provide basic science, epidemiological and statistical training appropriate for a cancer researcher. The trainees may be required to take additional didactic courses, beyond those required to satisfy the cognate requirement, to enhance their knowledge in the areas of molecular biology, cancer biology and cancer genetics. The potential courses are described below in the section on cognate courses. The trainee will also be expected (a) to participate in interdisciplinary seminars involving topics in cancer research; (b) to become involved in a current cancer research project, mentored jointly by a supporting faculty member of the Cancer Center and a member of the Biostatistics faculty, to apply biostatistical skills learned as part of his/her training and to learn more about cancer as a participant in the research process; and (c) to develop a thesis topic in an area of biostatistics of particular relevance to some aspect of cancer studies.
Two courses will be required for trainees in this program, one is a “Statistics in Cancer” workshop/journal club, the second is a Biostatistics Department lecture course titled “Statistical Methodology in Cancer Research”. The lecture course will be given one semester every two years, and the journal club/workshop will run every other semester. The lecture course is designed to be a special topics class which will cover, in depth, statistical topics which are used in cancer research, but are not taught in other classes in the department.
The Journal Club/Workshop will be a mechanism for the trainees to interact with each other, the program director and the associate director. This course will allow the trainees to learn about specialized topics in Cancer Research and to see specific examples of high level biostatistics input in a Cancer Research project. In some class meetings, presentations will be made by the instructor or guest speakers. In other classes, the trainees will present either their own research as it relates to cancer or an article from the recent literature. We will organize occasional tours of laboratories for the trainees, to expose them to the type of equipment and technology that is used in Cancer research. We will bring in Cancer statisticians to give seminars to the trainees. The trainees will have the opportunity to meet with visiting speakers.
An important part of this training program is collaborative experience. We will organize for each trainee hands on experience with Cancer data. This experience will consist of spending time in a collaborative research setting working on one of the supporting faculty members research projects. It will be the responsibility of the program director to place each of the trainees in a research setting. This will be done on an individual basis and will depend on the needs, ability, experience and interests of the trainee, as well as the availability and needs of the Cancer researcher. This part of the training will be mentored jointly by a member of the Cancer Center (a supporting faculty member) and a member of the key Biostatistics faculty from the steering committee.
Time in Program
We would expect each trainee to be supported financially by the program for three to four years, by which time they will have completed all their exams, finished their cognate course work relating to cancer, had experience working with a cancer investigator, and be working on or near to completing their dissertation.
it is expected that the topic of a student's Ph.D. dissertation would be relevant to cancer. The primary Ph.D. advisor can be anyone eligible from the Department of Biostatistics. The expectation is that it would be someone who has a research interest in cancer. There would be at least one member of the training program steering committee on the student's Ph.D. dissertation committee.
Active and early participation in annual meetings of the American Statistical Association, the Biometrics Society, the American Public Health Association, specialized clinical trials and Cancer meetings will be encouraged. We believe this to be a very useful educational tool as it exposes the student to a broader understanding of the meaning and role of statistical science. We would expect the more experienced trainees to present papers at these meetings.