Aug. 06 2014

Lack of sleep and risk for heart attack. The role of preschool in  emotional development. These are two examples of wide ranging research topics presented by 28 aspiring biostatisticians at the conclusion of two, eight-week   summer  programs at the Mailman School.   

The Biostatistics Epidemiology Summer Training (BEST) began in 2008 as a way to attract diverse minds from underrepresented communities to biostatistics and public health. Since then, the School has added the Columbia Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics (CSIBS) program, which focuses on upper-level undergraduates and recent graduates. The programs, which are funded by National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), attract more than a hundred applicants each year.


Through seminars and coursework, the students learn to program in statistical analysis software and fit regression models to datasets from the NHLBI, which, in turn, they use to engage with real-world research projects by faculty at the Mailman School and Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons. In one example, students used accelerometers to assess physical activity in the urban environment.

Kevin Sunquist, who is entering his fourth year at Florida State University, says, "The program gave me a view of public health from a different perspective. It was an amazing experience."

Even teaching assistants, who are currently immersed in their own master’s programs at the School, came away with a deeper appreciation for biostatistics.

"I was surprised at how much I enjoyed teaching," says Yao Ma, MS ‘15. "It helped me remember why I chose to study biostatistics."

By the end of eight weeks, participants learned the importance of statistical analysis in medicine, and future goals were set.

"The program reinforced my hopes of getting an MPH," says Jose Ramos, a public health major at Stanford University. "When I graduate, I will be coming to Columbia."