Two Statistics alumni have received national recognition for their research efforts this summer.
Linlin Zhang, ’15 Ph.D., a data scientist at Schlumberger, won a Savage Award honorable mention for Best Ph.D. thesis in Bayesian Applied Methodology. The prize is given annually by the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA).
Yanxun Xu, ’13, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Math at Johns Hopkins University, won the Mitchell Prize. The prize is given annually in recognition of an outstanding paper that describes how a Bayesian analysis has solved an important applied problem. It is jointly sponsored by the Section on Bayesian Statistical Science of the American Statistical Association, the ISBA and the Mitchell Prize Founders’ Committee.
Zhang wrote her thesis about analyzing and interpreting experimental fMRI data. fMRI measures a delayed response to a stimulus, which activates certain volume elements (voxels) in the brain. The goal is to identify which voxels are activated, and how these depend on the stimulus applied.
Xu’s paper, “MAD Bayes with Tumor Heterogeneity–Feature Allocation with Exponential Family Sampling,” develops a novel nonparametric Bayesian feature allocation model to decode tumor heterogeneity. The method provides a decomposition of a highly heterogeneous tumor cell population into homogeneous subpopulations. This is critical to precise cancer prognosis and personalized medicine. It was published in 2015 in the Journal of American Statistical Association.
“The proposed approach is scalable, easy to implement and benefits from the flexibility of Bayesian nonparametric models,” said Marina Vannucci, professor and chair of the Department of Statistics at Rice University. “The paper is a great example of how Bayesian methods can be used to solve important applied problems.”
“By applying the powerful Bayesian feature allocation models to analyze NGS data, we believe we can understand the genetic and cellular heterogeneity within each tumor and thus facilitate precision cancer treatment decisions by a patient’s attending physician,” said Xu, who plans to continue working to develop novel statistical methods to help cancer research and personalized medicine.
Zhang and Xu received certificates for their accomplishments at the 2016 ISBA World meeting, held in Sardinia, Italy, June 13-17, 2016.