The Art and Science of Biostatistics
For many people, the word “biostatistics” doesn’t evoke much. But according to three biostatisticians at Tufts, it’s biology’s special sauce, operating behind the scenes to make breakthroughs possible.
These include Kathryn Barger, associate director in the Biostatistics and Data Management Unit at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts; Paola Sebastiani, who works at Tufts Medical Center and is the director of the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Research, and Design Center at Tufts (BERD); and Misha Eliasziw, a researcher and associate professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, and an associate professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
Defined as the application of statistics to biological topics, this field has flourished at Tufts. The university’s biostatisticians have contributed to a number of methodological advances that have had a significant impact on the field, according to Sebastiani, who recently established the Center for Quantitative Methods and Data Science, which is supported by Tufts Medical Center and the Data Intensive Study Center.
For proof of the impact this work can have, one need look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic, says Eliasziw. “It was the biostatisticians who analyzed the data from the vaccine clinical trials and came up with the findings for physicians to interpret,” she says. “One of the reasons people are being vaccinated is because of biostatistics. It can actually make a difference in people’s lives.”