About Biostatistics

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We are an interdisciplinary graduate group drawing together faculty and research from two colleges and three schools. Founded in 2002, the Graduate Group in Biostatistics is housed in the Department of Statistics, and consists of 30 faculty members from the following departments across campus: Statistics, Public Health Sciences, Population Health and Reproduction, Evolution and Ecology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Plant Sciences and the Graduate School of Management. The Biostatistics faculty engage in intensive collaborations with scientists who are trained in the medical, veterinary medical, agricultural, environmental and biological sciences, creating an ideal climate in which to introduce Biostatistics students to interdisciplinary research at a high level of quality. We have around 36 graduate students in our Ph.D. and M.S. programs, most of whom are funded as researchers or teaching assistants.

To learn more about the degrees we offer, please visit our graduate program page.

To find out about our faculty and graduate students, as well as our alumni, please follow the links to the left.

What is Biostatistics?

Biostatistics ModelBiostatistics is a field of science that uses quantitative methods to study life sciences related problems that arise in a broad array of fields. Biostatistics provides stochastic models and methods, algorithms and graphical tools for the analysis of data from genetics, bioinformatics, and the medical, biological, agricultural and environmental health sciences. This includes methodology and models for data at the subcellular level (Genetics, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics), cellular level (Cancer Models, Neuron Models, Cell Distribution, Cell Kinetics and Survival), tissue/organ level (Pharmakokinetic and Toxicological Modeling, Imaging Techniques), individual level (Clinical Studies, Life History, Growth, Aging and Survival), and the population level (Biomathematical Modeling in Ecology, Epidemiological, Demographic and Public Health Studies). Core problems and methodologies include Survival Analysis, Clinical Trials, Longitudinal Studies, Generalized Linear Models, Dose-Response and Estimating Equations, Mixed and Random Effects Modeling, and the Analysis of Molecular Sequence Data as well as the statistical methodology of Bioinformatics.

A special feature of our graduate program is that it emphasizes biostatistical modeling and inference in a wide variety of fields, including bioinformatics, the biological sciences and veterinary medicine, in addition to the more traditional emphasis on applications in medicine, epidemiology and public health. This feature takes advantage of unique UC Davis strengths, including the unparalleled diversity of the UCD campus in the life sciences. Biostatistics group faculty are researchers with widely varying backgrounds, espousing a wide variety of methodological approaches.

The program in Biostatistics provides students with: Solid training in the biostatistical core disciplines and theory; State-of-the art knowledge and skills for biostatistical data analysis; Substantial exposure to the biological and epidemiological sciences; A strong background in theoretical modeling, statistical techniques and quantitative as well as computational methods.

The program prepares students for interdisciplinary careers ranging from bioinformatics, environmental toxicology, stochastic modeling in biology and medicine to clinical trials, drug development, epidemiological and medical statistics.

Estimated covariance surface for time course gene expression data for cell cycle regulating genes in yeast. A unique feature of this program is that it emphasizes biostatistical modeling and inference in a wide variety of fields, including bioinformatics, the biological sciences and veterinary medicine, in addition to the more traditional emphasis on applications in medicine, epidemiology and public health. This feature takes advantage of unique UC Davis strengths, including the unparalleled diversity of the UCD campus in the life sciences. Biostatistics faculty at UCD cover the major biostatistics subspecialties, such as Survival Analysis, Longitudinal Data Analysis, Dose-Response, Diagnostic and Screening Tests. In addition, a broad array of other sub-fields is included in the faculty research interests, such as Curve Data and Functional Data Analysis, Interlaboratory Testing, Bayesian Modeling in Biostatistics, Statistical Modeling in Ecology, Nutrition, Biodemography, Nephrology, Psychiatry and Neurosciences, Statistical Genetics and Statistical Methods for Sequencing and Molecular Biology, Statistics in Health Care Research, Spatial Methods for Environmental and Epidemiological Data, and Random and Mixed Effects Models. These areas are well represented among Biostatistics faculty and this unique combination of features presents students with an unusually diverse choice of applications and applied research problems. Biostatistics group faculty are researchers with widely varying backgrounds, espousing a wide variety of methodological approaches.

The Biostatistics program at UCD is based on solid methodological and theoretical foundations and emphasizes high quality at all levels of instruction and research. Students receive strong training in the core Biostatistics disciplines, in the biological sciences and also in theoretical statistics. The faculty of the Biostatistics Group consists of recognized researchers and teachers who are committed to a distinguished program in graduate education and research.

Prospects for Graduates

Currently opportunities for both Ph.D.s and Masters in Biostatistics are excellent. There is a nationwide shortage of Biostatisticians at the M.S. and Ph.D. levels. Positions are available in academia (Biostatistics, Statistics, Public Health, Epidemiology, and in the Biological, Medical, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences), in industry (pharmaceutical, biotechnology, food science, nutrition, genome data banks, agribusiness, biochemical, software, statistical consulting, biostatistical and environmental consulting, medical diagnostic and therapeutic technology, medical informatics, medical clinical trials, life insurance, health insurance, health care and HMOs, think tanks, health policy, etc.) and in government (federal agencies such as FDA, Census Bureau, National Biological Survey, National Forest Service, EPA, NIH, CDC and State agencies such as State health offices, State environmental agencies, etc., as well as international agencies such as UNESCO or WHO).

In regard to academic employment, a number of Statistics departments have begun to hire faculty with an orientation towards Biostatistics in recognition of the significance of the research and employability of graduates in this area, and a number of medical and public health schools are in the process of establishing or significantly expanding Biostatistics units. These developments indicate that demand for well trained biostatisticians will stay at the current high level in the foreseeable future.

Biostatistics and Society

BioStats2002Biostatistics is a discipline which indirectly affects the life of everybody. Recently, with the creation of huge data bases of genetic and protein sequences, and genetic micro-arrays, a largely unmet need has arisen for sophisticated tools suited to the quantitative analysis of such data. Current medical treatments are selected based on results of clinical trials that are conducted according to biostatistical principles. Risk factors related to behaviors, food, etc., are determined by biostatistical analysis of observational data. Longevity and survival of the oldest-old are studied with biostatistical methods, with consequences for the future of social security and pension systems. Environmental risks are investigated using Biostatistics. Biostatistical methods are used to determine optimal and cost-effective methods of keeping the blood supply free from infectious agents such as HIV, and to determine which cancer treatments are effective and which are not. Our program is broadly based and provides opportunities for research and training in these areas through the assembled faculty.

Distinctive Features of the Biostatistics Program at UC Davis

Biostatistics at UC Davis since 2002The program is based on a broad view of Biostatistics, including methodology and applications geared towards genetics and bioinformatics, biology and the environmental sciences as well as medicine, veterinary medicine, epidemiology and public health, and also agriculture.

The UC Davis campus, with its top-rated programs and emphasis in the biological, environmental, agricultural and medical sciences, provides an unmatched opportunity for training and research in biostatistics. In addition to solid training in the mathematical and statistical foundations of biostatistics, students also obtain basic training in biology and practical experience to work with researchers in the life sciences and medicine. The program is characterized by its unmatched diversity of application areas and the inclusion of methodology relevant for medical as well as biological, agricultural and environmental health sciences and the supreme quality of the programs in the biological, agricultural and medical sciences at UC Davis and the strength of the Biostatistics program faculty.

Notable current methodological interests and strengths of the UC Davis Biostatistics faculty include: Survival Analysis (especially Nonparametric and Multivariate Approaches and Applications in Aging and Medicine); Statistical Methods for Epidemiology (including Observational Studies, Meta-Analysis and Screening Tests); Longitudinal Data Analysis (including Time Series models, hierarchical models, GEE, public health and medical applications); Statistical Methods for Environmental Research; Analysis of Biological Shapes, Trajectories and Directions; Sampling in Biological and Medical Designs; Generalized Linear Models, Bioassay and Kinetic Modeling; Categorical Data Analysis and Model Selection in the Life Sciences; Statistical Methods for Genetics, Genetic Epidemiology and Bioinformatics.

Historical Development of Biostatistics

The field of Biostatistics originated in the 1920's in England, emphasizing agricultural and genetic aspects. Early topics and successes were centered on basic statistical tests, regression analysis, the analysis of variance and experimental design. After WWII, the emphasis in Biostatistics shifted to medical applications, with the methodology of clinical trials at the forefront. The epochal introduction of clinical trials as a research tool has altered the course of clinical research dramatically.

Research on clinical trials methodology triggered the development of randomization tests and sequential testing schemes in the 1970s, culminating in the movement towards evidence-based medicine in the 1990s. These impressive breakthroughs were paralleled by the development of biostatistical methods for observational data, including statistical methods for the odds ratio and the Mantel-Haenszel test. Since the 1980's, the sub-field of Survival Analysis, relevant for cancer clinical trials and a host of other medical and biological applications, has become a major discipline within Biostatistics. This development was paralleled by the emergence of Logistic Regression, Generalized Linear Models and the general theory of Estimating Equations. These models and methods have found wide-spread applications in the analysis of observational data, longitudinal data and dose-response analysis.

Currently very active areas of research are bioequivalence, analysis of longitudinal data, curve data analysis and, increasingly, statistical methods for genetics, molecular biology and bioinformatics. Moreover, statistical mainstream techniques are being adapted to address specific problems of the life sciences such as very large and complex data with missing values. Methods for the analysis of spatio-temporal data are being developed for the spread of diseases and for ecological data analysis.

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