Biostatistics Alumni In Demand at Innovative Firms

Friday, March 20, 2015

"Seattle's a great place for big data and science in general," says Patrick Heagerty, professor and chair of the School's Department of Biostatistics, which tied with Harvard for the honor of top biostatistics program, according to US News & World Report's graduate school rankings. "It's really a great time for biostatistics and quantitative research."

photo courtesy of Sangsoon Woo
Sangsoon Woo

Several graduate students have interned at Google, Heagerty says, while one recent alumna, Rui Zhang, PhD 2014 Biostatistics, works as a research scientist at Amazon. She conducts A/B testing, comparing different Web pages among audiences to see which performs better.

"It's the business world's equivalent of randomized testing," Heagerty says. "She's applying core discipline public health skills to local big data companies."

Sangsoon Woo, MS 2007, PhD 2010 Biostatistics, recently joined Seattle-based Axio Research, where she works as a statistical geneticist. The company was founded by several Biostatistics faculty members.

Woo does a wide range of planning and data analysis for her clients—pharmaceutical companies producing heaps of genetic data. "We identify the target genes," Woo says. "They develop the medicine to cure diseases."

"It's a good field," Woo says. "People are looking for biostatisticians. Even Microsoft has a genomics study team."

Heagerty says the department is continually updating its curriculum to reflect trends in big data and data science.

"We're developing a new pathway in data science, a new core sequence—a data science course, a machine learning course, and a bioinformatics course are part of it," he says. "I think our students need to know more about the data that's out there, such as procedure and diagnostic codes in electronic health records. They're already seeing genomics data in some classes and how to access and work with it."