FAU Hosts Second Annual Florida Summer Institute in Biostatistics and Data Science

FAU Hosts Second Annual Florida Summer Institute in Biostatistics and Data Science

June 2023

The second cohort of the prestigious Florida Summer Institute in Biostatistics and Data Science (SIBDS) is already half-way through its intensive program at Florida Atlantic University’s Boca Raton campus.

From May 22 to June 30, FAU is home to 12 undergraduate or early graduate students from around the country who are eager to learn from an immersive training experience focused on biostatistics, epidemiology, and data science. The program introduces students to the principles, methodologies, uses, and applications of statistical methods in biomedical and clinical research, and includes relevant examples from data collected in real research studies of prevention and treatment of infectious, immune-mediated, and chronic diseases.

“FAU is among an elite group of universities selected to host such a vital program,” said Charles E. Schmidt College of Science Dean Valery Forbes, Ph.D. “This program is an excellent example of our close collaboration with the Schmidt College of Medicine, as well as our key partnerships with local universities. Florida SIBDS is proud to be led by two experienced senior biostatistics faculty who both have strong commitments to teaching and conducting translational research.”

Katherine Freeman, Dr.P.H., Biostatistics Collaborative Core Leader at FAU and Professor of Biomedical Science, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, is the principal investigator on the program, and Lun-Ching Chang, Ph.D., Associate Professor in FAU’s Department of Mathematical Sciences, is the Co-PI. The program is designed to address the critical shortage of biostatisticians and create a pipeline of qualified young adults from groups typically underrepresented in the behavioral and biomedical sciences.

Last year, FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine received a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to launch the first Summer Institute in Biostatistics and Data Science in the Southeastern United States.

“Florida SIBDS is one of only 10 NIH funded programs to address the shortage of biostatisticians by providing training to students who attend a multidisciplinary mentored program emphasizing social determinants of health and health disparities,” said Freeman.

Students choose from one of three research projects mentored by faculty from FAU, the University of Miami, and Florida International University. For each project, they are required to conduct literature reviews, draft research questions, analyze data using statistical and data science software, write and interpret results, and present their findings.

In addition to the rigorous curriculum, students enjoy field trips to the Perez Museum and Wynwood Walls, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, local beaches, downtown Delray Beach, Biscayne National Park, Orlando, group dinners, Sawgrass Mills Outlets, and Marlins Park. Attendees also participate in “life skills” sessions on topics ranging from cooking, origins of stress, stress reduction techniques, healthy relationships, occupational integrity, and saving money while food shopping.

All students must commit to a 35-hour week of academic and research training for six weeks, with most students housed on campus. Students also receive a generous stipend for participating in the program which can be used toward travel and other expenses.

Members of this year’s class hail from the from the following colleges and universities: University of Virginia, University of Florida, Eastern Kentucky University, College of Wooster, Nova Southeastern University, University of South Florida, Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University, and Palm Beach State College.

Former participants praised the program for its “multidisciplinary aspects” and its “supportive environment.” Another student stated that, “Being a part of the SIBDS program inspired me to pursue a graduate degree in biostatistics. Thank you for everything you have taught me —including lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

The Florida Summer Institute in Biostatistics and Data Science will continue to recruit nationally over the next three years to enroll qualified undergraduate and early graduate students with requisite mathematics, statistics and science coursework, and a budding interest in health. In addition, alumni will retain mentorships with faculty and have access to revised curriculums for five years after completion of the program.

External Advisory Committee (EAC) members review all processes of the program, from the recruitment and screening of candidates, to the course content and program evaluation. Members were chosen for their expertise in biostatistics [Dr. Stephens (University of Pennsylvania) and Dr. Gershman (NOVA Southeastern)]; and epidemiology [Dr. Dean (Johns Hopkins)]. These members also represent both race/ethnic and gender diversity, and vary regarding their position responsibilities (primarily teaching/academic administration versus collaborative and individual research); one member also has experience with SIBDS.

Applications for the 2024 summer cohort will be live in mid-December 2023, with rolling admission until early March 2024. The link for 2023 can be found here.