Campus & Community

Three HSPH professors honored at Joint Statistical Meetings

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Each year, awards are given at the annual Joint Statistical Meetings. During this year’s meeting in Seattle, held Aug. 6-10, three Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) faculty members were honored: Professor of Biostatistics Xihong Lin; Henry Pickering Walcott Professor of Biostatistics Louise Ryan; and Marvin Zelen, professor of statistical science in the HSPH Department of Biostatistics and a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Lin received the 2006 Presidents’ Award from the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS). The award is given annually to a statistician under the age of 41 in recognition of outstanding contributions to the profession of statistics. The award, established in 1976, is viewed as the most prestigious award for a young statistician, and is jointly sponsored by five statistical societies: the American Statistical Association, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the Eastern North American Region of the International Biometric Society (IBS), the Western North American Region of the IBS, and the Statistical Society of Canada operating through the COPSS.

The award recognizes Lin’s fundamental contributions to statistical methodology and theory for longitudinal data and clustered survival data, including nonparametric kernel and spline methods as well as semiparametric regression methods, mixed effects models, and measurement error models.

Ryan, chair of the Department of Biostatistics, received the 2006 Elizabeth L. Scott Award from the COPSS. The award is one of the five prestigious awards jointly sponsored by the five statistical societies mentioned above. This award recognizes Ryan for “serving as a highly visible role model for women at Harvard and around the world; for developing an exemplary summer program for recruiting minority and female students to graduate study in biostatistics; for excellent mentoring; and for supervising numerous female Ph.D. students and postdoctoral scholars who now are in the position to influence the next generation of women in statistics.”

Meanwhile, the American Statistical Association (ASA) named Zelen the winner of the 2006 Samuel S. Wilks Award. This is one of the most prestigious honors bestowed by the association. A pioneer in biostatistics, Zelen has conducted fundamental work on the contribution of statistics to clinical trials, particularly in cancer research. His insights into methods of randomization in trials and into the use of exponential regression with censored data are considered seminal.

In 1949, Zelen received a B.S. from the City College of New York. Soon after, he earned a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina (1951) and a doctoral degree from American University (1957). He held positions at the U.S. National Bureau of Standards and the Mathematics Research Center (University of Wisconsin), before moving to the National Cancer Institute, and then to the faculty at the State University of New York (SUNY), Buffalo.

In 1978, then-Harvard professor Frederick Mosteller, who passed away this summer, recruited Zelen to come to Harvard from SUNY with 10 other statisticians. Zelen served as chair of the Department of Biostatistics from 1980 to 1990, during which time he played an important role in investigating an association between leukemia cases in Woburn, Mass., and contaminated water wells. An annual award and lecture have been established at HSPH in his name.

Zelen also founded the Division of Biostatistical Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in 1977 and served as its chair until 1998. He continues to conduct research at DFCI, focusing on developing statistical models for the early detection of disease and on methods for the analysis of randomized multicenter clinical trials.

ASA was founded in 1839 and is the country’s leading professional association for statistics and for statisticians.

The Wilks Memorial Award was established in 1964 and recognizes outstanding contributions to statistics. Samuel Wilks was a founding member of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, which now has 4,000 members, and was editor of the Annals of Mathematical Statistics for 11 years.