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Stat/Biostat Departments

I wish there were more connections between statistics departments and biostatistics departments. I’ve been working with survival data recently, and it’s made me realize another gaping hole in my statistical knowledge base. It’s also made me realize that I wish I knew more biostatisticians. And I’m one of the lucky ones, really, because Columbia has a biostatistics department and I do know some people there. Often when statistics and biostatistics departments don’t have close connections, it’s for understandable reasons. When I was in graduate school at Harvard, for example, the statistics and biostatistics departments were (still are, I guess) separated by the Charles River and it took a 45-minute bus ride to travel between the two. I almost never made that trip. Still, there are some great people in the Harvard Biostatistics Department and I’m sure I could have benefited from working with or taking classes from them. Here at Columbia, the biostatistics department is a subway ride away from the statistics department, and if you take the 1 train then there’s that awful subway elevator to contend with (how on earth is that not a fire hazard?). Lots of universities don’t have both statistics and biostatistics departments; of the ones that do there are some with close connections. I just wish that was the rule rather than the exception.


  1. eric polley says:

    Sam, I couldn't agree with you more! I was at Columbia biostats for 2 years and it was only in my last semester that I started to learn about the many resources and great people "downtown" (as for the 1 train elevator, I believe it was an Epi student who came up with the best name, the tuberculator).
    Now I am a student in a program where biostats is basically a group in statistics. Only a few hundred meters seperates the two departments, so I suppose proximity helps (no rivers or major health hazards to get around). It is great to be able to meet with people from many areas of statistics. And as a biostats person, to be able to pick up a bit more of the stats theory is something I see as a great reward of the two departments working together.

  2. Bob O'H says:

    We don't have any elevators to deal with here in Helsinki, but we're worse in other ways. We have stats and biostats (actually it's called biometry) in a single department, but in different faculties (Social Sciences and Sciences – but our intranet thinks we're all in Arts). The social stats are about 15min by bus from us, in the city centre, but the econometricians are with us. I only ever see the social stats people when one of them happens to wander past my office: I think they're usually lost.

    Of course, we're not near either the biology or medical campuses either.