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Student & Alumni Achievements

Student & Alumni Achievements

UNC Biostatistics Students Honored with ENAR’s Distinguished Paper Award

Biostatistics doctoral students at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health have won two of 20 Distinguished Student Paper Awards, accorded annually by the International Biometric Society’s Eastern North American Region (ENAR).

[Photo: Mr. Jingxiang Chen (left) and Mr. Alex Wong]

The students, Mr. Alex Wong and Mr. Jingxiang Chen, were recognized for the “excellent quality and significant contribution to statistical methodology and application in biomedical research.” They are invited to present their papers at ENAR’s annual meeting, to be held March 6-9 in Austin, Texas.

Mr. Wong, in his paper, “Semiparametric Structural Equation Models with Latent Variables for Right-Censored Data,” proposes extending the use of structural equation modeling, a statistical technique popular in the social sciences and psychology that allows for the simultaneous investigation of various factors, both observed and hypothetical, to genomics and the study of survival outcomes.

“We can make use of recent technology in genomic study,” said Mr. Wong. “While traditional methods only target one data type at a time, we have different data types that we want to put together, and I think structural equation modeling would be a natural way to do that.”

Mr. Chen’s paper, “Estimating Individualized Treatment Rules for Ordinal Treatments,” explores precision medicine, an increasingly relevant field that seeks to determine optimal patient treatment, based upon the patient’s individual characteristics. Mr. Chen argues that a statistical learning model may be applied to scenarios including clinical trials involving different dose levels of a particular drug.

“This method helps detect the optimal treatment or dosage based upon specific patient information, including age and gender,” Mr. Chen said. “It’s a very applicable topic that can be extended and used in medical practice.”

Dr. Jianwen Cai, Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor and vice chair of the biostatistics department at UNC-Chapel Hill, currently serves as president of ENAR.

“[Attending the ENAR meeting] is good for [a student’s] career development,” Dr. Cai said. “Students will be exposed to front-line, cutting-edge research, and will listen to experts and leaders in the areas they are researching. When students themselves present, people get to know them and their work. Through participation in ENAR, students can build a professional network and bond with our alumni. It is a great experience.”

Dr. Michael Kosorok, W.R. Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor and chair of biostatistics, said that he was pleased with the success of the winning students.

“Alex and Jingxiang join a long tradition, over the past many years, of our students consistently demonstrating their ability to contribute top-notch research that achieves national recognition,” Dr. Kosorok said.

Other students also will present their work at the ENAR conference, thanks to the biostatistics department’s support through student travel awards. A number of UNC faculty members also will be featured speakers and panelists, notably Alumni Distinguished Professor Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, who will present a full-day, short course, “Missing Data in Regression Models.”

Learn more about the ENAR Spring Meeting at

Read about the 2015 and 2014 student winners of ENAR’s Distinguished Student Paper Award.

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