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What Is Biostatistics?

Almost daily, the popular media report new research findings related to human health.

  • A new treatment for HIV disease works better than current therapies
  • High blood pressure is demonstrated to be associated with heart disease
  • A study suggests that a certain pollutant may be harmful to humans
  • Hormone replacement therapy is determined to carry increased risk of certain types of cancer (and the evidence is so compelling that the study is stopped earlier than planned)

Such results are the work of multidisciplinary teams of researchers, including physicians, public and environmental health specialists, and BIOSTATISTICIANS. Biostatisticians play essential roles in designing the studies, analyzing the data, and creating new methods for addressing these problems.

There is a critical shortage of biostatisticians with graduate training, and their skills are in great demand.

So what is Biostatistics?

Statistics is the science that:

  • develops methods for asking the right questions
  • designs studies for collecting data relevant to answering the questions
  • summarizes analyses and draws conclusions from the data

Statistics combines mathematical theory with knowledge of the specific challenges arising in different areas of science, making it a rewarding field of study for students who like math and quantitative problems and want to contribute to the advance of broader scientific understanding. Biostatistics is the exciting field of development and application of statistical methods to research in health-related fields, including medicine, public health, and biology.

Since early in the twentieth century, biostatistics has become an indispensable tool for understanding the cause, natural history, and treatment of disease in order to improve human health. Biostatisticians work with scientists to identify and implement the correct statistical methods for designing studies and analyzing and interpreting the results. And as science progresses and new ways to measure and collect information become possible, new statistical techniques must be developed. With the breathtaking pace of science today, the skills of biostatisticians are especially in demand because of:

  • new advances in bioinformatics and computational biology, genetics, neuroimaging, environmental science, and many other areas
  • the ability to collect, store, and manipulate vast amounts of data, including electronic health records

These new challenges are giving rise to novel problems needing new statistical solutions. Biostatisticians are the experts who can make this happen!