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NHLBI Integrated Biostatistical Training Program for CVD Research

The Department of Statistics at North Carolina State University (NCSU), the Department of Biotatistics and Bioinformatics at Duke University, and the Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI) at Duke University administer this integrated program for predoctoral training in biostatistics to prepare trainees for careers in biomedical research, with a focus on cardiovascular disease (CVD) research. The goal of the program is to prepare graduate students studying for a Ph.D. in Statistics at NCSU or a Ph.D. in Biostatistics at Duke to excel as both biostatistical methodologists and biostatistical collaborators, preparing them to conduct state-of-the-art biostatistical research relevant to important problems in CVD and other health sciences research. Trainees receive training in foundations of and new developments in biostatistical theory and methodology in their home departments and work with leading researchers at DCRI on cutting-edge issues in CVD science to which they apply their statistical training.

The training program is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and includes a stipend and tuition and fees. Please see below and the links above for more detail.

Program Description

The shortage of skilled biostatisticians equipped to address emerging challenges in this exciting new era of CVD research calls for training that formally integrates (i) in-depth experience in collaboration in a multidisciplinary environment, (ii) mastery of the theoretical underpinnings of statistics required for valid application of sophisticated biostatistical techniques and for research on the development of new methodology, and (iii) emphasis on communication and leadership skills. The program capitalizes on the long-standing partnership between NCSU and Duke, which provides trainees with the opportunity for outstanding theory and methods training and to work with internationally-known researchers at the forefront of CVD research. Trainees will develop all these skills through interaction with faculty at both universities, who have a history of inter-institutional collaboration and research and extensive experience in training and mentoring.

The training involves formal coursework in the student’s home department on foundational statistical theory, including probability, inference, linear and other statistical models, measure theory and advanced probability, and advanced statistical inference; and on statistical methods, including clinical trial design/analysis, longitudinal data analysis, survival analysis, epidemiology, causal inference, machine learning, and high-dimensional data analysis; and exposure at DCRI to fundamental aspects of CVD medicine, working with large, complex biomedical data, and research responsibility and ethics considerations. There is also extensive formal and experiential training in communication and leadership skills at both institutions. Trainees are introduced to DCRI CVD research gradually. They will evolve over their tenures to holding substantial collaborative apprenticeships in which they are fully integrated as functioning members of DCRI project teams. The apprenticeships will provide trainees with extensive working knowledge of CVD research, the opportunity to develop collaborative skills, and the recognition of how new biostatistical methods development follows from challenges encountered in the collaborative context. This last point will be emphasized through mechanisms under which statistical methodological challenges arising in trainees’ apprenticeships will lead to doctoral dissertation research in biostatistics.

Program Details

General Information

This training program is funded by a National Research Service Award (NRSA) sponsored by NHLBI. The NRSA program provides funding to research institutions to support pre- and post-doctoral training in areas of particular interest to the Institute and to prepare individuals for careers in biomedical and behavioral research.

Under the conditions of the NRSA that supports our program, trainees receive a 12 month stipend for each year of the program, where the amount of the stipend is very generous and equivalent to that offered by other training programs in the NCSU Department of Statistics. Trainees also receive tuition and fees. Funds are also available for trainee travel to scientific conferences that are relevant to their professional development.

Eligibility and trainee selection

As with all NRSA predoctoral training programs, trainees are required to pursue their research training full-time and must be U.S. citizens, noncitizen nationals, or legal permanent residents of the United States. Persons on temporary or student visas are not eligible. Trainees are selected from among student applicants to the Ph.D. programs in the Department of Statistics at NCSU and the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Duke and from current Ph.D. students in both programs. Qualifications for applicants to the program are identical to those for applicants to both Ph.D. programs.

Interested applicants and current students in each Department should contact the Program Co-Director.

Program of study

Most trainees will enter the program in the fall and be assigned a mentorship team consisting of Program Faculty at NCSU and Duke. Trainees who are entering Ph.D. students with a Bachelors degree will spend their first year following the “core” Departmental programs of coursework. In addition, they will spend one or two days per month at DCRI sitting in on various meetings of DCRI research project teams, which is meant to introduce them to the breadth of CVD research taking place at DCRI and to help them assimilate some of the important terminology and issues in CVD science. During the following summer, trainees will study for qualifying exams and visit DCRI once a month. In subsequent years, trainees will continue to follow their core programs of course work, rounding this out with elective biostatistics courses, courses in cardiovascular medicine fundamentals, and courses in the responsible conduct of research chosen in consultation with their mentors. Trainees will increase the time they spend at DCRI in each year. In the second year, trainees will be assigned to one or two project teams chosen by the Co-Program Directors and in accordance with their interests and will participate in design and analysis activities. In the following years they will gradually increase their responsibilities as they learn more about CVD research, evolving into full-fledged collaborators working with clinicians and lead Ph.D. biostatisticians at DCRI to conceive, design, and analyze studies. Trainees will also have the opportunity to gain valuable mentoring skills themselves through a stint either teaching an undergraduate statistics course or serving as a teaching assistant/mentor for the Summer Institute in Biostatistics (SIBS). In consultation with program faculty through working groups, trainees will ultimately identify a dissertation topic, developed from methodological challenges arising in their collaborative experiences. Most trainees transition to another source of support, such as a research grant, after two years of NRSA support.

The experience for trainees who begin the program as current students in either Department will be similar, tailored to the individual trainee’s situation.

Program Faculty

Faculty members at North Carolina State University and Duke University School of Medicine participate in the training program and are available as preceptors for trainees. Trainees are assigned an inter-institutional mentorship team consisting of biostatistician mentors at NCSU and Duke, with responsibilities for guiding academic progress and overseeing collaborative experiences; and a clinician mentor, who serves as a resource for experiential training in CVD science and research. A biostatistician “mentor-in-training,” who is one of several Assistant Professors with less than 4 years of experience, will augment some teams and will serve as a role model close in professional age to the trainees themselves.

Statistics Faculty at NCSU

Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Faculty at Duke

Clinical Faculty at DCRI