Fan Li is a 2005-2006 PhD graduate of our department. Now an assistant professor at Duke University's Department of Statistical Science, she works extensively on statistical theory, methodology and applications, with particular interest in causal inference and Bayesian analysis.
How did you get interested in the field of biostatistics? What was your background before enrolling at Hopkins?
I had a BSc in mathematics from Beijing University before I came to the US. My introduction to (Hopkins Biostatistics) is very unorthodox; in fact, I knew literally nothing about biostatistics at the time I applied. During my last year of college, I was lucky enough to know Dr. Ying Qing Chen, an alumnus of Hopkins Biostatistics and, at the time, an assistant professor at UC-Berkeley's Department of Biostatistics. He encouraged me to apply to Hopkins Biostatistics and offered to write me a recommendation letter. I fully trusted his advice even without knowing anything about biostatistics (he happens to be the same person who had encouraged me to apply to Beijing University's Math Department a few years before that). Largely due to his letter, I was admitted with full funding. It was a dream come true for me to be able to study in the US.
Describe your current position and responsibilities in a way that will inform prospective students about career opportunities in Biostatistics.
I am a tenure-track assistant professor (fourth year) in the Department of Statistical Science at Duke University. Research, teaching and mentoring (both undergrads and grads) are my main responsibilities. I was also a research fellow at the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) for a semester.
How did Johns Hopkins Biostatistics prepare you for your career? What aspects of the program did you find most useful?
Hopkins Biostatistics provided me with solid theoretical and applied ability in statistics, trained me to have a genuine appreciation for real-world applications, and also equipped me with an open mindset and a positive attitude towards research. All the above are extremely useful. Most of all, the extraordinary quality of the faculty of Hopkins is immensely helpful - they are role models. I am especially grateful to my advisor, Constantine Frangakis, who taught me not only how to be a good researcher, but also how to be a good person.
What are your favorite memories of your time at Johns Hopkins Biostatistics?
Having fun with my fellow students; Dr. Mei-Cheng Wang, parties at faculty members' homes (Mei-Cheng Wang, Scott Zeger, Rafael Irizarry, Brian Caffo, etc); the kind staff members; Baltimore blue crabs!
Is there any other information about your experience at Hopkins that would be useful for prospective students?
I think when picking an advisor, it is important to pick someone whom you feel comfortable to work with and who is working something of real interest to you, rather than just count how many papers you will get in a few years or follow the "hot" trend.