A 2010-11 graduate of our ScM program, Maria Abraham wrote her thesis, "Sensitivity Analysis for Non-Monotone Missing Data with Application to Tuberculosis Studies," under the direction of Daniel Scharfstein. She now works at Statistics Collaborative in Washington, DC.
Describe your current position and responsibilities in a way that will inform prospective students about career opportunities in biostatistics.
I work as a Biostatistician I at Statistics Collaborative Inc. (SCI), Washington DC. SCI mainly acts as the independent statistical group that prepares interim reports on ongoing clinical trials for review by data monitoring committees. As a biostatistician I, my main job is to program presentations (tables, listings, and figures that illustrate the risks and benefits of the drug under study). Sometimes my job includes preparing table shells of the presentations for the client (pharmaceutical company)’s approval before we start programming and also writing the report itself. There is always a senior person to guide me throughout and answer any questions I may have and that is one of the many things I love about my job.
How did Johns Hopkins Biostatistics prepare you for your career? What aspects of the program did you find most useful?
The courses that I found most useful were Methods in Biostatistics, SAS, and the various courses on clinical trials. Shadowing consultants once a week at the Biostatistics Consulting Center gave me insight into what it would be like to be a consultant and interact with clients.
Can you describe your day-to-day life as a graduate?
In the first year, our main focus was the two core courses, Methods in Biostatistics and Statistical Theory. I also took electives that focused on clinical trials, which was my main area of interest. We used to meet twice a week or as needed to discuss how to go about doing the homework/presentations and to study for exams. We also attended the biweekly journal club and computing club meetings and the weekly Biostatistics seminars. In the second year, it was slightly easier as it was not so course-intensive and the main focus was the thesis. I had the privilege of doing my thesis under Dr. Scharfstein. He was very approachable and willing to meet with me anytime I had any questions on how to proceed.
What is your favorite memory of your time at Johns Hopkins Biostatistics?
When I got the letter from the Department saying I passed my first year comprehensive exams J (and of course all the free pizzas/events, Biostat holiday parties and the School of Public Health Friday happy hours!).
What has been your most satisfying job experience using your biostatistics background?
I have had two job experiences so far. My first one was at the Johns Hopkins Center for Clinical Trials, where I did my internship during the summer and continued to work as a graduate research assistant during the second year of my degree. I mainly performed data analyses for two clinical trials and also got the chance to work on other aspects of clinical trials such as IRB submissions, protocol review, and data audits. The second is my job at SCI as a Biostatistician I. (described above). Both these were/are satisfying job experiences. The programming language I was most comfortable with is SAS and I used mainly SAS to program at both these jobs. Also, both were/are based on clinical trials which is my primary area of interest.
What reasons might you give to encourage a prospective student to get a Master’s Biostatistics degree at Hopkins?
One thing I loved most about the Biostatistics Department at Johns Hopkins was the willingness of the faculty to help you however they can. They are also very approachable and willing to listen to your problems/concerns at any time. Also, the School of Public Health offers a wide variety of courses. I found it difficult to choose electives because there were a lot of courses that interested me offered each term.