A 1999-2000 graduate of our MHS program, Mark Schactman 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 am currently a Statistical Scientist at Statistics Collaborative, a biostatistics consulting firm in Washington, D.C. I act as the independent statistician reporting to the DMC for many oncology clinical trials. I also consult with clients on protocol design, sample size calculations and statistical analysis plan development.
How did Johns Hopkins Biostatistics prepare you for your career? What aspects of the program did you find most useful?
I used many of the fundamentals of biostatistics every day in my job. Having a firm grasp of the basics makes it easier when the methods we use are extensions of existing techniques or novel approaches just emerging in the literature.
Can you describe your day-to-day life as a graduate?
I would say my job is 25% working on statistics or statistical issues related to clinical trials; 25% writing reports or statistical documents; 25% managing client relationships and managing junior staff; and 25% programming.
What is your favorite memory of your time at Johns Hopkins Biostatistics?
I was working full-time for much of my degree, so interactions with my classmates was a wonderful change from my work life.
Is there any other information about your experience at Hopkins that would be useful for recruiting prospective students and/or helping current students? This can include your experience in Baltimore.
I was already living and working in Baltimore when I started my biostatistics degree at Hopkins, so JHU was the school of convenience. I did not know at the time the cachet the JHU name would carry. The school's reputation has helped me succeed in my career path.
What has been your most satisfying job experience using your biostatistics background?
The drug approval process is not an easy one: there are so many ways a drug can fail to make it to market. When you work on a product that actually gets approved, it's cause for celebration. I was part of a large team that submitted a New Drug Application to the FDA for GLIADEL, an implantable wafer for patients with brain cancer. Playing a role in an eventual approval letter from the FDA was extremely satisfying.
What reasons might you give to encourage a prospective student to get a master’s biostatistics degree at Hopkins?
Unlike some fields where a PhD is mandatory, a master's-level statistician has many opportunities in the field. Job opportunities are abundant in large pharmaceutical companies, small biotechs, government and non-profits. In addition, I feel like much of what I do will eventually have a positive impact on people's lives.