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Two Biostatistics Students Honored with Colin White Scholarships

December 20, 2021
by William Pang

In a break from tradition, two biostatistics students were chosen this year as recipients of the Dr. Colin White Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship named in honor of Dr. White, a former chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at Yale, is usually awarded to a masters’ student who has shown exemplary performance in their studies.

“We look for model students who have done very well in coursework and research,” said Professor Shuangge (Steven) Ma, interim chair of the Department of Biostatics.

This year, for the first time since the inception of the scholarship, two highly qualified students were selected.

The selection process, Ma said, consisted first of identifying students who had performed well in classes and research. Once a shortlist of candidates was generated, feedback from faculty and advisors was collected and evaluated.

One of this year’s winners is Chichun Tan, M.S. ’22, currently a second-year M.S. candidate in biostatistics. Chichun said he came to the Yale School of Public Health because he wanted a challenging research environment.

“The faculty at YSPH are very open to having students find them for research,” said Chichun.

Indeed, Chichun took advantage of the many research opportunities offered in the biostatistics department. As a first-year student, he was involved in multiple research projects - working on developing statistical models in neuroscience, as well as researching novel mathematical tools to explain the relationship of mutational signatures in lung and colorectal cancer. Chichun hopes to pursue a Ph.D. in biostatistics after graduation.

Associate Professor Anita Wang, who led the selection of scholarship winners, noted faculty members’ praise for Chichun’s work ethic and academic performance. “He has tremendous motivation and very strong analytical skills,” Wang said.

The second scholarship recipient is Yi Dai, M.P.H. ’22, a second-year M.P.H. candidate in biostatistics.

According to Wang, Yi received honors in all of her courses. Yi’s mentors also noted that she is “highly motivated and independent in research” and is “very pleasant to work with in projects”.

Yi’s love for Yale dates back to high school, when a campus visit left an indelible impression on her. Coming to YSPH as a student only confirmed those impressions, she said.

“YSPH is a great program with nice people and good professors and opportunities,” Yi said.

Yi interned last summer at the Yale Center for Analytical Sciences, where she worked on a project analyzing treatment outcomes for major depressive order using data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. According to Yi, doctors may prescribe very different treatment regimens for the same symptoms. The goal of the project is to utilize statistical tools in order to better understand which combination of drugs and drug dosage yield the best health outcomes.

Like Chichun, Yi hopes to enroll in a Ph.D. program after graduation.

She would like to continue conducting research at Yale, working on projects related to using statistical methods to study depression.

Submitted by Colin Poitras on December 17, 2021