New department name reflects data science focus

Hulin_Wu_Pioneers_magazine_photo_by_John_Everett
Huliln Wu, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Data Science at UTHealth School of Public Health. Photo by John Everett.

HOUSTON – The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health has changed the name of the Department of Biostatistics to the Department of Biostatistics and Data Science.

The change was made to more accurately represent the department’s mission and educational goals, and its growing focus on data science in addition to traditional biostatistics.

“To reflect this trend and our department’s future development, we suggested changing the name to include data science. We feel this is important to attract future students and extramural research grants,” says department chair, Hulin Wu, Ph.D.

Data science is a thriving new scientific field that involves making sense of vast amounts of complex data, often called “Big Data.” The field uses techniques of statistics, computer science and other quantitative approaches to address important scientific and business questions.

The department’s faculty members are actively working on developing novel data science and analytics methodologies, and collaborating with other departments and schools at UTHealth to advance data science education and research, and offer critical insight into the public health challenges of our day.

ThinkstockPhotos-492733218 data science biostatisticsCurrently, Wu and his colleagues are drawing on big data, such as electronic health records (EHR), insurance claims and public databases, to understand risk factors and predict onset of diseases, investigate how genetics and other factors contribute to disease development, better evaluate treatment or prevention strategies, and identify new therapeutic targets.

The department is actively developing data science education programs including a data science certificate, an M.S./M.P.H. data science concentration and an M.S./Ph.D. in biostatistics with a data science track. The certificate is a non-degree program designed for students who have strong interests in developing professional data science skills that apply to public health challenges. Data science programs train students to process, analyze and integrate vast amount of complex data from biomedical and health sciences.

“Public health is becoming a more and more data intensive science, which requires using a variety of health and biomedical data to address public health questions. It will be very important for public health practitioners to understand health science data and have a background and some techniques in data science and data analytics,” Wu says.

For more information on the department’s new data science training programs, click here, or contact Hulin Wu.

— Written by Anissa Anderson Orr