Matt McCall is a 2009-2010 graduate of our PhD program. His thesis, under the direction of Rafael Irizarry, was entitled “Preprocessing and Bar Coding of Data from a Single Microarray."
Matt is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where he is investigating networks involving cooperation response genes that respond synergistically to oncogenetic mutations. Matt writes, “This collaboration presents interesting methodological challenges that have important implications in biomedical cancer genetics."
While at Hopkins, Matt received the Helen Abbey Award for Excellence in Teaching. Based on his PhD thesis research, he published seven articles (first author on five). He was also part of the Biostatistics intramural soccer team, which won the league championship.
How did you get interested in the field of biostatistics? What was your background before enrolling at Hopkins?In 2003, I received a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) under the supervision of Dr. Michael Newton.
At the time I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan and had discarded several majors, steadily adding to the list of things I did not want to pursue. My experiences that summer piqued my interest in statistics, and I returned to the university to complete a B.S. in statistics. After graduating with highest distinction, I continued my training as an Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) recipient under the supervision of Dr. Paul Meltzer in the Cancer Genetics branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI). While at NHGRI, I designed and implemented a suite of quality-control metrics for custom microarrays and developed an algorithm for microarray time series data analysis. My experience working closely with bench scientists prompted me to pursue graduate studies in biostatistics with a focus on newly-developed genomic technologies.
How did Johns Hopkins Biostatistics prepare you for your career? What aspects of the program did you find most useful?The combination of rigorous statistical coursework and courses in bioinformatics, molecular biology, and computer science prepared me to work in a multi-disciplinary environment and to collaborate with scientists from a variety of backgrounds. Following the coursework with several years of mentored research under the supervision of leading biostatisticians was an extremely important aspect of my graduate work. It prepared me for a research career and provided the opportunity to publish numerous articles. The organization of faculty, postdocs, and students into working groups that focus on particular areas of statistics or applied research allows for regular interaction with brilliant scientists attempting to tackle a variety of challenging problems.
What are your favorite memories of your time at Johns Hopkins Biostatistics?
There was always a strong sense of camaraderie between the students. During our first few years, we would regularly meet to work on problem sets and study for comps. And this did not change even after we were each pursuing our own areas of research. When one of us would be stuck on a problem, we could drop by another student's office and talk through the problem. Often the process of trying to explain the problem to someone not familiar with it was enough to provide the necessary insight. On the social side, Friday Happy Hours and the annual Chili Party provided some of the best memories.
Is there any other information about your experience at Hopkins that would be useful for prospective students?
I do not believe that there is another top-tier biostatistics program whose faculty are as accessible to the students and whose students are as close to each other.