Eberly named ASA Fellow

Charlie Plain | May 2, 2014

eberly_250pxThere’s one big reason why the School of Public Health’s Lynn Eberly loves being a biostatistician and professor.

“I just really like learning about science,” she says. “The beauty of an academic job is you get to teach yourself new things year after year for an entire career.”

Eberly‘s fascinated with new research and technology, and she embraces the biostatician’s job of helping design—and analyze and interpret the data from—studies.

Her enthusiasm for science also makes her a tireless mentor to students and junior scientists looking to follow their own paths of discovery.

Eberly’s devotion to all-things-science is why the American Statistical Association (ASA) just named her to its list of 2014 Fellows. The hefty accolade recognizes her excellence as a top educator and researcher and places Eberly in the upper echelon of American statisticians.

“I’m excited,” says Eberly. “It’s quite an honor for people in my profession.”

The ASA will present the award to Eberly at the Joint Statistical Meetings, August 5 in Boston.

The scientific process
Eberly’s entry into biostatistics came after her Cornell University graduate school advisor realized her love for science.

He could see how much the mathematician in her enjoyed the scientific process and he also knew biostatisticians actively collaborate with other scientists, helping them design and interpret their research.

He suggested she look into biostatistics.

Nearly 20 years later, Eberly is enjoying a rising career currently centered around the use of imaging in medical research.

“For example, I work with a group of people interested in neuro-degenerative diseases called ataxias“ says Eberly. “They’re looking for markers of the disease that show up in magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and spine before clinical symptoms emerge.”

She’s also participated in research where imaging provides insight into other health issues like cancer, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and kidney disease.

“Everything about this imaging work has been fascinating because I’ve had to learn about a lot of new technology and how it can strengthen the science,” says Eberly.

Teaching in more ways than one
At Cornell, Eberly also discovered that she likes to teach.

“That pointed me towards an academic career, which I hadn’t had in my sights at all, “ she says.

Today, Eberly is an assistant professor in the Division of Biostatistics and teaches students of all kinds and in more ways than one.

Besides doing traditional course instruction, she mentors assistant professors of medicine doing clinical research through NIH grants called K awards. The grants require recipients to be mentored by a biostatistician.

“I’ve mentored eight clinical scholars who’ve gotten K awards and I learn as much from them as they do from me,” says Eberly. “I learn about diabetes. I learn about depression. I learn about all sorts of things.”

Her role in research calls on her talent to educate as well.

“A lot of my collaboration with scientists in other fields is just another aspect of teaching,” says Eberly. “I need to guide them to make their science better. So my excellence as a teacher plays a strong hand in how I collaborate with scientists.”

Eberly also mentors through a yearly luncheon she hosts for female faculty and students in the biostatistics program. The goal of the luncheon is to offer career advice to women already working in or considering working in the field.

Eberly uses it as an opportunity to come full circle and urge the next generation of science-loving biostatisticians to consider academia themselves.

“Our students can tell that being a professor is a high-pressure job and some are dissuaded by that,” says Eberly. “I have to convey my passion for this work and show why this is the best job in the universe—which it is!”

~ Post by Charlie Plain 

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