Summer Program Held at University of Michigan

The department of biostatistics at the University of Michigan held its first undergraduate summer program, “Transforming Analytical Learning in the Era of Big Data,” June 1–26 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The program was attended by 29 undergraduate students majoring in mathematics/statistics/biostatistics/computer science. All engaged in hands-on learning with Big Data for a month.

The program consisted of morning lectures by faculty from the computer science, electrical engineering, statistics, and biostatistics departments that provided an overview of topics including data acquisition and management, data visualization, algorithms, large-scale optimization, machine learning, network analysis, causal inference, Bayesian methods, and personalized medicine. In the afternoon, students worked in three project areas: electronic health records (led by Yi Li), imaging (led by Tim Johnson), and genomics (led by Goncalo Abecasis).

Participants in the undergraduate summer program at the University of Michigan

Participants in the undergraduate summer program at the University of Michigan

The students also participated in “journey lectures,” presented during lunch by faculty members from biostatistics, statistics, epidemiology, and internal medicine, who shared their journeys into the world of data. The students learned about the failures and coincidences that build a researcher’s career.

At the end of the month-long program, there was a one-day symposium, “Big Data, Human Health, and Statistics,” that featured talks by University of Michigan faculty members Susan Murphy, Jeremy Taylor, Goncalo Abecasis, Jenna Wiens, and Jian Kang about precision medicine, genomics, and imaging. Alumna Rachel Schutt, senior vice president and chief data scientist at Newscorp, presented the keynote address, sharing her perspective of data science outside academia. Also, the undergraduate students presented posters and short talks on their research. The symposium was attended by more than 100 people.

Throughout the summer, there were many social events, including a welcome dinner, BBQs, a kayak trip on Huron River, a scavenger hunt at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and a tour of the Big House. The students also visited the Ann Arbor summer festival on many evenings.

The summer institute, designed and directed by Bhramar Mukherjee, is expected to continue next year (pending funding). For more information, contact her at