Brainstorming Design of the First Biostatistics/General Applied Statistics Undergraduate Course at Vanderbilt

Winning Choice at 2015-12-02 Faculty Meeting: Introduction to Biostatistics and Data Science

Please increment the numbers next to each course name according to your vote. Add any other thoughts you think we should consider after the counts.

  • Introduction to Biostatistics or Biostatistics I: 7
  • Introduction to Applied Statistics: 0
  • Introduction to Statistical Analytics: 0
  • Statistical Data Science I: 0
  • Biostatistics I: A Core Component of Biomedical Data Science: 0
  • Introduction to Biomedical Statistics and Data Science: 13
  • Project Based Biostatistics: 1
  • Statistical Methods for Analyzing Biomedical Data: 2
  • Scientific Computing: 2
  • Applied Machine Learning: 0
  • Introduction to Biostatistics and Data Science: 4


JB: How about a course called: Introduction to Data Science in Biomedicine? I think a "Data Science" tag would be popular. But I'm not sure how this course would differ from a first semester introduction to statistics. I could imagine easily coming up with a second semester course that was more focused on data science once things like inference and basic probability are out of the way. I like introduction to Biostatistics as well, its just not as sexy. One other option is to have a course called "Data Science in Biology and Medicine" and require students to have taken a statistics course already. Then you do all sorts of fun stuff via computing solutions. Lastly, how about this for slight change from the traditional year-long introductory sequence: "Statistical principles in Data Science" and then "Data Science in Biology and Medicine". Who is going to teach this anyway?

JS: I think a course on Visual Display of Data Using R would be popular and it would be a good way to get people interested in thinking 'statistically.'

WDD: "Introduction to Biomedical Statistics and Data Science" is trendy but a little long. Since biostatistics is, in fact, biomedical statistics, I prefer "Introduction to Biostatistics and Data Science." "Introduction to Biostatistics" or "Biostatistics I" have the advantage of being short and accurate. But if these titles are just too 20 century then go with something with "Data Science" in it.


Undergraduate Biostatistics/Biomathematics Program | Discussion Board


  1. Undergraduate minor without significant math requirements
    • Excellent minor for pre-med students
  2. Undergraduate major with significant math and biology requirements
    • Alternative for pre-med students who need or wish to change majors and who want to be involved in medical research
  3. Quantitative literacy, evidence, and probability training for a wide underclass audience (sophomore year or freshman seminar)
    • This should be a prerequisite for pre-meds
  4. 5-year BS-MS program


  1. Tremendous shortage of US graduate students in applied math and especially biostatistics
  2. Exceptional career / job market opportunities
  3. Excellent alternative for pre-med students who are interested in applied mathematics
  4. Career in biostatistics or biomathematics is an excellent way to be involved in medical research
  5. Ability to interpret quantitative results of clinical research and to rate evidence for safety and efficacy of treatments, procedures, and diagnostic devices is becoming a requisite for clinical practice
  6. There is a growing concensus that courses in both the scientific method and in general quantitative methods should be taken in a pre-med program, leaving more advanced biology coursework for medical schools that are more likely to be able to keep up with the explosion of knowledge from biomedical research and to teach it to students in a way that will directly benefit their clinical practice

Ideas from May 13, 2004 Meeting

  • Possible new faculty member in Math. Dept. who will help create track in biostatistics
  • Visiting faculty member for next year with an interest in biostatistics
  • Explore mechanisms for faculty in the Dept. of Biostatistics to teach undergraduate courses
  • Dean-to-Dean contact?
  • For School of Medicine, a stream of graduate students
  • For College of A&S, students applying for strong undergraduate program with good job and graduate school prospects
  • Create freshmen seminar courses
  • Curriculum development funding (Internal? External?)

Ideas from 23 June 2004 Meeting

  • Get statistics on unmet need
  • Factor in time at which undergrads declare majors (2nd semester of sophomore year)
  • Study BYU and UNC programs
  • Find an industry sponsor for an undergraduate award

Ideas from Aug 5, 2005 Meeting (Richard McCarty, Dietmar Bisch, Steve Gabbe, Frank Harrell)

  • Challenges
    • Pre-med curriculum is packed; new offerings may have to be in junior or senior years if any
    • Zero-sum with regard to total VU student body size means that new programs have to compete with old ones, unless students double major (double majors will decrease with upcoming curriculum changes)
    • Freshman Seminars are limited to 15 students
  • Observations
    • Most of the students who drop from pre-med do so before the first course drop deadline in the first semester
    • A new pre-med advising system is being implemented; this can provide opportunities for making studies aware of biostatistics and quantitative reasoning
    • Math courses related to prob/stat include a pre-calculations probability course, a post-calculus course, Richard Larsen's old Math 218 course, the newer 216 course for engineers
    • One of the applied math faculty will be teaching the courses this year
  • Action Items
    • Ask Dennis Hall and Jeff Balser to convene a meeting to get all stat-savvy parties together to discuss coordinating stat-related courses better and reducing duplication of effort
    • Talk to Larry Churchill and Frank Boehm to learn more about the Professions in Undergraduate Education program
    • Talk to Matt Ramsay, director of the Medicine, Health, and Society program to see if that would be a good arena for adding a free-standing course in biostatistics. This would benefit School of Medicine Emphasis Program students who tend to like the MHS program
    • Start off by developing a Freshman Seminar and by creating a minor in statistics
      • Contact Kate Daniels, Assoc. Dean for Undergraduate Studies, 311 Kirkland Hall
      • Best time to hold a seminar is in the fall
    • The Math Dept will be having a hiring plan meeting this fall. Dietmar Bisch will bring up to the group for discussion of the possibility of one of our faculty having a 50% appointment in Math to teach, or multiple of our faculty having smaller % appointments. There is a need for more than a 1.0 effort for teaching. Dietmar will also discuss the role of faculty in BMI.

Planning Committee

Frank E Harrell Jr Chair, Biostatistics, School of Medicine 322-2001
Dietmar Bisch Chair, Mathematics 322-1999
Emmanuele DiBenedetto Professor, Mathematics
Director, Biomathematics Study Group
Philip S Crooke Vice-director Biomathematics Study Group, Vice-chair and
Professor, Mathematics
Michael L Mihalik Mathematics 322-4168
Next meeting: June 23

E-mail list:,,,, dietmar.bisch@Vanderbilt.Edu

Possible Future Contacts

David Wood Chair, Faculty Senate Task Force for Cross-School Initiatives
Paul Keckley Director, Center for Evidence-Based Medicine
Scott Urquhart CSU, instrumental in recruiting for their BS in stat (also see their undergrad program)

Links of Interest

Topic attachments
I Attachment Action Size Date Who Comment
dixon.pdfpdf dixon.pdf manage 381.2 K 14 Aug 2004 - 09:24 FrankHarrell Dennis Dixon's Talk (NIH)
Topic revision: r42 - 07 Dec 2015, FrankHarrell

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