Biostatistics or Data Science: Choosing the Right Path

Anna Seffernick Chair
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
Brian Millen Panelist
Sourav Santra Panelist
Peng Wei Panelist
University of Texas, MD Anderson Cancer Center
Federico Ferrari Panelist
Arinjita Bhattacharyya Organizer
University of Louisville
Melissa Smith Organizer
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Monday, Aug 7: 8:30 AM - 10:20 AM
Invited Panel Session 
Metro Toronto Convention Centre 
Room: CC-714B 
Session Motivation:
Recent biostatistics graduates are prepared for a career in either biostatistics or data science, but choosing which field to enter can be challenging. Our panel session will help students and individuals at the early stages of their careers understand the differences between biostatistics and data science roles, determine how to prepare for a career in each area, and gain clarity on the interview and job search processes for each.
Graduates from biostatistics programs are well-equipped to enter a career as a biostatistician or as a data scientist. However, there is a thin, and often ambiguous, line between data science and biostatistics, and each field emphasizes different skills. As an advocacy group for early-career statisticians, we seek to support recent graduates in successfully navigating their many career options. We have invited a diverse set of panelists representing biostatistics and data science careers to educate new and emerging statisticians on the similarities and differences in biostatistics and data science career paths.
At the start of the session, each panelist will introduce themselves, their background, and their current position. They will discuss their journeys with examples of successes, as well as pitfalls that can be avoided, when building a career in their area. A chair-led discussion on the topics below will follow. The session will end with an open Q&A for audience members to ask the panelists additional questions relevant to their career interests and professional development.
In the chair-moderated Q&A discussion, panelists will discuss their day-to-day responsibilities, along with the skills required to be successful in their biostatistics or data science roles. This will encompass hard skills, such as programming languages to be proficient in, and soft skills, such as effectively communicating findings to both quantitative and non-quantitative audiences, leadership, time management, and a willingness to learn industry-specific practices. Panelists will discuss ways to prepare for and develop these skills both in graduate school and in the early-career years.
In addition, panelists will discuss the nature of the job search and preparation for the interview process for biostatistician and data scientist opportunities. This may include describing the organizational charts of their companies and positions that might be of interest to new graduates of statistics or biostatistics programs. Preparing recent graduates for the biostatistician or data scientist role that is best suited to their interests ensures they are best-poised to drive discovery in whichever path they choose.
Five panelists have confirmed participation in this session. This session is proposed by the ENAR Council for Emerging and New Statisticians (CENS). We have previously organized many invited panel sessions, including several at ENAR and JSM, to serve recent graduates in these organizations.



Main Sponsor


Co Sponsors

Biopharmaceutical Section
Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment
Justice Equity Diversity and Inclusion Outreach Group