Monday, October 21, 2013

BBC Horizon - Homeopathy the test

This is one of my favorite teaching examples as it explains very well the placebo effects, the importance of blinded randomized experiment and the meaning of statistical significance.
If you prefer to read, you can go to the show's page.

Friday, October 18, 2013

NRG Research Highlight: A Mendelian code for complex disease


Key quotes:

  1. [The authors] analysed the phenotypic information present in large numbers of electronic medical records from the United States and Denmark to look for co-morbidities among Mendelian and complex diseases
  2. each complex disease was found to be associated with a unique set of Mendelian conditions.
  3. This finding led the authors to explore genetic models that could explain the risk of complex disease in patients with more than one Mendelian phenotype. The best explanation was provided by a model in which non-additive genetic interactions in specific 'communities' of loci have crucial roles.
What is "non-additive genetic interactions"?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

The leap from an academic program to the corporate world (or any world)

At a recent meeting on educational issues, someone reported feedback from big companies on fresh graduates from academic graduate programs in general. It is widely felt that there is a gap between the training and the expectation in the corporate world. More specifically, most companies felt that fresh graduates from academic programs need to have more preparation in four areas: strategic thinking, project management, team work, presenting the big picture of a project (the elevator talk).

Hmm, these are all important for surviving in academia too! I thought. Maybe there should be more emphasis on having final projects (with final presentations) in our courses at all levels (undergraduate, MA and PhD). To make these handful of projects count, mentoring during the project and feedback after the project hold the key.

This semester, for G6101, there will be an assigned data project as part of the final exam, mimicking the format of our qualifying exam on applied statistics. G6101 doesn't have many presentation opportunities for the students (yet). For W4335 "sample surveys", I am experimenting assigning two small project ideas every week as "optional projects". Students are required to do two such projects during the semester and "present" their results in the discussion board. Hope these will bring them closer to their landing pad in the new world (whatever and wherever it may be) after they finish our program/course.