CAGPM Spotlight: Wan Xu, PhD

Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Wan Xu

Wan Xu, PhD, recently joined Duke Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine (CAGPM) as a Biostatistician III. She is originally from China and after coming to the U.S., she first studied economics with a minor in statistics to receive her BA from the University of California - Davis. She then went on to study agricultural economics with a minor in statistics at the University of Tennessee and biostatistics from the University of Florida to receive her MS degrees. Xu most recently received her PhD from the University of Florida in agricultural economics. Xu will be working on RNA-seq and ATAC-seq data analysis using statistical/machine learning methods at CAGPM. To get to know Dr. Xu a little more, we asked her the following questions:

How did you become interested in biostatistics and bioscience?

I love statistics in general. During the third year of my PhD study, I had a chance to take several biostatistic courses as electives. I was fascinated with biostatistics methods and especially their applications in the bioscience-related field. It challenged me to think critically from an interdisciplinary point of view to solve real life problems in healthcare and medicine.

What excites you the most about data science?

Data Science is growing so fast and almost everywhere in our society now. The thing that excites me about data science most is the way it quickly and efficiently turns messy and big data into meaningful and valuable insights by combining cutting-edge statistics methodology with computer science.

How has mentorship positioned you to where you are today?

I am heartily thankful to my PhD advisor, Dr. Hayk Khachatryan, and MS advisor, Dr. Dayton Lambert. I consider myself so lucky to have been studying under Dr. Khachatryan’s guidance and be his first PhD student. His instruction, encouragement, and generous support have given me great confidence and motivation in my study and research. Dr. Lambert’s valuable advice and enthusiastic help have encouraged me for my further career. Without their mentorship, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I am always thankful for everything I have learned from them.

What would you tell someone interested in pursuing a career as a biostatistician?

I feel being a biostatistician is a very exciting and rewarding career. By collaborating with biomedical professionals and developing/applying cutting-edge statistical methods, biostatisticians contribute to scientific discovery, innovation, and solve real world problems in medicine and public health. You will never feel bored!

What do you like to do outside of your work?Wan Xu and family

Outside the work, I love spending time with my husband, Oleksiy and daughter, Chelsea. We enjoy traveling, drawing, watching movies, playing tennis and board games together.

What do you like best about Durham/Duke?

Besides the gorgeous architecture, Duke has one of the best medical schools and top healthcare network in the nation. I feel very honored to join and collaborate with such outstanding physicians and researchers on education, research, and patient care. I am so proud of being part of the team at CAGPM.