Biostatistics focuses on statistical, data scientific, and otherwise quantitative methodology for medicine, agriculture, forestry, environmental sciences, and beyond.
Statistics in general and biostatistics in particular rests on solid mathematical and probabilistic foundations. This is why in both the first and second year, foundational courses are offered, in a step-up design, with the lighter version offered during the first year. At the same time, the field’s strong focus on the bio-sciences is supported by a broad introduction to medical and molecular biology.
The practicing biostatistician needs to be equipped with important modeling tools, such as linear models (regression, analysis of variance, etc.), generalized linear models (logistic regression, Poisson regression, etc.), multivariate methods, longitudinal data, Bayesian methodology, time-to-event analysis, and so on. Evidently, fluency in the use of statistical software is expected, which is why not only dedicated courses but also assignments and course work throughout a good many courses focus on the computational aspects. Further, specialized courses are offered in clinical trials, omics data, spatial statistics, infectious diseases epidemiology, microbial risk assessment, and so on.
The biostatisticians needs to be able to communicate with researchers of various fields, report results, and give effective presentations. Developing such skills is an integral part of the program.
Biostatisticians are in high demand. That is today’s observation, and that is the way it has been for over three decades! You will find them in biopharmaceutical companies, in the role of clinical trial statistician as well as in the manager’s chair. They will serve on data monitoring committees to protect patient safety. Many are employed by governmental agencies, such as health research institutes, food safety departments, health knowledge centers, regulatory authorities for clinical trials, etc.. You will meet them at local, national, European, and international governments, throughout the globe. Indeed, all over the world, because statistics truly is a science without borders. Culture and the legal system may differ between places, but a linear regression is the same everywhere. We all belong to the same worldwide community! Many of our former graduates originate from countries at large, complete their master training at Hasselt University, and continue towards PhD research or seek employment in yet another country. And yes, several have become professors, conducting path-breaking research and contributing towards training the next generation!
We were told many things during our studies, like “come on guys, it is not rocket science.” However, we students, did not think it was always that easy. During the regression course in our first weeks we had professor Sotto begging us for solutions. Also, mastering the software was a challenge for most of us but with the help of the professors and friends we learned to manage. The numerous group projects helped to strengthen the bonds between the different students. We have grown over the master years. However, the biggest challenge, the thesis, was yet to come. It brought us joy when we got meaningful results, it brought us despair whenever we didn’t, as well as sleepless nights trying to figure out why. However, the results were rewarding. After two years of hard work, we can say that we did not merely “get” our diplomas, but rather that we earned them.
Not all was work, there was the symposium where we met Sir David Cox, a living legend among statisticians and beyond, there was the opportunity to visit many Belgian and foreign cities and there turned out to be a first-snow experience for many. The professors were, while giving us mountains of work, also willing to answer elaborate mails and open their office doors after an unexpected knock. It is a nice feature that the distance between students and professors is small. The Master of Statistics is a great learning experience, of course in statistics with professors whose names are known all over the world but also socially when interacting with various cultures.
(Marijke Van Moerbeke, Belgium)
Programme coordinator: prof. dr. Geert Molenberghs (geert.molenberghs[at]uhasselt.be)
Administrative info: Peter Vandoren (peter.vandoren[at]uhasselt.be)