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Division of Biostatistics

The mission of the Division of Biostatistics is to improve health through the rigorous application of statistical science to biomedical research.


Members of the Division of Biostatistics are engaged in a variety of methodological and collaborative projects. Current methododological topics include statistical analysis of activity and streaming data (Bursac, Kocak, Sen, Thomas), statistical genetics (Chiu, Sen), statistical computing (Sen), and clinical trials (Bursac, Thomas, Kocak). For a list of current methodological research projects, please click here.


Biostatistics division faculty contribute to the research community as associate editors of numerous journals. We also play an active role in the Western Tennessee Chapter of the American Statistical Association (WTASA), and have served as office bearers. Additionally, we play a major role in the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Research Design (BERD) Clinic and Biostatistics and Methodology Consulting.


Our faculty members teach biostatistics courses in the College of Graduate Health Sciences in the Epidemiology program (Biostatistics Track & Data Sciences Track) and the Biomedical Sciences program. Our division offers Internships for both undergraduate and graduate students. Our faculty regularly serve on the committees of masters and doctoral students. We also participate with UTK, Oak Ridge National Lab, and UTC in the Data Science Doctoral Program at the Bredesen Center.


Hyo Young Choi (faculty)

Over the last decade, many innovative technologies have generated vast amounts of large-scale biological data. Trained in statistics along with computational biology, my passion is in the development and application of statistical methodologies to tackle the unmet need presented by emerging biological datasets.

My research areas include machine learning, big & high-dimensional data analysis, signal processing, and statistical genomics. Specifically, I am interested in the development of statistical models better describing real biological variation in modern genomic data as well as new methods that can be applied to cancer research and beyond. My current research includes working on high-throughput sequencing data, pan-cancer and pan-omics studies, theoretical investigation of high-dimensional data, and new machine learning techniques for signal detection. My research and software are available at

Background: I earned my BA in Applied Statistics and Economics from Yonsei University and my MS in Statistics from Seoul National University in South Korea. In 2018, I received my Ph.D in Statistics and Operations Research from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After my postdoctoral fellowship at UTHSC, I joined the Department of Preventive Medicine as an assistant professor of Biostatistics in 2020.

Hobbies/Interests: I love traveling and exploring new places. I also like watching movies and reading books.

Chi-Yang Chiu (faculty)

I am interested in both methodological and applied work in the fields of statistical genetics, mixed effects models and nonparametric modeling. I also enjoy collaborative work with biomedical researchers on various topics.

Background: I earned a bachelor's degree in Mathematics from Tamkang University, Taiwan, a master’s and a doctoral degree in Statistics from The University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB); and received post-doctoral training in Statistical Genetics at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Hobbies/Interests: I like jogging, hiking and reading.

Tamekia Jones (faculty)

As the Director of the Biostatistics Core in the Children's Foundation Research Institute, I provide biostatistics support to pediatric investigators across several medical specialties. I have worked on numerous prospective and retrospective studies spanning surgery, obesity, critical care, emergency medicine, and neuroscience. I continue to collaborate with investigators and provide guidance on developing hypotheses, study design, sample size and power calculations, and statistical analyses. My research interests include clinical trials, obesity, and health disparities.

Background: I earned my BS in Mathematics at Jackson State University and BA in Statistics at the University of Missouri-Columbia. After obtaining my PhD in Biostatistics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I served as a senior statistician for frontline Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia clinical trials in the Children's Oncology Group Statistics and Data Center and had a faculty appointment in Biostatistics at the University of Florida.

Hobbies/Interests: I enjoy spending time with my family, riding horses, and tutoring youth and adults in mathematics/statistics.

Mehmet Kocak (faculty)

My primary research is on statistical testing for periodic profile identification, with a specific application to time-course gene expression data to identify cyclic genes. I also do research on meta-analysis generally, with specific applications to meta-analysis of p-values. Being involved in drug-clinical trials for more than 14 years, any statistical challenges in dose-escalation designs also fall in my research area. In addition to these I work frequently with categorical and survival data analyses as well as with mixed models, both linear and non-linear versions.

Background: I earned a bachelor of science in statistics from Hacettepe University in Ankara, Turkey in 1996; a master's degree in Applied Statistics from Michigan State University (MSU) in 1999. While still studying toward a doctorate at MSU, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital wooed me to Memphis to study brain tumors as a biostatistician in 2002. Since then, I have been an active member of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, which is a nationwide consortium with NCI funding. I completed a doctorate in Applied Statistics from the University of Memphis in 2011.

Since I joined the UTHSC faculty in 2011, I have been the coordinating statistician on the CANDLE study, which is a birth cohort study that began collecting data in 2006 and continues to track the majority of its participants enrolled. I am also the study biostatistician for the FITBLUE study, which is a weight-loss intervention study conducted on US Air Force population. I have worked with many investigators from diverse research disciplines, which resulted in publications in highly reputable journals.

Hobbies/Interests: I like reading and spending time with my wife and two daughters. We especially enjoy critiquing the books we read and movies we watch together.

Faculty Portfolio

Xioayu Liang (faculty)

My research interests include the development of statistical methods and computational tools to map complex disease genes based on population data and pedigree data, drug and alcohol addiction and its relationship with HIV infection, DNA methylation aging clocks, and single‐cell RNA sequencing analysis.

Background:I earned a bachelor's degree in Statistics from Heilongjiang University in China. After obtaining my PhD in Biostatistics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Michigan Technological University, I received post-doctoral training and served as a volunteer statistician in Bioinformatics in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.

Hobbies/Interests: I like reading, cooking, painting, and watching movies.

Saunak Sen (faculty)

My research expertise is in genetic analysis of complex traits in model systems, statistical genetics/genomics, Bayesian statistics, and statistical computing. I have contributed to statistical and computational methods for the design and analysis of genetic studies. This includes work on multiple imputation, machine learning, selective genotyping and phenotyping, and function-valued traits. I also have a significant collaborative body of work that includes genetics in admixed human populations, and large epidemiological studies.

Background: I was born in India, and obtained my BSc in Statistics from the University of Calcutta, and a MStat from the Indian Statistical Institute specializing in Mathematical Statistics and Probability. I came to the US to pursue my PhD in Statistics at the University of Chicago. After postdoctoral stints at Stanford University and the Jackson Laboratory, I joined the faculty of UCSF in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. In 2015, I joined UTHSC as Chief of Biostatistics in the Department of Preventive Medicine.

Personal: I am a fan of human powered transportation, with a special love for bicycles. Memphis has made significant investments in bicycling infrastructure in recent years, including the much anticipated Mississippi river crossing scheduled to open this year. After over a decade in the San Francisco Bay Area I'm getting used to the highly variable weather patterns of the Mid-South. In the coming year I intend to learn more about the plants of the Memphis area, and hopefully grow some vegetables in our backyard.

Faculty Portfolio

Fridtjof Thomas (faculty)

I like working in the medical field because there is a wealth of knowledge available that is not readily incorporated into standard statistical models, thus necessitating a humble approach to what a statistical analysis can offer. Having said that, I also strongly feel that our contemporary number-crunching abilities set us free in applying statistical thinking to medical and other real world problems in a way never possible before. In other words: being a statistician has never been more exciting than today!

Background: I have over 15 years of experience as a PhD-level statistician in various environments and applications, and have been working in the medical field for eight years since my relocation to the US from Sweden in 2007. My higher academic education started in my country of birth, Germany, but it was as an exchange student at the Department of Statistics at Stockholm University, Sweden, where I discovered and developed my interest in statistical methodology. I continued my education in Sweden (PhD in 2001 from Stockholm University) and prospered there for well over a decade until my relocation to Memphis, TN, in 2007.

Hobbies/Interests: Fly-fishing and fly-tying have followed me through my journey since I was a teenager. I tremendously enjoy exploring the many fantastic waters in our area together with my son. Also, being from a bread culture, I am still on the quest for the perfect home-made bread, preferably a sourdough containing at least 50% rye.

Faculty Portfolio

Elizabeth Tolley (faculty)

I live to teach. Currently, I am course director of several graduate-level courses: a two-semester course in Biostatistics for the Health Sciences I and II and a course in Linear Regression Models offered in the Masters of Epidemiology degree program. I also provide biostatistical consulting and collaboration for many basic science and clinical investigators. I have served as the biostatistician on numerous clinical trials and prospective cohorts. My expertise is in designing these studies and in analyzing data and interpreting results to address research questions proposed by clinical investigators.

Background: I am a tenured Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology. I hold a doctorate in population genetics with co-majors in statistics and physiology from the Department of Animal Science at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; and received post-doctoral training in building statistical models in the Departments of Animal Science, Economics, and Statistics at N.C. State University, Raleigh, NC. I have mentored numerous graduate students at the masters and doctoral levels. I have also served as a biostatistician, co-investigator, and consultant on many NIH grants.

Hobbies/Interests: I am an absolute animal lover: I raise dogs both for fun and for competition. I am also a big fan of X-Men and am looking forward to the upcoming Star Wars films.

Faculty Portfolio

Jim Wan (faculty)

My research interests include the analysis of failure time data, the use of Poisson regression and logistic regression in epidemiologic studies. I collaborate with faculty across the whole campus on statistical methods for clinical and epidemiologic data and health services research. These collaborations have resulted in more than 130 peered-reviewed articles and close to 200 abstracts presented in major national and international scientific conferences.

Background: I earned a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a doctoral degree in Statistics from Yale University.

Hobbies/Interests: I like playing Bridge and Mahjong with friends. Hiking is another interest for me. I love the hiking trails in Hong Kong.

Faculty Portfolio

Gregory Farage (postdoc)

My research expertise is in image processing, data mining, signal processing, and machine learning. My current interests are streaming analytics and big data analysis in the healthcare industry. Data streams help spot trends and patterns earlier: with the growth of streaming technology and mobile monitoring devices, the quantity and the complexity of these collections of data presents exciting challenges and opportunities to improve clinical science.

Background: I was born in France. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the Lebanese American University in Lebanon. I obtained my master degree in Digital Signal Processing from Telecom Bretagne in France and completed my Ph.D. in Remote Sensing with a focus on Image Processing and Polarimetric Radar Images from the University of Sherbrooke in Canada.

Hobbies/Personal Interest: I like tasting new cuisines and trying out new restaurants. I like cooking for my family and my friends. I like hiking and exploring new cities. I enjoy gardening especially things that you can eat: herbs and veggies. I am a fan of sci-fi and fantasy (Star Wars first, Star Trek second). 

Hyeonju Kim (postdoc)

My current research interest is in developing novel statistical methods for using Big Data in genetics or genomics. I gained expertise in stochastic processes during my PhD, particularly random sum processes in which a rare event occurs.

Background: I obtained an MS in mathematics with a concentration in applied mathematics at the University of New Mexico. I have recently completed a PhD in statistics with a minor in finance at the University of Arizona. This year, I joined the Division of Biostatistics in the Department of Preventive Medicine at UTHSC as a postdoc under the supervision of Dr. Sen.

Personal: I am a huge fan of weightlifting and of sci-fi movies. I also prefer Star Wars to Star Trek.

Rongshun Zhu (staff)

I love to do scientific research. My current work is to support statistical and epidemiological consultation activities, which includes performing data management and data analysis/implementing statistical analysis plans for researchers(clients).

Background: I earned my PhD degree in Computational Chemistry from Jilin University (1996) and MSc in Statistics (2016) from Georgia State University. I have authored and co-authored 78 research articles in Chemical Kinetics field.

Hobbies/Interests: I like swimming, especially swim with my three boys and my wife. I swim very slow, which makes them feel that they swim super-fast.

Trish Goedecke (staff)

My goal is to make the statistics aspect of your research easy, starting with your research design. I work as a statistics consultant in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, & Research Design (BERD); part of the Institute for Research, Innovation, Synergy and Health Equity (iRISE). We will meet with you as consultants when you are developing your research, and when you have questions about analyzing data. Look up our schedule on

Background: I am currently studying Mathematical Statistics at the University of Memphis (UM), focusing on optimizing topic modeling. I completed Master’s degrees in Actuarial Science and in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) with Central Washington University, and my undergraduate work was in American Studies at Pomona College in Claremont, California.

At UM, I have been conducting interdisciplinary research with the Institute for Intelligent Systems, participating in every aspect of research including developing a research proposal to apply for grant funding, collecting data with human participants, analyzing, writing, and presenting findings at conference. I have been project manager on several grants, collaborating with researchers at Notre Dame, Waterloo and the University of Wisconsin.

Prior experience includes actuarial consulting with Milliman Health and an accreditation proposal with Central Washington University. I have also taught Mathematics and English courses with a variety of west coast universities and colleges.

Hobbies/Interests: I enjoy bicycling, eating foreign foods and discussing the meaning of life. I also have an unusual hobby in that it is what many people would call work. The research project that is my ‘baby’ was inspired when I taught middle school math; many of my students were thoroughly distracted by their need to move. I now have a team of researchers at UM comparing learning while pedaling at bike desks versus learning sitting still; I hope to fascinate you with my findings soon.

Tristan Hayes (staff)

I enjoy connecting investigators with the tools and resources they need to succeed in their research. To that end, over the past year we have established and expanded the Biostatistics, Epidemiology, & Research Design (BERD) Unit of the Institute for Research, Innovation, Synergy and Health Equity (iRISE). It is extremely rewarding to design, setup and implement new automated systems to facilitate research. In one of the first systems we launched, we reduced the number of points of contact to setup an appointment from three or more, to a single, immediate online signup form.

Background: I completed my undergraduate studies at Middlebury College in German and Economics, with a minor in math. Previously I worked in economic & litigation consulting, covering such divers topics as microchip patent litigation and diary co-op pricing. I love working with SAS, Stata, and R, ‘getting my hands dirty’ with data. For me, Technology in and of itself is interesting: everything from editing simple PHP code, to more advanced projects coding automated analysis using macros. Currently, I am working on a Masters in Epidemiology with a focus on Biostatistics and I plan to complete a thesis on the epidemiology of violence.

Hobbies/Personal Interests: As a Memphian, I am a huge fan of BBQ. One of my personal goals is to participate in a team at the annual World BBQ Championships. Currently, I enjoy cycling to work and reading science fiction novels. Also, in case you were wondering, Star Wars > Star Trek.

Xiaoqi Hu (staff)

I like working with computer programs. Making them run faster is both challenging and fun. My goal here is to help researchers run data analysis faster with the latest technology. Currently my expertise is in GPU computing.

Background: I earned my MS degree in Computer Science from University of Mississippi. During my master studies, I used GPU to accelerate shallow water equation problem in Civil Engineering. I also conducted research on GPU memory.

Personal Interest: I love going out with friends and trying different restaurants. I have tried several barbecue places in Memphis. So far Central BBQ is my favorite. I also love spending time with my daughter. We check in the Children's Museum every weekend.

Jiajing Wang (staff) (alumni)

My goal is to help the researchers with their study design to be reasonable and with their statistical analysis in their research to be correctly. In the Biostatistics, Epidemiology & Research Design (BERD clinic meeting, we talk with the investigators to learn about their research and provide suggestions in data collecting and analysis measurement, furthermore, we help them working on the data analysis and result explanation in order to facilitate the research.

Background: I got my master degree in Statistics at The George Washington University. Previously, I was an analyst in the Caesars Entertainment Corporation and also a volunteer in the Rehabilitation Medicine Department at the NIH by doing the data manipulation and applied statistical analysis. I use SAS and R for my daily work and I’d like to explore more functions for these tools. Currently, I’m studying toward a doctor degree in Statistics at University of Memphis.

Hobbies/Interests: I like all the outdoor activities, like hiking, running etc. I’m also good at looking for some interesting events and restaurants in Memphis.


Jane Liang (staff) (alumni)

Background: I recently earned by bachelor’s degree in statistics from UC Berkeley. I currently work as a scientific programmer under Saunak Sen and hope to enter a doctoral program in statistics/biostatistics in the near future. My research interests include statistical genetics, machine learning, and working with large data sets and computationally intensive problems.

Hobbies/Interests: I am a native of the San Francisco Bay Area and fall under most of the stereotypes, like being obsessed with recycling and fog. I also like reading books, consuming hot beverages, and playing with other people’s pets. I still get Star Wars and Star Trek confused sometimes.


Last Published: Mar 12, 2021