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Umbach Honored by American Statistical Association

By Eddy Ball
June 2009

Photo of David Umbach, Ph.D.
Newly elected ASA Fellow David Umbach (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

In the world of biostatistics, there is probably no higher honor than the one to be given NIEHS Biostatistics Branch (BB) Staff Scientist David Umbach, Ph.D., by the American Statistical Association (ASA). At a ceremony during the annual ASA Joint Statistical Meeting in Washington on August 4, Umbach will become one of the elite group of ASA Fellows. The Fellows are ASA members who have been recognized for their outstanding contributions to an aspect of statistical work, leadership within the field, publications, involvement in ASA activities, and other professional activities and memberships.

Umbach, who joined NIEHS in 1992, was nominated by BB Branch Chief Clarice Weinberg, Ph.D., an ASA Fellow (http://www.amstat.org/careers/fellows.cfm) Exit NIEHS herself since 1995. Describing her colleague's election, Weinberg said, "This is an extremely high honor - one achieved by only a tiny fraction of statisticians in their lifetime of work. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have collaborated with David have experienced firsthand his broad knowledge, wise counsel and deep insights, but it is gratifying when the recognition also comes from high places."

The focus of Umbach's work is developing new statistical tools for detecting and characterizing gene-environment interactions through epidemiologic studies, especially in regard to the design of case-control and case-parents investigations. Umbach is also a key contributor to studies of such topics as genetic susceptibility to cancer, environmental and genetic influences on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, effects of pesticides on respiratory diseases in the Agricultural Health Study cohort and the hormonal effects of soy formula in infants.

According to ASA rules, no more than one-third of one percent of the ASA membership may be elected each year to become new ASA Fellows. Fewer than 3,000 members have been so honored since the society began electing fellows in 1914. In addition to Umbach and Weinberg, NIEHS BB Principal Investigator Shyamal Peddada, Ph.D., who was elected in 2005, is an ASA Fellow.

ASA (http://www.amstat.org/careers/fellows.cfm) Exit NIEHS, which was founded in Boston in 1839, is the second oldest, continuously operating professional society in the United States. The organization serves statisticians, quantitative scientists, and users of statistics across a wealth of academic areas and applications. With an international membership of 16,000, ASA applies its expertise to many diverse tasks - from assessing environmental risk factors and assuring quality measures in industry, to examining social issues and establishing statistical standards used at all government levels.



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