Analyzing big health data for the big picture

MHC’s Andrea Foulkes was awarded more than $450,000 from the National Institutes of Health to expand data analyses of disease and public health problems.

Mount Holyoke College Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Andrea Foulkes was awarded a $452,759 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

This grant, specifically from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, will be used to research new statistical methods for analyzing massive data sets in order to reveal previously unknown patterns in medicine and public health. The grant was announced by U.S. Congressman and former member of the  Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees, Richard E. Neal.

Foulkes, who is also chair of the department, sees the grant as a potential watershed moment, enabling a new level of investigation that will lead to a better and more complete understanding of when, how and why diseases take hold.

“This could have an enormous impact on public health,” said Foulkes. “For example, by examining how the body responds to immune activation, we may be able to develop new ways of understanding the genetic basis of cardiometabolic diseases and complex inflammatory disorders, both of which present major public health concerns.”

Jon Western, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty for Mount Holyoke, noted that the grant exemplifies the commitment of the College’s faculty to solve greater problems in the world through applying their research in innovative ways.

“Professor Foulkes is an outstanding scholar and teacher and we are thrilled to see her research supported by NIGMS,” he said. “Continuing in the long-standing tradition of Mount Holyoke faculty applying their research to address significant challenges, she is pioneering new and innovative statistical modeling and data science techniques that will help us better understand some of the most vexing public health problems. We are excited to see where this research will lead.”

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