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Career Profile: Biostatistician - Richard Simon

Career Profile: Biostatistician - Richard Simon

Richard Simon, D. Sc., Biostatistician, Chief, Biometric Research Branch, Head Molecular Statistics and Bioinformatics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I chose to become a biostatistician because of an inspiring teacher and the opportunities presented to me during my post-graduate years. In high school, I wasn’t really interested in learning until I began the study of geometry. My older sister was an excellent student, to whom I was always compared. I was questioned, “Why don’t you do better in school like your sister? Why don’t you apply yourself more?” The turning point came when I was in the 10th grade. I had a wonderful geometry teacher who loved her subject. I came to school early to view a TV program and solve math problems with my geometry teacher. This was the time period of the Sputnik flight into outer space and the rediscovery of the importance of mathematics. It was a time when math became very important to me. I realized that I wanted to learn more.

When I finished my undergraduate degree, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had won an National Science Foundation fellowship and decided to stay at Washington University to complete my Ph.D. in mathematics.

College Education
• Bachelor of Science, Applied Mathematics and Engineering Science, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri
• Doctor of Science, Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

My typical workday involves…

My typical workday during my early career at NIH involved analyzing other scientist’s data and included the following tasks:

• Understanding the problems brought to me
• Working out a statistical analysis of the data after researching the best method to use
• Writing results so that the scientist understood my statistical analysis, so that it could be included in a publication
• Reading drafts of the scientists’ papers to make sure that my results were included in an accurate and appropriate manner

During this time, I established a network of colleagues that would continue to be a resource to me. I worked hard to do a good job, and developed a reputation for productivity. It paid off in many ways as my career progressed.

I believe that the skills Biostatistician’s use are the ability to:

• Use a computer for analyzing data and to write computer programs
• Use statistical analysis to understand data
• State clear objectives when beginning a study
• Actively participate in a study with a full understanding of all the science involved

What I like best/least about my work…

What I like best about my work is the challenge and the in-depth thinking. I like to take risks in order to learn something new.

What I like least about my work is sometimes having limited influence on broad issues involving medical research; but there is not much I dislike about my work.

My career goals are…

My career goal is to continue working to solve problems, teach students and learn more everyday — even though I qualify to retire tomorrow.

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