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Environmental Factor

Environmental Factor

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October 2017

Biostatistics postdoc moves to academia

Former NIEHS trainee Abhishek Kaul is now an assistant professor in the Washington State University Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

Abhishek Kaul Besides the paper published in Biostatistics, Kaul is a co-author on four papers available through the arXiv repository. (Photo courtesy of Washington State University)

In August, former NIEHS trainee Abhishek Kaul, Ph.D., joined Washington State University as an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics .

Research at the forefront

Kaul came to NIEHS as a postdoctoral fellow in 2015 to work with Shyamal Peddada, Ph.D., former head of the Biostatistics and Computational Biology Branch. Kaul’s Ph.D. research at Michigan State University focused on developing statistical methods for estimation and inference in high dimensional data sets.

NIEHS offered Kaul an opportunity to apply these theoretical methods to problems involving real data. Specifically, he developed statistical methods for analyzing data from studies of the microbiome. Such analyses are crucial in this rapidly expanding field, which studies the changes in bacteria living in or on the human body.

His expertise with methods development, combined with his experience applying these methods to microbiome data, earned Kaul the new position at Washington State University.

Success in a short time

According to Peddada, Kaul was able to accomplish a lot and be successful in a short amount of time at NIEHS. "He's a very smart researcher and an excellent communicator," Peddada said, noting that in only two years at NIEHS, Kaul published a manuscript and developed collaborations.

"I like to bring in trainees who are keenly interested in an academic career," Peddada said. "I encourage them to think independently to solve the problem at hand. Further, I urge them to make contacts with researchers outside of NIEHS and allow them to write some papers independent of me." He added that Kaul's independent and creative thinking helped him land the faculty position and will lead to future success.

Kaul said that although he had been looking forward to applying for awards and grants, he could not pass up the opportunity to step into independence.

Shyamal Peddada Pedadda has moved to the University of Pittsburgh as the new chair  of the Department of Biostatistics. (Photo courtesy of Karen Perkins, Pitt Public Health)

Papers get rejected, do not get dejected

Kaul reflected on how his time at NIEHS helped prepare him to move into academia. "Don't put all your eggs in one basket," he said. "I tried to utilize the ideal location of NIEHS to work with people in the neighboring universities, so I could work on multiple projects with multiple people."

This approach helped Kaul to build his network and strengthen his application. He advised trainees looking to go into academic positions to keep trying. "Papers get rejected, don’t get dejected," he said. "Continue to knock on as many doors as necessary to reach your destination."

Citation: Kaul A, Davidov O, Peddada SD . 2017. Structural zeros in high-dimensional data with applications to microbiome studies. Biostatistics 18(3):422−433.

(Cody Nichols, Ph.D., is an Intramural Research Training Award fellow in the NIEHS Genetics, Environment, and Respiratory Disease Group.)


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