Meet Lingyun Lyu, Pitt Biostats MS graduate and PhD candidate


Lingyun Lyu (BIOST PhD '22) is a second-year Ph.D. student in Biostatistics at Pitt Public Health. She came to Pitt in 2016 and earned her M.S. in Biostatistics in 2018. She loved the master’s program and thinks that it’s really well-designed. In addition to many essential statistical theory and applied courses, this program also includes a research-based thesis project. That’s what really made her time in the master’s program worthwhile and one of the big reasons why she wanted to study at Pitt Public Health. “I think that is very helpful, because we need to find a research question and not only can we apply what we’ve learned from courses, but also to explore some new knowledge and apply innovative methods to solve the problem.”

Lyu worked on her master thesis project with Dr. Jonathan Yabes, who was also graduated from this department and is a faculty in both Public Health and Medical School, to address the imperfect compliance in clinical trials with instrumental variable and propensity score-based methods. “Dr. Yabes is an excellent teacher and experienced researcher. I am very grateful for his guidance and help.” She said, “In fact, I think all the faculties and staffs in our School are very responsive and supportive. You can always find a mentor to guide you once you determined your research interests.”

Lyu also values the long-term, collaborative partnerships that the Department of Biostatistics has with other departments on campus, such as medical school, nursing school, and other departments here at Pitt Public Health. “These partnerships provide tremendous opportunities for our students to gain valuable research experience with real-world data.” She has co-authored four research articles as results of these collaborations since she joined Pitt Public Health. In 2018, Lyu received the Outstanding Student Award in Pitt Public Health. She was also recognized by the American Statistical Association (ASA) as the recipient of Lingzi Lu Memorial Award.

Lyu didn’t always know she was interested in biostatistics, and definitely didn’t expect to be getting her Ph.D. in the field. Prior to Pitt, Lyu received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in pharmacy in China. Her enthusiasm for biostatistics grew when she was a master student in pharmaceutical science. She realized that biostatistics has taken a powerful position in pharmaceutical research. A lack of systematic knowledge and skills in biostatistics often made her feel struggled when she tried to analyze her data. “It was not uncommon that many pharmaceutical researchers select inappropriate statistical methods in their research because they don’t know their differences and assumptions.” She started to feel like it was data analysis that was her passion. “I think data analysis is very important not just to public health but in any field.” Lyu points out. “It’s important to make sure that the findings are real, and the truth is not distorted due to inappropriate statistical analysis methods.”

Lyu also finds a lot of inspiration from her classmates and instructors, particularly Dr. Shyamal Peddada. Last year, she was struggling with some theory courses for the qualifying exam. During their routine GSR meetings, Peddada always encouraged her. “He said, ‘when things become tough, you need to be tough. I believe that you can make it.’ ” Lyu recalled. She took Peddada’s Constrained Inference course in the second term and found it very helpful to understand many theory problems from a different perspective.

Currently, Lyu is working on novel optimization methods for dynamic treatment regimes under the supervision of Dr. Abdus S Wahed. “I always have a passion for clinical trials. I'm so excited about this project as the dynamic treatment regime is an extremely important emerging field.” Lyu said. “Dr. Wahed is a great mentor and remarkable researcher in this field. I look forward to fruitful years ahead in this program.”

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