Himel MallickHimel Mallick at the Badlands National Park, August 2015.Graduate School: Where are you from?

Himel Mallick: I am from Siliguri, a small cosmopolitan town at the foothills of the Himalayas, located in the state of West Bengal, India.

GS: What degree(s) did you receive and when?

HM: I graduated with a Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree in Statistics from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India) in 2009 and a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in Statistics (Minors: Mathematics, Economics) from the Ramakrishna Mission Residential College (an autonomous affiliated college of the University of Calcutta (Kolkata, West Bengal, India) located in Narendrapur, West Bengal, India) in 2007. I am currently working towards my PhD and expect to graduate in summer 2015.

GS: How long have you been at UAB?

HM: I came to UAB to study Biostatistics in the fall of 2009.

GS: What is your research?

HM: My PhD dissertation is focused on developing novel statistical methods for complex biomedical data, an area of importance in today’s data-oriented society. The motivation for most of my methodological research comes from real-world problems where traditional statistical approaches are inadequate and/or inappropriate. I feel proud to be a modern-age data scientist who is delving into the depth of the subject to bring out its new aspects and utilize its enormous potentiality.

GS: Why did you choose UAB for your graduate studies?

HM: I have a background in mathematical statistics, having obtained my Bachelor's and Master’s degree from two mathematically rigorous institutions in India. When I was planning to pursue my doctoral education, my topmost priority was to do meaningful research, which is not only mathematically sound but also practically useful. In particular, I wanted to work in a multidisciplinary environment with opportunities to collaborate with professionals in other scientific disciplines. I found the Department of Biostatistics at UAB, which is ranked among the 20 leading Biostatistics departments in the country, as the perfect academic and training environment for a mathematical statistician to grow as a researcher by addressing real-world problems in biomedical sciences with innovative statistical methodologies. In addition, I was fascinated by the resources available at UAB for a young statistician excited about doing methodological research. Therefore, accepting an offer to pursue doctoral degree at UAB was a very easy decision.

GS: What awards or honors have you received?

HM: Apart from serving as an active senator (representing the Biostatistics department) of the Graduate Student Government (GSG) during 2011-15 and the Secretary of the Association of Indian Students (AIS) during 2010-11, I have received the following awards during my tenure at UAB:

  • Selected for three highly competitive Biostatistics summer internships: University of Arkansas for Medical Science (UAMS), Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and Mayo Clinic in 2013, 2014, and 2015 respectively.
  • Love of Learning Award, Phi Kappa Phi (PKP), May 2015.
  • Inducted to Phi Kappa Phi, February 2015.
  • Best Paper Award, American Statistical Association (ASA), January 2015.
  • Grants-in-aid of Research, Sigma Xi - The Scientific Research Society, December 2014.
  • DV Gokhale International Grants in Statistics Program Award, Institute of International Education (IIE), August 2013 & October 2014.
  • BBVA Compass Mortgage Financial Services Endowed Award in Graduate Education, UAB National Alumni Society, September 2014.
  • ‘Creativity is A Decision’ Award, UAB Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC), August 2014.
  • Distinguished Student Paper Award, International Indian Statistical Association (IISA), July 2014.
  • Naomi Fineberg Distinguished New Researcher Award, UAB Department of Biostatistics, December 2013.
  • UAB Caroline P. Ireland Research Travel Scholarship, May 2013.
  • Inducted to Delta Epsilon Iota Academic Honor Society, May 2013.
  • UAB Graduate Student Government (GSG) Travel Scholarship, April 2014 & July 2012.
  • First Place Award, UAB Graduate Student Research Days, March 2012.
  • Multiple NSF Travel Grants: Southern Research Council on Statistics (SRCOS), International Indian Statistical Association (IISA) and International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA) (2011-2013).
  • Tuition Scholarship & Travel Award, 16th Summer Institute in Statistical Genetics (SISG), University of Washington, Seattle, WA, June 2011.
  • Inducted to Golden Key International Honour Society, 2010.
  • UAB Graduate Fellowship in Biostatistics, 2009–10.

GS: What has been your most rewarding experience at UAB?

HM: My most rewarding experience at UAB has been working as the primary statistician for multiple projects in the medical school, where I was responsible for accurate and timely completion of data managements and statistical analyses through sound collaboration with the physicians and biologists, all in the absence of my advisor, committee, or other fellow graduate students. Many of these projects have resulted in high-quality journal publications, paving my path as an independent and collaborative scientist.

GS: Who was your greatest influence here at UAB and why?

HM: My greatest influence on campus at UAB has been my advisor Dr. Nengjun Yi.  He has guided me since my first year in the department, consistently providing me timely suggestions, encouragement, and support. I feel very fortunate to have him as my mentor and advisor. Drs. David Allison, Leslie McClure, David Redden, and Hemant Tiwari, who have inspired me on various occasions in and out of the classroom, have also had a strong influence on my graduate training. In addition, my internship advisors Dr. Ming Li (Indiana University Bloomington), Dr. Peter Mesenbrink (Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation), and Dr. Lindsay Renfro (Mayo Clinic) have influenced me tremendously through their guidance during my three fruitful summer internships.

GS: What is your motivation in your academics/research?

HM: Statistics is the driving force behind the ongoing ‘big data’ movement. Over the past decade, with the emergence of more and more complex data in varied scientific disciplines, an intense urge to embrace advanced statistical techniques has been envisioned within the statistical community. Naturally, there is an ever-increasing demand of statisticians to address new and emerging problems that are incredibly complicated. This is where I want to see my role as a future statistician, providing well-defined solutions to wicked real life problems. My long-term goal is to become a researcher whose work will be appreciated for its profound applicability and practical value, achieved through both independent and collaborative scholarly activities. To achieve this, I intend to continue my work on novel statistical methodology development in conjunction with my collaborative research in biomedical sciences.

GS: What are your plans after graduating and for the future?

HM: Upon graduation, I will be joining the lab of Professor Curtis Huttenhower in the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health as a postdoctoral research associate. I will also hold an appointment at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. After my postdoctoral research, I plan to begin my career as a data scientist in a vibrant research-oriented organization.

GS: Is there anything else you’d like to say?

HM: I am deeply appreciative of several individuals who in one way or another contributed toward my development as a scientist and a human being. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all. First, I would like to thank all my teachers who shaped my life starting from kindergarten through graduate school. I would like to thank all my collaborators at UAB and numerous great friends whom I met during these years in India and USA. I am forever grateful to my parents and family members for standing by me in good and trying times. Finally, I thank my wife for her unconditional support that helped me smoothly sail through this journey.

GS: What advice would you offer to other graduate students?

HM: Graduate student life is the best time to develop new skills to shape your future. Start growing up while you are still at the graduate school, not after you graduate. Always seek out new perspectives and pinpoint some areas you need to improve and be prepared to challenge yourself to get the best results. It’s important to embrace your mistakes and failures, learn from them, and keep going. Take advantage of all the opportunities that UAB and the greater Birmingham area have to offer. Look for other collaboration opportunities in and outside of UAB by attending conferences and seminars. Get involved in other professional activities (e.g. reviewing research articles, joining professional organizations, chairing sessions at conferences, etc.) that are beyond the scope of your graduate training. Surround yourself with people who make you feel blessed. Make friends and have time for family. Above all, do not let negativity affect your mind and make a promise to become positive & live a more fulfilled and less stressful life.