Department of Public Health Sciences

Department of

Public Health Sciences

DEPARTMENT OF

Public Health Sciences

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Students search for missing data


by Tim Rosillo 

Laura Holder, a current MSc biostatistics student, has always been interested in public health research and statistics, and she wanted to find a graduate program that combined these two disciplines. For Laura, the Biostatistics Program in the Department of Public Health Sciences seemed like the best fit, since biostatistics can be applied to an immense range of topics and projects.

Laura began her academic career at McMaster University, where she graduated with a BSc in psychology, neuroscience, and behaviour, with a minor in statistics. While completing her undergraduate training, Laura took courses in algebra, calculus, differential equations, probability, statistics, and survey sampling.  Laura was drawn to the MSc Biostatistics Program offered in the Department of Public Health Sciences since its curriculum provided both a good foundation in epidemiological research and statistical skill development.

During her 12 month program, Laura has enjoyed the “diversity in coursework, which has been enhanced by the inter-departmental nature of the program”.  She notes that the courses offered by the Departments of Public Health Science and Mathematics and Statistics are well integrated and very complementary.  The course work has exposed her to a diverse and comprehensive range of subject matter, and she likes the opportunity for collaboration that the small program offers. 

For Laura’s practicum, she is working with Dr. Michael McIsaac, whose research interest’s lie in methodology to handle missing data, and Dr. William Pickett, the co-principal investigator on the Health Behaviours in School-Aged Children Survey in Canada (HBSC). The HBSC is a cross-national survey of adolescent health conducted in collaboration with the World Health Organization. Laura explains that “missing data is a virtually inevitable obstacle in survey research, and neglecting to properly account for missing data during analysis may result in false findings and conclusions. Certain characteristics of large complex surveys, like the HBSC, offer unique challenges when dealing with missing data.”  Laura’s practicum is focused on the missing data in the HBSC, specifically, how missing data may impact conclusions drawn about the relationship between childhood hunger and certain negative health outcomes. 

After graduating from the program, Laura hopes to use the fundamental skills she has developed during her time at Queen’s to work as an analyst for a government or research agency that is involved in informing public health policy development.

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