Di Zhu has become the first-ever student from the College of Public Health to receive a Student Membership Award from the American Public Health Association’s Applied Public Health Statistics section. Ten students nationwide are selected annually for the honor, which includes membership in the professional society. The award recognizes education and work experience, interest in health statistics, and future in public health practice or research.
Zhu began this spring in the master of public health in applied biostatistics program, where she has developed her analytical skills through classroom work and research internships across the city.
“She represents the next generation of biostatistical students,” says Jingwei Wu, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, who nominated Zhu for the honor. “She is versed in the principles and practices of biostatistics research and has a deep commitment to the improvement of the quality of health care people need to live full and dignified lives,” Wu wrote in his nomination. “Her scientific curiosity, drive and dedication are undeniable.”
Zhu studied medicine as an undergraduate at China Pharmaceutical University, majoring in the science and development of traditional Chinese medicine. She studied chemistry, botany and biology, but she wanted a deeper understanding of the results her experiments were producing—a view of the bigger picture in healthcare.
“I wanted to know how to analyze the data,” she says. “So I chose to study biostatistics.”
Zhu says that her classwork has helped her learn to analyze real datasets and provide quantitative evidence to support scientific conclusions. She took a summer research internship in the Center for Asian Health at Temple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, where she examined racial/ethnic disparities in oral cancer screening between low-income Asian Americans and their white counterparts. She also reviewed literature, collected data, and got experience helping design a pilot study and preparing paperwork for IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval. “I was able to participate in the whole process,” she says.
This fall, Zhu began a research assistantship at the Center of Preventive Ophthalmology and Biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She wants to pursue a doctorate and a career in pharmaceuticals, feeling that applied biostatistics has been an ideal way to prepare her for that work and pull together her interests, even though, as she says, “my mom really wanted me to do computer science.”