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Guadalupe Gómez

Biostatistician, Professor of Statistics and Operations Research at the UPC and Vice-President of the Catalan Society of Statistics

Guadalupe Gómez is also director of the joint UPC-UB masters degree in Statistics and Operations Research and co-founder of the BioStatNet research network.


Statistics is trendy. What made 632 secondary students sign up for the third Survey and Experiments Nursery statistics contest? [1]. Young people, through their teachers, are discovering the draw not only of experimenting, but also of quantifying the results.

As Google Chief Economist Hal Varian said “...I keep saying that the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians.” He based this on the huge number of statisticians working for his company, on their good salaries (also see the information published by the American Statistics Association) and high employment rate in developed companies but, above all, on the new generation of statisticians capable of using sophisticated mathematical models and powerful computers to find significant patterns in huge volumes of data.

Also, TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) mathematician Arthur Benjamin explains that a basic understanding of the main concepts of probability and statistics (variability, randomness and uncertainty) could have helped avoid the current crisis. And if that weren’t enough, Brad Pitt recently portrayed a coach that uses statistics to help a modest team stand out in the American baseball league.

However, there is still some prejudice against statistics. As it is true that information is power, and can therefore lead to temptation, we must create tools to protect it. The first pillar necessary to do this is good training; the second, preventative measures; and the third, collaboration, coordination, expertise and proximity in research. The foundations of the second pillar include the professional codes of conduct promoted by W. Edwards Deming in 1958 at the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, which have been adopted by the most important statistics associations. In the same line, one of the driving forces behind the Catalan Society of Statistics is, precisely, acting as a body of reference, debate and consultation for any scientific and professional aspects related to statistics. Nevertheless, the second pillar isn’t enough without good training. Young graduates in statistics from the University of Barcelona (UB)-Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB)-University of Vic (UVic) have a professional profile with good technical training and the ability to analyze the big picture, quickly detect changing trends and suggest new solutions.

Driven by a magnificent personal relationship, and taking advantage of the respective strong points of people and teams at both institutions, five years ago Statistics professors from the UPC and the UB decided to launch into the thrilling adventure of the joint UPC-UB masters degree in Statistics and Operations Research [2], with the aim of training highly specialized professionals with the ability to adapt to constantly developing technology. In a dynamic, competitive world, our graduates are highly valued and, although they don’t yet command the same salaries as our international colleagues, have an unemployment rate closer to that of the Netherlands than that of Spain. This degree is the heir of those previously offered by those centers independently, which had shown their quality in the best possible way: through their graduates’ success. These include: PhDs at prestigious universities like Harvard; at centers of excellence like the MD Anderson Cancer Center; leaders in biostatistics at research centers for oncology, neurodegenerative diseases and HIV; and, even, executives at pharmaceutical companies.

The human potential and expertise of biostatisticians can be of great use to the members of the BioRegion of Catalonia. The recently formed interdisciplinary biostatistics network BioStatNet [2] promotes research of excellence, synergies between national and international biostatisticians and organizations that make up the BioRegion, and collaboration opportunities with companies in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical and biomedical sector. Catalonia has two nodes in the BioStatNet network: Catalunya-BIO, which brings together biostatistics and bioinformatics researchers at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, the University of Barcelona, the University of Lleida and the University of Vic; and Catalunya-SEA, with researchers and consultants from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the University of Girona. This network includes biostatisticians working throughout the research continuum, from the most methodology based to the most applied, which provide researchers in the BioRegion with access to cutting-edge statistics techniques that can be applied to anything from selecting information in genetic sequencing to cancer research or designing clinical trials in search of good therapeutic guidelines for cardiovascular disease.

Thus, good training, good rules, a good professional society and an interdisciplinary network committed to research of excellence protect us from fraudulent or incorrect interpretations of data, and give us the tools to compare all ideas, arguments, proposals and products with empirical evidence. The BioRegion of Catalonia will be even more competitive if we are able to provide proof of product efficiently: obtaining as much information as possible with the lowest possible investment in data collection. In fact, the motto of the UPC-UB masters degree is the best information for the best decision.

So now you know: if you want to stand out on the world stage in biotechnology but have a limited budget, follow Brad Pitt’s example and hire a statistician.

[1] Cerco a la ‘ley de Murphy’ (El Periódico, 2012)

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