Biostatistics is a field of study that pays well
10 months ago, 8 Mar 18:22
Dr Daisy Salifu is a senior biostatistician and director of the biostatistics unit at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi. Her specialisation is entomology (scientific study of insects), parasitology (scientific study of parasitic organisms) and ecology (the science of interrelationship between organisms and their environment). Dr Salifu, a Malawian, taught applied statistics at the University of Malawi’s Bunda College before coming to Kenya in 2003. For five years, she taught statistics as a visiting lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), where she also earned her PhD in statistics. In 2009, she got a job at ICIPE as a senior research assistant (biostatistician), a role she has held to date. “Biostatistics involves the statistical processes and methods applied in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of biological data in areas such as human biology, health, and medicine. Biostatisticians derive statistical methods or models that are then used to make sensible stories out of biological or medical data,” she explains. As a senior biostatistician at ICIPE, a research centre that is ever buzzing with research undertakings, Dr Salifu’s roles revolve around providing statistical support to scientists and researchers, who may include students, as they undertake their research activities in laboratories or in the field. She says, “I provide guidance to these teams at every stage of their study, from when they draft research proposals to when they execute their research projects. I also supervise the processing and analysis of the data derived from experiments. My job mainly entails ensuring that scientists stick to the research protocol.” A research protocol, she explains, is a document that spells out the background, rationale, objectives, design, methodology, statistical considerations and organisation of a research project. Practical applications of biostatistics include medicine, food and nutrition and genetics. “Biomedical scientists need biostatistics to test and evaluate new drugs for release. Biostatistics is applied in genetics to determine the likelihood that any given person will be affected by a hereditary disease,” she says. “A decision on the suitability of, say, a maize variety, in certain environmental conditions is arrived at after analysing biostatistics,” she adds. “Statistical models are used to compare prior weather conditions with current weather to predict future weather and therefore its suitability for certain food crops,” she explains. It is also the role of biostatisticians to develop statistical methodologies to address concerns arising from medical and public health, “with the ultimate objective of improving the medical and nutritional health of the public”. Owing to her academic background in agriculture, biological science and natural resource management, Dr Salifu finds biostatistics easier and exciting too. “Biostatistics is the science of life. Dealing with scientists and researchers in these areas is always a thrill,” she says. She points out that Kenya is blazing the trail in this profession in the region. “Kenya has large pool of human resource in biostatistics compared with Malawi. Many Kenyan universities train students on statistics at both graduate and post graduate levels, leading to a large ...
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