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Arnold School of Public Health


I Am Public Health: Yanan Zhang

May 1, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Yanan Zhang began her health career with a bachelor of medicine from Shandong University, which is located in the Chinese province where she grew up. During her senior year, she interned at a hospital and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and these experiences shifted her career aspirations to focus on promoting public health.

As a Shandong University Outstanding Graduate, she then enrolled at Fudan University to earn a master’s degree in environmental and occupational health. During this time, she helped conduct several research projects, which provided many answers but posed even more questions for the budding scientist.

She was working on a project to assess the genetic damage among workers who were exposed to vinyl chloride, when the questions began to surface. How should she handle the missing values? Mixed models? Poisson regression?

“These questions triggered my interests and curiosity about biostatistics, the behind-the-scenes story of statistical models,” says Zhang. “Also, I feel that the methodologies and principles of biostatistics are essential for all scientific research, from research design to data analysis.”

Armed with this new perspective, Zhang decided to take a deep dive into biostatistics by earning a master’s degree in the field. She chose the Arnold School’s Master of Science in Public Health in Biostatistics (MSPH) due to the strong reputation afforded to the program, epidemiology and biostatistics department, school, and university.

Our department offers opportunities to work with professors. They are very nice people and would give you professional guidance and insightful suggestions.

-Yanan Zhang, MSPH in Biostatistics Student

“The professors have strong academic backgrounds and conduct great research,” Zhang elaborates. “I also looked at the curriculum design, which suits me very well. It covers everything from the basic statistical theory to the more advanced analysis models.”

With just a few months left before she graduates in August, Zhang has developed a knack for statistical models (Survival Analysis, Longitudinal Analysis, Causal Inference) and an interest in developing and applying models in biomedical and public health studies. She plans to explore these areas even further by pursuing a Ph.D. in Biostatistics at the Arnold School this fall. 

“Our department offers opportunities to work with professors. They are very nice people and would give you professional guidance and insightful suggestions,” Zhang says of her experience at the Arnold School. “If you need help from them for your own research, don't hesitate to let them know.”

For her part, she has had the opportunity to work with Associate Professor Jiajia Zhang (no relation) and Assistant Professor Xuemei Sui on cardiorespiratory fitness as well as Professor Suzanne McDermott and Associate Professor Bo Cai on a project centered around muscular dystrophy. Her various collaborations, both in China and in the U.S., have led to two peer-reviewed publications with others under review or in preparation.

With Jiajia Zhang as her mentor, Yanan Zhang is receiving guidance in all facets of her education. “Dr. Zhang is an expert in Survival Models. She has given me lots of help throughout my graduate study,” says Zhang. “We have regular meetings every week to discuss any progress or problems in study and research work. I also worked as a teaching assistant in her course for one semester, and we talked about the techniques and ideas in teaching and tutoring.”

Keep your curiosity and passion, and make every day count.

-Yanan Zhang, MSPH in Biostatistics Student

Outside the classroom, Zhang has discovered the secrets to maintaining a healthy balance and staying enthusiastic. Because she understands the connections between exercise and health through her research and education, Zhang plays badminton, runs, and attends group exercise classes (often taught by Arnold School Ph.D. students). She is also taking a sign language class offered by a local church.

“Keep your curiosity and passion, and make every day count,” she says.