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Arnold School of Public Health

Epidemiology and biostatistics assistant professor Stella Self brings modelling expertise to Greenville Satellite campus

January 10, 2020 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu

Stella Self’s professional interests have been clear from the start. The Greenville, South Carolina native studied mathematics at Furman University and then moved right into her master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematical sciences (statistics concentration) at Clemson University – earning perfect GPAs across all three degrees and multiple graduate research/discovery awards.

Her eventual research focus on Bayesian spatio-temporal modeling began to reveal itself during graduate school. Throughout her doctoral program, Self had the opportunity to serve as a graduate research assistant for the Companion Animal Parasite Council, working to develop disease forecasting methodologies for several vector borne diseases. During the summer before completing her Ph.D., Self added another area of interest: maternal neonatal health. She was spending the summer as a data science core research associate for the OBGYN group at Prisma Health Upstate and found the experience interesting both professionally and personally – she was expecting her first child at the time.

Both of these interest areas lend themselves to Bayesian methods, a well-established approach to statistical analysis of which Self has considerable expertise. Fields that benefit from Bayesian methods are many and varied (e.g., engineering, medicine, sports, law). Bayesian methods are especially well suited to analyzing data across space and time. Self’s research focuses on balancing model flexibility with computational efficiency.

In addition to applications in vector borne diseases and maternal neonatal health, Self has also used Bayesian approaches in ecology and conservation research. Other statistical methods she has mastered include spatial clustering analysis, random effects models, and Markov chain and Monte Carlo methods.

Just three days after her August 2019 graduation, Self joined the Arnold School’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the satellite campus in Greenville. The School’s dual focus on academic excellence and high-quality research along with department colleagues with overlapping research interests appealed to Self. In addition, the opportunity to continue collaborations with previously established partners at Prisma Health Upstate made working at the Arnold School an ideal environment for collaboration.

“As a member of the Arnold School of Public Health-Greenville, I work closely with Prisma Health Upstate, especially in the area of maternal-neonatal health,” Self says. “Some of my ongoing projects include assessment of the timing of elective induction of labor on maternal and neonatal outcomes and developing an algorithm to predict the glucose tolerance of low birth weight babies.” 

In her new role, she is particularly looking forward to working with students, including teaching a Clinical Trials course. Self also enjoys training students, whom she invites to contact her about opportunities to become involved her current research. “I hope to both advance my own methodological research plan and use to my expertise in statistical analysis to help other researchers achieve their goals,” she says.

“We are very fortunate to have a biostatistician as talented as Stella Self joining our department,” says Anthony Alberg, chair of the department of epidemiology and biostatistics, “She has phenomenal skills in statistical methodology and the ability to apply those skills to timely topics such as disease forecasting, which is becoming increasingly important in infectious and parasitic disease control during an era of climate change. Along with her excellent skills as a teacher, mentor and collaborator, she is a perfect fit for the department and for the Greenville campus.”


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