Skip to Content

Arnold School of Public Health

I Am Public Health: Xizhi Luo

January 4, 2021 | Erin Bluvas,

Originally from the Anhui province in China, Xizhi Luo studied medicine at Guangzhou Medical University before looking at graduate programs. He was interested in the field of biostatistics and began researching universities in the United States.

“Medicine and math have always been the most intriguing subject in my mind,” Luo says. “Biostatistics is an interdisciplinary field that integrates these two different areas, combining clinical research, statistical quantification and problem solving into a health-focused context.”  

Luo entered into the field as a master’s student at Rutgers University. While there, he began learning about complex methodological approaches and the field of cancer genomics (i.e., the study of the genetic basis for cancer development). 

Medicine and math have always been the most intriguing subject in my mind. Biostatistics is an interdisciplinary field that integrates these two different areas.

-Xizhi Luo, Ph.D. in Biostatistics student

When looking at doctoral programs, Luo was interested in UofSC’s beautiful campus and the Arnold School’s high rankings as a school of public health. He was drawn to the Ph.D. in Biostatistics program due to the broad range of research interests pursued by faculty members, which would enable him to explore his own interests.

“There are ample opportunities for students to get involved in projects, and I think this is very important,” Luo says. “As a biostatistics graduate student, I can incorporate my knowledge to do groundbreaking work.”

This groundbreaking work includes Luo’s involvement in research to examine the effectiveness of pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines for COVID-19. During the summer of 2019, he interned at Sanofi-Pasteur as a statistician studying the risks and effectiveness for an influenza vaccine trial.

As a biostatistics graduate student, I can incorporate my knowledge to do groundbreaking work.

-Xizhi Luo, Ph.D. in Biostatistics student 

After his graduation, he plans to join a pharmaceutical company as a biostatistician in his two main areas of interest: cancer genomics and the clinical trial design of studies that examine the impact of drugs or other treatments.

He gained expertise in these areas as a graduate research assistant, enjoying the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics’ and the Arnold School’s collaborative work environments. This atmosphere enabled Luo to work with people from various professional backgrounds and resulted in three high-impact peer-reviewed publications (with four more in preparation). In particular, he found mentors in assistant professors Feifei Xiao (epidemiology and biostatistics) and Guoshuai Cai (environmental health sciences). 

Working with Xiao, he recently published a paper as first author in the top journal of their field, Bioinformatics, that developed novel statistical methods and computational tools for copy number variations analysis with data generated from modern biotechnologies. He is also involved in many application studies, such as a large-scale international study to reveal the association between genetic factors (i.e., copy number variation) and risk of lung cancer.

Further, Luo is contributing to a project developing novel immunology biomarkers for lung cancer using public data resource (published in Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy). The outcomes from these projects will have a significant impact in uncovering the roles of genetic biomarkers underlying human diseases and providing new directions for personalized medicine.

“My mentors have given me a lot of training to guide me how to be not only a successful Ph.D. student but also a qualified researcher,” Luo says. “Dr. Xiao inspired me to be an independent thinker and kept encouraging me to be a leader of my dissertation projects instead of a follower. Dr. Cai has always encouraged me to think innovatively and deeply, and I very much enjoyed the time we were brainstorming about the research topics.”

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.