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Arnold School of Public Health

Rahul Ghosal brings functional, distributional data analysis expertise to Arnold School as assistant professor of biostatistics

January 20, 2023 | Erin Bluvas,

The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics welcomed Rahul Ghosal to their ranks at the start of the academic year. The assistant professor specializes in developing statistical methods with applications in the health sciences/biosciences.

These applications include modeling wearable data for gait, aging and Alzheimer’s disease. He is also interested in identifying clinically relevant patterns of physical activity and sleep, which he analyzes for associations with cognitive, behavioral and neuropsychiatric impacts. Ghosal’s methods include functional, distributional, survival and longitudinal data analysis as well as variable selection, nonparametric inference, shape restriction regression, Bayesian inference, survival analysis and environmental modeling. 

"We consider ourselves very fortunate to have recruited an individual with the outstanding training and expertise in biostatistics as Dr. Ghosal," says department chair Anthony Alberg. "He is a valuable asset to the department, school and university for his independent and collaborative research, and as a teacher and mentor.”

After growing up in Kolkata, India, Ghosal built on his talent for mathematics by attending the Indian Statistical Institute in his hometown. There, he completed back-to-back bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics, building a strong foundation in theoretical statistics and gaining research experience as an intern with GE Global Research.  

For his doctoral degree, Ghosal moved to the United States to complete a Ph.D. in Statistics at North Carolina State University, where he gained expertise in functional data analysis.

“This area of statistics offers a novel and efficient way of modelling data smoothly, varying over continuous indexes such as time, age, spatial locations, among many others,” he says.

As a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, Ghosal began developing his own novel methods in the emerging area of distributional data analysis research – incorporating diverse applications in wearable devices and neuroimaging. Collaborations with other innovative researchers yielded a diverse array of applications for the statistical methods he was rapidly mastering.

When looking for his first tenure-track appointment, the Arnold School caught Ghosal’s eye because of its multidisciplinary approach. He was also impressed by the university and school’s wealth of resources, such as the Office for the Study of Aging's Alzheimer’s Disease Registry.

“I have already identified a few faculty members with overlapping interests from different departments, such as epidemiology and biostatistics, exercise science, statistics and computer science,” he says. “Besides my research, I love to teach and always look forward to interacting with students.”

As Ghosal settles into his new life on Columbia, he also looks forward to continuing his hobbies (e.g., chess, soccer, cooking) and making connections with others.

“I am really enjoying my life at USC,” he says. “The whole community of faculty, students and staff have been very welcoming.”

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