Interview with…Isabel Martínez Silva

Isabel Martínez Silva is a researcher, statistical consultant and PhD candidate at the Biostatistics Unit of the University of Santiago de Compostela. Contact Isabel

1. Why do you like Biostatistics?

I find Biostatistics particularly interesting in the sense that not only doest it allow you to learn about Statistics but it also gives you  the opportunity to cooperate with professionals that require of our statistical knowledge for their research in the Bio sciences (Medicine, Biology, Odontology, Veterinary, etc.). It is true that there is a need for advances in Statistics and we work on that in our research projects, but it is also essential to share our knowledge and train professionals from other fields in the latest statistical techniques in order to provide better and more accurate results for their research work and so as to promote interdisciplinary, which is crucial for the improvement of any discipline.

2. Could you give us some insight in your current field of research?

My PhD work focuses on smoothed quantile regression and its applications in Biomedicine.

One of the most known examples for the general public of the applications of the technique in this field would be the study of growth curves. In general, every children´s growth is followed up by their paediatricians since they are born. In these revisions, measurements of weight, height, and age are taken and allow them to check the growth of infant population. The need for smoothing in this case  as well as the differences between boys and girls are patent.

My latest research in this area was presented at the JEDE II conference last July, and focuses on quantile regression hypothesis testing. We basically wonder whether boys and girls´growth distributions and percentiles are actually different. In the case the distributions were not different, we would not need to calculate different percentiles for each sex, and in case they were, it does not necessarily mean that the percentiles have to be different. In order to answer these two questions, bootstrap hypothesis testing has been applied that allows us to assess the statistically significant differences both between distributions and between each of the percentiles by sex.

3. Do you find it difficult to combine research and advice in Biostatistics?

Yes, I think it is particularly difficult, mainly because of the system inflexibility and the centers internal bureaucracy. For instance, in the medical environment, Biostatistics is usually understood as part of Epidemiology and in the statistical world, Biostatistics is also considered a subset of Statistics. I, personally, believe both notions are incomplete. Biostatistics starts within the Statistics frontiers but then crosses them when being complemented with the contributions from Epidemiology that do not have a place within purely mathematical subjects. Furthermore, in modern Biostatistics the use and creation of specific software for the implementation of statistical techniques is indispensable, and this is something outside Epidemiology aims. From my point of view, all these facts position biostatisticians within Statistics but always building bridges with the Bio environment to whom they must listen and try to understand so as to give value to the appropriate statistical techniques for each particular study.

4. What would be the 3 main characteristics or skills you would use to describe a good biostatistician?

Statistics, Computing, and interdisciplinarity.

5. What do you think of the situation of young biostatisticians in Spain?

I believe it is very complicated and is mainly centered around universities.From my point of view, Biostatistics is nearly absent in Spain´s private sector and its presence in research centers and/or public foundations is unequal. Incorporating this to the state of the Spanish current market, makes the future of young biostatisticians outside the university really tough, contrary to what happens in Europe and US.

6. Which do you think are the main qualities of a good mentor?

Accesible, motivational, and innovative.

7. Finally, is there any topic you would like to see covered in the blog?

I find that it has covered a wide range of areas for the very short time that has been going on. Congratulations, you are doing a great job!!

Selected publications:

  • Martínez-Silva I., Lustres-Pérez V., Lorenzo-Arribas A., Roca-Pardiñas J., Cadarso-Suárez C. Flexible quantile regression models: application to the study of the sea urchin, Paracentrotus lividus (Lamarck, 1816). SORT (Under review).
  • Carballo-Quintás M, Martínez-Silva I, Cadarso-Suárez C, Álvarez-Figueiras M, Ares- Pena FJ, López Martín E. A study of neurotoxic biomarkers, c-fos and GFAP after acute exposure to GSM radiation at 900 MHz in the picrotoxin model of rat brains. Neurotoxicology, 32 (4),   pp:478-494 , August 2011. D.O.I.: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuro.2011.04.003.
  • Cubiella Fernández J. , Núñez Calvo L. , González Vázquez E. ,  García García M. J. , Alves Pérez M. T. , Martínez Silva I. , Fernández Seara J. Risk factors associated with the development of ischemic colitis. World J Gastroenterol 16(36), pp. 4564-4569. September 2010.
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