Natàlia Vilor-Tejedor holds a BSc in Mathematics and Applied Statistics from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Additionally, she holds a MSc in Omics Data Analysis from the Universitat de Vic where she also worked at the Bioinformatics and Medical Statistics Research group developing new methods for analyzing the individual evidence of SNPs in biological pathways and was involved in some GWAS data analyses. Currently, she is a PhD student in the Biomedicine programme at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra. At the same time, she is working at the Barcelona Biomedical Research Park (in the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology) where she is working on new statistical methods for integrating different types of Omics, Neuroimaging and Clinical Data from the European BREATHE project. She received one of the two Biostatnet prizes for the best presentations at the JEDE III conference for her talk on “Efficient and Powerful Testing for Gene Set Analysis in Genome-Wide Association Studies”.
- Why did you choose Biostatistics?
Because I enjoy my work and I think that my research can help to improve different aspects of biomedicine and, in general, the population’s life quality.
- Could you give us some insight into your current field of research?
Now I’m just starting my PhD thesis focused on the development of new mathematical methods to better understand the commonalities between Genetics and Neuroimaging, and how both affect Environmental phenotypes.
This is a relatively “new” area that has not been examined in depth, so I’m sure statistics can play an important role.
- Coming from a Mathematics/Statistics background, was it difficult to start in the area of Genomics?
The most difficult part is to find a good mentor who is an expert in both areas and who is willing to help you. After that, you need to become familiar and understand different biological concepts that probably you haven’t come across before. Then, you have to extrapolate these concepts to a mathematical point of view, and finally (what is the most important and hardest part), you have to be able convey the information to both, geneticists and mathematicians.
All of these steps require an extra effort that is often difficult to overcome.
- Which do you think are the main qualities of a good mentor?
I think the most important quality is knowing how to impart the indispensable knowledge whilst being clear and well organised, but also it is important to instill confidence and provide development opportunities.
- What do you think of the situation of young biostatisticians in Spain?
Although we are at a very delicate social-economic moment, I think we have a talented and very well prepared generation of young biostatisticians supported by important national institutions such as the Spanish Biometric Society and the Societat Catalana d’Estadística (in my case) and national networks such as BioStatNet and online resources like this blog that are helping us in our training.
- From your experience, would you recommend the area of Genomics as a professional option for statisticians?
I think this is a very interesting, motivating and emerging field of research where a lot of statisticians and mathematicians are required. From my personal experience, the vast majority of mathematicians/statisticians are not comfortable with biology, but I think that promoting interdisciplinarity is essential to ensure biomedical research.
- Finally, is there any topic you would like to see covered in the blog?
Of course, even more genetics!
Selected publication and projects:
- Vilor-Tejedor, N., Calle, M.L.. Global adaptive rank truncated product method for gene-set analysis in association studies. Biom. J. doi: 10.1002/bimj.201300192. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=vilor-tejedor