As an undergraduate at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Tandin Dorji struggled to find a profession that fit his interests. Although he considered becoming a pediatrician, he changed course and focused on mathematics because he found solving equations to be fascinating. Yet, he still felt drawn toward the public health community.
Dorji achieved the best of both worlds by pursuing biostatistics, which combined his talent for math and his desire to contribute to the betterment of public health. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from UAB in 2015, he completed his master’s degree in biostatistics at the University of Vermont in 2017.
Recently, Dorji gained professional experience by offering statistical and analytic support to health programs as part of a fellowship hosted through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Research Participation Program.
The CDC Research Participation Program provides students, recent graduates and university faculty with educational and training opportunities to participate in project-specific CDC research, current public health research and developmental activities. Dorji’s fellowship took place in the Epidemiology and Statistics Branch (ESB) of the Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP), which is housed in CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention (NCHHSTP). Under the mentorship of Kyle Bernstein, Ph.D., Dorji contributed to ongoing health programs and projects by conducting statistical analyses and compiling data.
“As a statistician, I played a central role in guiding the statistical methods of all major projects in the ESB/DSTDP division by analyzing and interpreting results,” Dorji explained. “The goal of my efforts was to minimize the burden of managing sexually transmitted infections felt by local and state jurisdictions.”
Dorji’s role at ESB encompassed assisting in the design, development and adaptation of various methods and techniques in order to improve statistical processes and advance public health program research methods. He conducted logistic regression analyses, categorical data analyses and multiple regression analyses in addition to using mixed model techniques to analyze data. Dorji also analyzed research studies utilizing statistical packages and programming languages. Then, he wrote and presented comprehensive statistical reports providing technical advice and consultation to public health professionals, senior scientists and management officials. The research he conducted at ESB was published in various journals, including Journal of Clinical Microbiology, Annals of Epidemiology and Sexually Transmitted Diseases.
Out of all the benefits and opportunities the fellowship granted Dorji, his favorite part of the experience was the time he spent collaborating with gifted researchers and fellows who were eager to improve public health. Conducting research alongside like-minded peers and experts allowed Dorji to learn valuable new skills, such as how to use data visualization tools and synthesize data in a public health setting, and flourish as an aspiring biostatistician.
“This fellowship has truly helped further train and prepare me for obtaining my career goals as a statistician or biostatistician,” said Dorji. “The appointment gives individuals who are fresh out of school an idea of what real-world application of their field looks like.”
When he isn’t conducting statistical analyses, Dorji enjoys cooking, playing power soccer, painting and volunteering for muscular dystrophy organizations. After his appointment at ESB ends, Dorji hopes to apply his newfound skills and knowledge to community work.
The CDC Research Participation Program is managed by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) under an agreement between CDC and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). ORISE is managed for DOE by ORAU.