Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center announced today that distinguished biostatistician and data science education leader Dr. Jeffrey Leek will be joining the center in 2022 as vice president and chief data officer.
Leek comes to the Hutch from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins Data Science Lab, where he advanced personalized medicine and built data science partnerships and educational initiatives.
“Jeff has a remarkable set of skills that we quickly realized would make him an exceptional addition to our community and allow him to play a leading role in advancing data science at Fred Hutch. He has an exciting vision of the transformative potential of data science for our patients and for our research,” said Dr. Bruce Clurman, executive vice president and deputy director of Fred Hutch and holder of the Rosput Reynolds Endowed Chair. “Just as important, he is committed to being a fantastic colleague who understands the importance of working across the center to achieve that vision.”
Leek will also join the Fred Hutch faculty as professor in the Public Health Sciences Division and will hold the J. Orin Edson Foundation Endowed Chair. His first day will be on or before July 1.
In his role as chief data officer at the Hutch, Leek will work across the center and with external partners to build on the Hutch’s computational resources, data services and academic data structures in computational biology and translational data science and speed the development of a top biomedical research data enterprise at the Hutch. He will partner with other Fred Hutch leaders to develop a centerwide vision, goals, strategy and policies that ensure Hutch researchers have access to field-leading computational resources. He will also work with faculty to create tools and services that help the Hutch better collect, manage, use and share data. Another priority will be to develop programs and education opportunities that enable all teams across the center to increase their use of data science to solve research problems.
“Data is now a key part of everyone's research, from basic lab sciences, to clinical research, to large scale epidemiology. I'm really geeked up about the opportunity to build data systems and training that make it faster and easier for everyone to use data — not just the people who would label themselves data scientists,” Leek said. “At heart, I'm a problem-forward data scientist. I just want to help people solve important biological and health sciences problems with data.”
“Like many graduate students in (bio)statistics, when I started my career, I thought, ‘I like math and I want to find a way to help people.’ I love that statistics lets me work on problems I feel are meaningful for helping people.” — Read the full profile interview with Leek at Amstat News from Nov. 1, 2021
Read more about Leek and his work at his website.
As Fred Hutch, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s pursue their proposed restructure, Leek will play a leading role in shaping and implementing the integrated data enterprise for the future Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.
Leek will also be responsible for fostering partnerships within the Seattle area’s thriving data science and technology ecosystem to support research collaboration and enhance the Hutch’s ability to fulfill its mission to eliminate cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death.
“I’m eager to get plugged in to the Seattle tech ecosystem and pull in partners to support Hutch scientists and create mutually beneficial relationships,” he said.
Leek has won high honors in his field for both his research and educational initiatives. He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association and a recipient of the Mortimer Spiegelman Award as well as the 2021 Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies President’s Award, the most prestigious award given to statisticians under the age of 40.
The latter recognized Leek “for influential work addressing high-dimensional data; for development of empirical tools for data science as a science with applications to meta-research, reproducibility and replicability; for scaling (bio)statistics-centered data science education to millions of people worldwide; and for leveraging data science tools, educational technologies and community partnerships to create economic opportunities in underserved communities,” according to the award citation.
In his research at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he is currently a professor of Biostatistics and Oncology, his group develops statistical methods, software, data resources and data analyses that help people make sense of massive-scale genomic and biomedical data. A current focus is on population-scale genomic data, including developing very large collections of gene expression data which can be used to study the regulation of gene expression (that is, how cells turn genes “on” and “off”) as well as the dysregulation often seen in cancer.
As co-director of the Johns Hopkins Data Science Lab, Leek has helped craft online open courses that have enrolled more than 8 million people and partnered with community-based nonprofits to use data science education for economic and public health development. He also directs Data Trail, a no-cost educational program aimed at equipping members of underserved communities with the skills and support required to work in data science. Data Trail currently runs in Baltimore and New York, and Leek said he looks forward to the possibility of creating a similar effort in the Seattle area.
Leek has a Ph.D. in biostatistics from the University of Washington and completed postdoctoral fellowships in stem cell biology at Mount Sinai and in computational biology at Johns Hopkins before joining the Hopkins faculty in 2009.
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