Spotlight on Research at COPH – Dr. Fang Yu’s primary research interest focuses on analysis and development of Bayesian statistical methods for high-throughput data. High-throughput technique has been widely used to study the association between gene/protein expression and disease progression or prevention, and has greatly impacted multiple fields, including medicine and public health. Although these high-throughput tools offer rich biological information, they are highly error-prone, because many genes or proteins are monitored simultaneously with a relatively small sample size. On the other hand, the parallel nature of the high-throughput experimental design makes it possible to obtain more efficient inference on individual genes/proteins by borrowing information across the ensemble of genes/proteins. Dr. Yu works on developing and applying hierarchical Bayesian models for efficiently estimating the gene/protein expression levels by borrowing information from genes or proteins and identifying differentially expressed genes/proteins that are associated with disease progression or intervention. In one recent project, Dr. Yu developed a Bayesian method for sequence-based high-throughput experiments and identified differentially expressed genes associated with cancer of lymph reticular tissue.
Dr. Yu’s other research interest is in studying the interaction among genetic and environmental risk factors in a population. The studies of gene-environment interaction can identify genetic susceptibility variants that occur only in specific environments, or exposures that are risky only to certain genetically susceptible individuals. Such knowledge is useful in understanding the heterogeneous genetic association with disease across populations and choosing personalized treatment based on a patient’s genotype. In work with Dr. Ted Mikuls on rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in African Americans, Dr. Yu assisted in finding that the association of smoking with RA disease may be influenced by genes encoding enzymes involved in the metabolism of smoking-related toxins.
As a biostatistician, Dr. Yu also works with investigators across the UNMC campus. She is responsible for the statistical design, conduct, and analysis of clinical, basic science, and health services research. Dr. Yu has been involved in research on a wide variety of health-related topics, including RA, HIV infection, drug abuse, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, thyroid disease, and health care.
Fang Yu, PhD, is an associate professor of the UNMC COPH Department of Biostatistics.