DFCI/FSTRF Marvin Zelen Memorial Symposium

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Frontier Science Technology and Research Foundation Annual Lecture was renamed the Marvin Zelen Memorial Symposium in 2016, in honor of Dr. Zelen's contributions to science and cancer research. Marvin Zelen was known as a giant in the field of biostatistics, as well as a man of vision, generosity, and warmth who served as a mentor to two generations of researchers. 

2020 Symposium

Wednesday September 30, 2020

Joseph B. Martin Conference Center @ Harvard Medical School

The topic of this year's Marvin Zelen Symposium has to do with the year itself — 2020. This first year of a new decade brings with it statistical spectacles on a massive scale. From the Decennial Census and the Presidential Election in the US, to the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. These big events are bristling with data and its analyses — shaping how they are experienced, discussed, debated, and even litigated. Their time scales range from fractions of a second (the difference between gold and silver) to millions of years (the length of the geological record needed to understand our changing climate). They can be influenced by the actions of one person or the cumulative behaviors of hundreds of millions (as voters, as competitors, as spectators, as consumers). The Marvin Zelen Symposium will look at the major data spectacles of 2020, each one having synergy with the others, but also adding something new in our understanding of how data establish and reinforce systems of power on our planet.


  • Ben Hansen, University of Michigan
  • Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College
  • Regina Nuzzo, Gallaudet University
  • Amy O’Hara, Georgetown University
  • Andrew Revkin, Columbia University
  • Charles Stewart, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Daniel Webb, United States Olympic Committee
  • Jeremy White, New York Times

Register by September 16, 2020.

Zelen Symposium 2020

Presented by:


Organizing Committee:
Rafael Irizarry, PhD
Chair, Department of Data Sciences, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Paul Catalano, ScD
Associate Chair, Department of Data Sciences, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Mark Hansen, PhD
David and Helen Gurley Brown Professor of Journalism and Innovation;
Director, David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute of Media Innovation
Erica Feick
Program Manager, Department of Data Sciences, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Previous Symposiums

The 2019 symposium was held on Friday April 6 from 1:00-6:00pm at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

Our speakers for this year included:

  • Atul Butte, Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg Distinguished Professor, Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, and Epidemiology and Biostatistics at University of California, San Francisco; Director, Bakar Computational Health Sciences Institute, USCF; Chief Data Scientist, University of California Health (UC Health)
    Translating Ten Trillion Points of Data into Therapies,Diagnostics, and New Insights into Disease
  • Brandon Rohrer, Senior Data Scientist at Facebook
    A Field Guide to Data Scientists
  • Mark Hansen, Professor and Director of the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University
    Reporting through Computation: How a Group of Journalists Investigated Social Media Fraud
  • Tamara Broderick, ITT Career Development Assistant Professor, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at MIT
    Approximate Cross Validation for Large Data and High Dimensions
  • Andrew Gelman, Professor of statistics and political science and Director of the Applied Statistics Center at Columbia University
    What Percent of Biomedical Research is False? And Why I Don't Like To Ask That Question
  • Suchi Saria, John C. Malone Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University
    Augmenting Clinical Intelligence With Machine Intelligence For Individualizing Care
  • Caroline Buckee, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
    Quantifying Population Displacement During Disasters
  • Jeffrey Leek, Professor of Biostatistics and Oncology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    Medicine Is A Data Science. We Should Teach Like It!

Data Science in Biomedical Research

The 2018 symposium was held on Friday April 6, 2018 from 1:00-6:00pm at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. 

Our speakers for this year included:

  • Barbara Englehardt, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Computer Science, Princeton University
    Sequential decision making for hospital patients on a mechanical ventilator
  • Jeffrey Leek, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
    Human behavioral challenges in biomedical data science
  • Fernanda Viegas & Martin Wattenberg, Co-leaders, Google's "Big Picture" Data Visualization Group
    Visualization: The secret weapon for machine learning
  • JJ Allaire, Founder and CEO of RStudio
    Machine Learning with TensorFlow and R
  • Steve Goodman, M.D., MHS, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine and of Health Research and Policy, Stanford University
    Why “reproducibility” is the wrong paradigm for research reproducibility
  • Jayashree Kalpathy-Cramer, Associate Professor of Radiology, Massachusetts General Hospital
    Computers can look, but can they see? Applying Machine Learning in Medical Imaging

Contemporary Statistical Challenges in Clinical Research

April 7, 2017

Boston Red Sox Jimmy Fund Auditorium, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

A special tribute in honor of Richard Gelber on his 70th Birthday.

  • Gather, Welcome & Introduce Speakers - Meredith Regan, Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Eleanor McFadden, Managing Director, Frontier Science (Scotland), Ltd., International Trials and Tribulations
  • Alan Coates, Clinical Professor, School of Public Health, the University of Sydney, Biostatistics at the Clinical Interface: Quality of Life as a Prognostic Factor
  • Aron Goldhirsch,Deputy Scientific Director of the European Institute of Oncology (IEO), Milan, Italy, Challenges in Clinical Research: Focus on Breast Cancer
  • Michael Hughes,Professor of Biostatistics, Director, Center for Biostatistics in AIDS Research, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, A Brief History of Statistical Issues in Research to Reduce Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission
  • Bernard Cole,Professor of Statistics and Statistics Program Director, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Vermont, Evaluating Treatment-Effect Heterogeneity in the Age of Biomarkers: Subpopulation Treatment Effect Pattern Plot (STEPP)
  • Lee-Jen Wei,Professor of Biostatistics, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, The Myth of Design and Analysis of Cancer Clinical Studies with PFS or OS as the Endpoint
  • Cyrus Mehta,  Adjunct Professor of Biostatistics, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and President, Cytel Software Corporation, Adaptive Designs for Confirmatory Clinical Trials
  • Colin Begg,  Chairman and Attending Biostatistician, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Complexities in the Design of Basket Clinical Trials of Targeted Agents
  • Richard Gelber, Professor of Biostatistics, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
  • Closing Remarks - Meredith Regan

This lecture is sponsored by Frontier Science Technology and Research Foundation.

Clinical Trials in the Era of Precision Medicine

April 1, 2016
Boston Red Sox Jimmy Fund Auditorium, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute


  • Lisa McShane, Precision Medicine: Promise, Innovation, Trials and Tribulations
  • Williams Sellers, Developing the Next-Generation of Cancer Therapeutics
  • D. Neil Hayes, Precision Medicine for Patients with Advanced Cancer: Basket trials, Bucket trials, Off Label Therapies and Other Outcomes
  • Eli Van Allen, Clinical Computational Oncology for Precision Cancer Medicine
  • Meredith Regan, Biomarker-Driven Trials in the International Breast Cancer Study Group
  • Robert Gray, The NCI MATCH Trial
  • Lorenzo Trippa, Bayesian Baskets: A Design for Biomarker-Based Clinical Trials
  • 2014: Lisa LaVange, The Role of Statistics in Regulatory Decision Making
  • 2013: Margaret Pepe, Evaluating Improvement in Risk Prediction Gained with Use of a New Marker
  • 2012: John Storey, Statistical Challenges in the Analysis of Clinical Genomics Studies
  • 2011: Keith Baggerly, The Importance of Reproducible Research in High-Throughput Biology: Case Studies in Forensic Bioinformatics
  • 2010: Donald Berry, The Screening Mammography Brouhahas and Adaptive Clinical Trials
  • 2009: Terry Speed, Statisticians, omic data and therapeutic strategies to treat cancer
  • 2008: Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Network Medicine: From the Human Diseasome to Comorbodity Patterns
  • 2005: Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, Network Biology: From Metabolic to Protein Interaction networks
  • 2004: Alan Coates, p is for Politics: The Link Between Statistical Evidence and Public Policy
  • 2003: Steven Goodman, The Mammography Controversy: A Crisis for Evidence-Based Medicine?
  • 2002: Giovanni Parmigiani, Statistical Issues in Expression Based Molecular Classification of Cancer
  • 2001: Sir Richard Peto, Simple Methods for Meta-Analyses Can Be Statistically Optimal: EBCTCG and PSC