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Sabbatical Content

So I promised that I would address what I am doing with myself on this sabbatical. Those of you I have seen, know that I have not moved halfway around the world, or even across the country. I’m still here in the Messiah/Harrisburg area.  When looking for what I would do for my sabbatical, I realized I needed something local. Being at the stage of family life that we are (three kids, ages 5.5, 5, and 3) I knew I couldn’t move off myself, and with our youngest two having just been adopted last September, it didn’t seem a good idea to uproot them and ask them to adjust to another move, and only for a few months before moving back. I wasn’t really sure where to start, so I asked around to see if anyone had any ideas of places that I could work that would be local enough for me, but also likely to give me the chance to have a successful sabbatical.

My statistics colleague at Messiah, Marlin Eby, had a couple of ideas that I could try. The one that sounded most interesting was to explore working with the Biostat folks at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine. This was a local option (about as far from my house as Messiah is, about 20 minutes in good traffic) and we had experience with many Messiah stat minors doing internships there. I sent an email to Vern Chinchilli, their Department chair, and then met for lunch with him and the Biostatistics Division head (housed within the department of Public Health Sciences) to discuss my background and interests and explore the idea of working together. It was a good lunch, and I received an email soon after confirming their interest and willingness to host me.

The details were then worked out, and crafted into my proposal. Essentially, I am working with Vern on the secondary analysis of a recent study about Asthma treatments. I had hoped to take part in the primary analysis, and spent some of my summer gearing up to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, by the time I came on board 23 August, the data had been analyzed, and the results were so conclusive that the paper had gotten fast-tracked and they were sending the final edits to The New England Journal of Medicine. They had expected the process to take the normal 9+ months from study completion (late May), but instead the article would be in print in about four months, so final edits were finished in about three months. Guess I get to explain that in my summary of my sabbatical!

Fortunately, there is still some new work to be done to follow this up, and I am currently spending my time reading the literature about that. This involves spending large amounts of time in my cubicle at Hershey Med (they didn’t have any free offices for me) with little human interaction. This is somewhat of a tricky proposition for an extrovert like me, but I am finding the process interesting and kind of fun. I will soon turn my attention to some programming in a (new to me) statistics package called R. Then the analysis phase will start, and finally writing up the results. I’m also hoping to learn about some other studies they are doing, and perhaps getting another paper or two out of this process. I also plan to get a conference presentation of two out of this next summer.

The better news is that I am getting some other things done that are not directly related to the formal sabbatical plans. I have finished reading a book about the philosophy of statistics, and its connection to Christianity. I have also read Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz which I had heard good things about, and found reasonably enjoyable. I hope to get several more books read during this process, including several more that I might be able to use to write my Christian Scholarship Paper for my review/promotion process at Messiah. I’m also planning a trip to the Pittsburgh area to get a chance to observe some colleagues as they teach statistics (one high school and one college).  Later in December comes a family trip to Disney. Since Abby’s birthday is usually right around finals week, this was our chance to make her birthday extra-special. We’ll be at Disney over her birthday!

The other plans for this fall are to revive this blog, and get more consistent with it. The topics of this blog will generally not be statistical. This will tend to be much more general interest types of things, including my thoughts on theology and living the Christian life, as well as thoughts on things I come across in daily life. It will seldom be political, for reasons that I’ve talked about before here, but will probably be revisited upon occasion.

All in all, it should be a fun, and interesting, sabbatical. The extrovert in me will be ready to get back to teaching and such in January.

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2 comments on “Sabbatical Content

  1. “I have finished reading a book about the philosophy of statistics, and its connection to Christianity.”

    What book is that? I’d be interested in reading it.

    • The book was Christian and Humanist Foundations for Statistical Inference by Andrew Hartley. I don’t totally agree with his conclusions (only subjective Bayesianism is consisitent with Christianity). This may be a good blog post in the near future. Here’s the Amazon link to the book.

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