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Profiles of AWIS Members in Statistics: Marcella Devoto, PhD

I always loved mathematics, but I knew I wanted to work in an applied field, so I chose to study statistics. Eventually I went into statistical genetics, which has become a very sought-after specialization thanks to programs such as the Human Genome Project and other large-scale genetics studies. For me, to be able to work in this field meant I had to move from Italy to the US, but I have no regrets and I consider myself very lucky to have been involved in many exciting projects.

Our work is often collaborative and will expose you to work with many people. This is great, especially if you like the interactions that derive from it. However you need to make also sure that you develop your own research program and are not seen by others only as someone else’s collaborator.  This is especially crucial in academia, where evidence of independence is one of the most important criteria for promotion to the upper ranks.

Career Advice from Dr. Devoto: 

As in every field of research, do not be afraid of taking what may seem an unusual path. I did it, or at least so it seems to many people when, as I statistician, I decided to work in genetics. Eventually this turned out to be a smart choice, and now statistical genetics is a well established and recognized scientific field.

Marcella Devoto is a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at the Departments of Pediatrics and of Biostatistics and Epidemiology of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA.  Dr. Devoto has a Ph.D. in Statistics and Demography from the University of Bologna, Italy, and a Master of Science in Applied Statistics from the University of Oxford, UK.  Her area of expertise is statistical genetics, and specifically the application of statistical analysis to the identification of genes responsible for human disease.  Recently, she has worked on understanding the genetics of complex pediatric disease, including neuroblastoma, type 1 diabetes, ADHD, and asthma.

Dr. Devoto’s work has resulted in more than 130 peer-reviewed publications.  In addition to AWIS, she is a member of the European Society of Human Genetics (ESHG), where she served on the Board of Directors and on the Scientific Program Committee; of the American Society of Human Genetics and the International Genetic Epidemiology Society. In 2007, she was elected Fellow of the American College of Epidemiology.  She is Editor in Chief of Human Heredity, a statistical genetics journal, and served on the Editorial Board of the European Journal of Human Genetics, the official publication of the ESHG.

Dr. Devoto was born in Cagliari, Italy and holds dual Italian and US citizenship.  She lives in Center City Philadelphia with her husband, who is also Italian, and their 14 year old son. The Devoto family love traveling and try to go to one new country every year, the last ones being Singapore and Indonesia. Dr. Devoto likes reading fiction, almost all kind of music, independent films, and cooking Italian food, of course


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