Human Studies Lab
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The Human Studies Lab is a teaching and research computer laboratory conducting medical and other public health research, housed within the School of Data Science and Analytics. We use high speed computers in a secure environment to conduct simple and complex analyses on small and big data. All analysts in the lab are HIPPA and Human Studies certified. We work with multiple faculty, as well as internal and external collaborators, clinicians, and clients.
Students from all levels actively assist with the research within courses and as research assistants. The employment rate for students leaving the lab is close to 100%, with virtually all of them attributing some of their employment success to working in the lab.
We have published papers in prestigious journals including Vaccine, Pediatrics, Neonatology, and Annals of Human Biology. Most of our recent publications include student authors. Inclusion of students in research and training students is a primary goal of the lab.
About the Human Studies Lab
How we got started
Dr. Ferguson began working with Dr. Louise Lawson in Human Studies in 2013. The formation of the physical lab grew organically to meet a critical need. In early Fall of 2014, we were contacted by two clinicians who needed help understanding the statistics in a clinical paper that was making recommendations that could impact patient survival. The paper’s results seemed contrary to what the clinicians were seeing in practice. We reviewed the paper from a purely statistical standpoint, and we found no major issues. Once we were able to explain the statistics to the clinicians, however, they were able to spot clinically significant problems.
To investigate these clinically significant problems in a timely manner, we realized that we needed both clinicians and analysts working closely together. One of the clinicians had a large database that could be used to investigate the clinicians’ concerns. That semester’s Design and Analysis of Human Studies (STAT 4125/8125) class jumped at the opportunity to investigate the real world, real important problem with real big data. The faculty, students, and clinicians began working together, thus leading to the creation of the Human Studies Lab.
This model of bringing students into real world research was so successful for this one project that it has continued and grown. We made it a permanent teaching lab, for which Kennesaw State University provided computers and IT support. Since then we’ve developed collaborations with local and national clinical entities and gotten funding to support the lab. Each year we have a new cohort of students who come into the lab and get experience working with real clinical research projects. Graduates of the lab often continue to hang out in the lab, volunteering to continue research they started when taking the class.
GOT Data? We Can Handle It.
The Human Studies Lab is housed within the School of Data Science and Analytics. Currently, several PhD faculty conduct and supervise research in the lab, which is directed by biostatistician Dr. Nicole Ferguson. The lab has card only access available exclusively to HIPPA trained faculty and employees who directly supervise all individuals working in the lab (also required to be HIPPA trained). Multiple security protocols are in place to ensure data remain in the lab and are not copied or used outside of this secure environment.
The lab is equipped with four Dell Precision 3630 computers with i7-8700K CPUs and 16GB of DDR4 RAM. Each computer has a M.2 1TB PCIe SSD storage drive increasing the read/write performance and allowing for more efficient code execution. All PCs have an NVIDIA Quadro P2000 (5GB) GPU to perform accelerated computing in R/Python, and are upgraded with a 1TB hard drive to allow for code/data storage and a faster SSD for code execution. A private network connects all computers to perform backups/archiving of data at scheduled times on a separate SSD drive. Lab computers are self-contained within this private network and not connected to the campus intranet or internet for additional security. Programs currently in use by the lab include SAS, R, Python and Tableau, with additional programs to be securely added as needed.
Dr. Nicole Ferguson, Lab Director
Dr. Ferguson brings her geek superpowers as a PhD biostatistician and R programmer to the Human Studies Lab. Her early research focused on developing methods for estimating non parametric multistate models with truncated and censored data and applying new and existing methods to real medical data. In 2013, her research focus shifted to preterm infant growth as she created growth curves on BMI for preterm infants. She and then colleague, Dr. Louise Lawson, developed new methods for creating gender-specific BMI curves. The resulting publication of the curves was fast tracked for publication at Pediatrics. She is first author on a subsequent paper addressing the choice of BMI as the best measure of body proportionality in preterm infants. She designed and conducted the analysis for that project, which illustrated why previous research had reached an incorrect conclusion about the best measure of body proportionality. She is a founder and long-time organizer of KSU's popular R-Day, Her beckground in biostatistical methods, statistical programming, medical research and event planning uniquely qualifies her to a the driving force within the lab.
Dr. Shannon Grabich, Investigator
Dr. Grabich is a PhD epidemiologist and SAS programming guru, who brings years of real-world experience to the Human Studies Lab. In addition to being a part-time faculty member at KSU and investigator on research projects for the Human Studies Lab, she is also an Assistant Director for RealWorld Evidence Scientific Consulting at Xcenda where she supports scientific project devlolpment, execution, and delivery while maintaining communication and transparency with clients. Her work includes but is not limited to, client communication, proposal development, end-to-end retrospective database studies, database evaluation, epidemiological modeling, and publications. Dr. Grabich has experience across reproductive health, immunology, oncology, and pulmonary disease areas. She has authored a variety of scientific publications appearing in Cancer, Neonatology, Pediatrics, Maternal and Child Health Journal, Frontiers in Public Health, Emerging Themes in Epidemiology, and Environmental Health Perspectives. Her research experience includes both retrospective and non-interventional studies.
Graduate Research Assistants
My name is Marion Granger. I found the human studies lab during my senior year of undergrad (Fall 2019). I was a psychology major minoring in statistics and had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. Through the lab I have continually made irreplaceable friends, some of whom helped me prepare for the MSAS program. I have built invaluable skills in not only statistics, but also computer programming and epidemiology. I have connected with phenomenal mentors and collaborated with remarkable physicians. Being in the lab has taught me so much about who I am, and who I want to grow to be as a professional. After I complete the MSAS program I plan to pursue a PhD in epidemiology so that I can continue to improve patient outcomes, which quickly became a passion of mine after witnessing the impact of what we do in the lab. To anyone who is considering it, I highly recommend taking the leap and applying to join our team. These have been the most precious years of my life, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. Outside of the lab I love to watch baseball, travel, hike, white water raft, zipline, garden, read, and spend time with my cats and my family.
Hello! My name is Alyssa Venn, and I am currently pursuing my M.S. in Applied Statistics. I first joined the Human Studies Lab in the fall semester of my Junior year in my Applied Mathematics undergrad, where I researched the mathematical methodology of growth curve creation. In the lab, I have learned a great deal about working with real-life data, and the interdisciplinary nature of the lab has been a fantastic experience. I have learned a lot from my peers in different fields, combining our different knowledge bases to answer our research questions, and I am so glad I was given the opportunity. Since I started my undergraduate degree in 2016, I have presented my research on sixteen separate occasions, including five international conferences, on topics ranging from video games to social media to preterm infant growth curves, and am in the process of writing several publication manuscripts. In my free time, I play video games, go to the gym, or draw, and I have a multitude of pets in my apartment—a cat, a snake, a guppy tank, and a shrimp tank.
Undergraduate Research Assistants
Hi! My name is Waleed Masoud. I am a senior majoring in Biology and minoring in statistics. I plan on continuing into the MSAS program. I found the Human Studies Lab Fall of my junior year after some lab members came and talked to my class. This lab has taught me a lot of skills that I do not think I could have learned without being a part of it. We get to work with real world data and help answer important questions from clinicians and biostatisticians. It can seem overwhelming, but we have created a great support system in lab. Everyone in the lab helps each other and we all want to see each other grow. I highly recommend this lab to those who are considering. It is a great way to feel how it is to work as a junior biostatistician and learn skills that are highly applicable to any data field.
Hey, I am Claire Simms! I am a senior majoring in Biology with concentration in Pre-Med and a minor in Statistics. My plan after graduation is to take a gap year before I go to medical school. Not sure where I am going yet but this lab has taught me how to read statistics from a clinician’s point of view and think outside the box when needing to present data. I never thought that in my college years that I would learn how to program. I started in Biostatistics for my major and I got hooked. After that I did the following classes that were needed and after the Human Studies Lab came and talked in one of my classes I decided to finish my minor in statistics and joined the lab. I have learned how to collaborate with professors, fellow students, clinicians and epidemiologists. As a team this semester (Spring 21) we thought outside of the box and produced innovative graphs to visualize data that is easily understandable to the normal person. This is not your typical lab that produces basic plots for visualization but pushes you to think abstractly not only in statistics but in your everyday life.
Dr. Louise Lawson
A founding member of the Human Studies lab, Dr. Lawson had over 20 years of experience in medical research. She had over 40 publications in medical literature on topics ranging from pulmonary function to pain to obesity to influeza to preterm infant growth, to name a few. She received grant funding for all these projects, among others. Her choice of topic was dicated by the clinicians who came to her with problems to be solved. This approach was extremely successful. She achieved one of her dreams in cofounding the Human Studies Lab. It combined her love for teaching and Human Subject research...a legacy that continues today.
My name is Hailey Treadaway. I joined Human Studies Lab during senior year of my undergraduate degree (Computational and Applied Mathematic with a minor in Statistics) in the Spring of 2019. This is where I found my true passion, which prompted me to apply for the MSAS program. After getting into the MSAS program, I continued working in the lab all the way through the program. I enjoyed being in the lab and learned so much as well as made great friends with many people and got amazing mentors. After finishing the MSAS program in December 2020, I wanted to and still volunteer my time in the lab. I plan to go on to earn a PhD in Epidemiology and work specifically in mental health research. This lab has given me the passion I did not know I had and found my true calling in life, and would highly recommend anyone that is looking at joining to apply to do so.
Human Studies Lab Projects
“Project Grow Baby Grow”
Growth and Outcomes for Preterm Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). "Determining what values in growth curves best classify small and large-for-gestational age in preterm infants to predict morbidity and mortality". Funded by The Gerber Foundation.
Evaluation of Cobb County Family Treatment Court
Pro bono service project.
Clinical Outcomes, Internal Projects
Funded by Wellstar Health Systems.
Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Hospitalized Patients
Funded by Piedmont Physicians Group.
Risk for Gestational Diabetes: A Condition of Abdominal Fatness or Sedentariness?
Internal Collaboration with Dr. Katherine H. Ingram in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management. NIH Funded.
Human Studies Lab Research and Publications
- Ferguson A.N., Olsen I.E., Clark R.H., Yockey, B.D., Boardman, J., Biron, K., Jannuzzo, C., Waskiewicz, D., Mendoza, A., Lawson, M. L. (2020). Differential classification of infants in United States neonatal intensive care units for weight, length, and head circumference by United States and international growth curves. Annals of Human Biology. 47(6):564-571.
- Williamson, A. L., Derado, J., Barney, B. J., Saunders, G., Olsen, I. E., Clark, R. H., Lawson, M. L. (2018). Longitudinal BMI Growth Curves for Surviving Preterm NICU Infants Based on a Large US Sample. Pediatrics, 142(3).
- Clark, R.H., Olsen, I.E., Ferguson, A.N., Lawson, M.L. (2018) Reply to the Letter to the Editor "Accurate Direct Measures Are Required to Validate Derived Measures." Neonatology, 113 (3), 267-269.
- Ferguson, A. N., Grabich, S. C., Olsen, I. E., Cantrell, R., Clark, R. H., Ballew, W. N., Chou, J., Lawson, M. L. (2018). BMI Is a Better Body Proportionality Measure than the Ponderal Index and Weight-for-Length for Preterm Infants. Neonatology, 113(2), 108-116.
- Baxter, A. L., Cohen, L. L., Burton, M., Mohammed, A., Lawson, M. L. (2017). The number of injected same-day preschool vaccines relates to preadolescent needle fear and HPV uptake. Vaccine, 35(33), 4213–4219.
- Marvin, M.R., Ferguson, A.N., Cannon, R.M., Jones, C.M. Brock, G.N. (2015). MELDEQ: An alternative Model for End‐Stage Liver Disease score for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Liver Transplantation 21 (5), 612-622.
- Olsen, I. E., Harris, C. L., Lawson, M. L., Berseth, C. L. (2014). Higher protein intake improves length, not weight, z scores in preterm infants. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition, 58(4), 409–416.
- Kelly, Jr, R. E., Mellins, R. B., Shamberger, R. C., Mitchell, K. K., Lawson, M. L., Oldham, K. T., Azizkhan, R. G., Hebra, A. V., Nuss, D., Goretsky, M. J., others (2013). Multicenter study of pectus excavatum, final report: complications, static/exercise pulmonary function, and anatomic outcomes. Journal of the American College of Surgeons, 217(6), 1080–1089.
- Jenkins, T. M., Buncher, C. R., Akers, R., Daniels, S. R., Lawson, M. L., Khoury, P. R., Wilson, T. P., Inge, T. H. (2013). Validation of a Weight History Questionnaire to Identify Adolescent Obesity. Obesity surgery, 1–9.
If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the Human Studies Lab,
please don’t hesitate to contact us using the information below.
Nicole Ferguson, Ph.D.
Director of Human Studies Lab
Kennesaw State University (KSU), Kennesaw Campus, Clendenin Building, Room 3028
275 Kennesaw State Univ Rd NW
Room 3033, MD 1103
Kennesaw, GA 30144