Alumni Profiles Series: Hong Li
Hong Li was trained as a statistician and graduated from Duke with a master's degree in Statistics and Decision Sciences in 1992. After working for pharmaceutical companies such as Roche, Ms. Li is now a statistical consultant at Overhauser Li Consulting. She lives in California with her husband and children.
COULD YOU GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF YOUR CAREER PATH AFTER GRADUATING FROM DUKE UNIVERSITY?
My degree in statistics at Duke University was really where it all began. It was during the spring semester of graduate school when my professor asked me if I would like to do an internship. I said yes, so I filled out a bunch of application forms, including one for a pharmaceutical internship in Research Triangle Park (RTP). It turns out that there was a positon open at Quintiles, which was just starting out as a health information company in the early 1990s. Quintiles is now a publicly traded company leading the market in healthcare and clinical consulting.
My internship at Quintiles was a great experience and opened up the whole field of biotechnology and healthcare for me. After graduation, I worked at GSK for two and a half years. GSK is a world-leading British pharmaceutical company and has one of its US headquarters in RTP. A headhunter in California then contacted me about a position as a statistician at Roche Pharmaceuticals; I interviewed with Roche and got the position. I worked for about seven years as a statistician at Roche and thought that I was going to retire there. But Roche decided to move out of Palo Alto, and I did not want to relocate. Pursuing a recommendation from a friend, I found my next job at ICON, a contract research organization that supports clinical development. I worked at ICON for another twelve years. Towards the end, I was the Sr. Project Director of Biostatistics. Looking back at where I started with an internship at Quintiles, it is amazing how far I have come and how the industry has flourished.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE CURRENT GRADUATE STUDENTS REGARDING CAREER PLANNING?
Getting that first internship was definitely a critical starting point for me in my career. When doing an internship, it is important to understand the process and procedures—how things are done. The key is to gain an understanding of your job and the field. Once you are “inside” the circle, your past experience and grasp of the industry will help you to succeed.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB AS A STATISTICIAN?
Nothing beats the satisfaction from a clinical trial that, when completed, reveals that the drug is not only safe, but also effective in terms of treating the patient. The gold standard in clinical trials is a double-blind study, where patients are either given a drug (treatment) or a placebo (control). To finally see if a drug works, we need to "unblind" the trial and compare the patient outcome between drug versus placebo. It is very fulfilling to know that I am contributing to human health.
Xiaoyang Serene Hu
Ph.D. candidate, Molecular Genetics & Microbiology
Xiaoyang Serene Hu studies neurobiology in the department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology. Her dissertation research focuses on receptor-ligand interactions underlying mammalian chemosensation (smell and taste).