Spotlight on Vanderbilt Biostatistics: Quanhu "Tiger" Sheng

This week we are excited to feature Quanhu "Tiger" Sheng who is one of our Research Assistant Professors in the Department of Biostatistics and also the Technical Associate Director of VANGARD.  Learn more about his work and interests here at Vanderbilt as you read on below:

What is your area of interest and what have been your findings? What are the next steps for your research?
I like coding and I always believe the algorithm development and/or paper should not be the end of our bioinformatics/biostatistics research, therefore I  focus on developing algorithms and implement software to help the lab, the collaborator and the research community.

For example, I have worked on TurboRawToMGF, BuildSummary and ProteomicsTools for proteomics research, NGFPERL, GLMVC and TIGER for next generation sequencing analysis. Almost all of those findings have come from my very close collaborations with various wet lab researchers. The manuscripts produced have been published in journals such as  Rapid Commun Mass Spectrom, J Proteome Res, Genomics and Journal of Extracellular Vesicles. Currently, I am very interested in large scale next generation sequencing analysis using cloud computing. I hope I can provide some software solutions to help people who want to migrate the analysis from a local cluster to a cloud platform.

Tell us about some of your achievements-- any publications, leadership positions, and/or committees you have served on.
I have published 83 peer-reviewed papers with the majority of those being related to qualitative and quantitative proteomics, glycomics, next generation sequencing and multi-omics data integration. I am currently the Technical Associate Director of VANGARD (Vanderbilt Technologies for Advanced Genomics Analysis and Research Design).  In addition to that, I am leading a group to develop the NGS analysis framework in ACCRE which can dramatically improve the reproducibility and efficiency of data analysis.

What was your draw to the field of statistics and what are your goals?
Actually, my major was bioinformatics, but I have learned so much since joining the Center for Quantitative Sciences and then the Department of Biostatistics. I have learned that even with the very basic t-test, I need to make sure that the data truly supports the assumptions. I really believe that statistics is an essential part of both basic science and clinical research, and that the Department of Biostatistics will play more important roles in the Vanderbilt research community in the near future. Currently, I define myself as an entry-level biostatistician and an expert in bioinformatics. My goal is to apply my knowledge in precision medicine to help doctors and patients.

Can you share the status of any of your past students? What is your best advice for aspiring statisticians? 
I haven't had any students yet but I have guided a lot of our postdocs and staff members at various stages.  I really enjoy sharing my experience with people.

For those aspiring statisticians, I hope they can also work with some technical fields, such as code management, test driven development and even cloud computing. Those fields will make their research more robust, more efficient, and most importantly, more reproducible.

What makes Vanderbilt special in your experiences of collaborating with others? 
When I joined the team in 2012, I immediately felt the closeness from the collaboration between the basic science groups and clinical groups, and the discussions between the bioinformaticians and biostatisticians were amazing. It felt like a new window had opened up for me at that time. I have enjoyed this environment and getting the chance to work with all of the experts from different fields.  Today data science has become the hottest field in the world and I expect that statistics will play an essential role in healthcare data science in the future.

Tell us about your life outside of Vanderbilt. Do you have a significant other? Children? What are your goals for the future?
My wife and I have two lovely sons. I love to play basketball with friends at recreation center and with my kids at backyard. My goal is to keep my family safe and happy in the future.

Finally, what is something about you that most people at Vanderbilt still don't know about you? (Until now, of course!)
My colleagues definitely believe that I am such a kind, mild-mannered person, but you will see a different side to me on the basketball court; I become very focused and assertive.  And I have to admit that I am no good at remembering peoples' names.  So, if you ever meet me down by the court just know that I may not remember your name even though we may have met; please forgive me.