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Dr. Weng Kee Wong, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health professor of biostatistics, has been named a Yushan Scholar by the Taiwan Ministry of Education. Wong is one of 43 international scholars to receive the award, which supports a three-month-per-year exchange program for three years to conduct research in Taiwan.
“It is truly humbling to be honored in such a way,” said Wong, the first statistician/biostatiscian from UCLA to be honored by the program. “I have been at the UCLA Fielding School for more than 30 years, and it is my academic and professional home, but this opportunity to be a visiting Yushan scholar is a true privilege.”
Wong award will take him to the National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), in Tainan, Taiwan. At NKCU, he will continue his current research to construct large scale model-based optimal designs for healthcare studies using nature-inspired metaheuristic algorithms. Wong has a long and successful record of working with statisticians and students in Taiwan and also mentoring doctoral students across Europe, Asia, and other universities in North America.
“Given his field of research, Prof. Wong exhibits an astonishing level of productivity with a blend of methodological and collaborative research,” said Dr. Sudipto Banerjee, professor and chair of Biostatistics. “Prof. Wong has consistently played a substantial role in most of his publications and continues to take leadership roles in his research projects.”
During his time in Taiwan, Wong will work with the faculty at the Department of Statistics at NCKU, the newly created Data Science Center, and the biostatistical group at the NCKU hospital. He also plans to initiate collaborative work with NCKU faculty members from the Mathematics, Computer Science, and Engineering departments to firm up the theory and applications of metaheuristics to tackle challenging problems in the statistical sciences.
Wong’s earlier research projects have been supported by NIH, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute and non-Federal agencies, like Robert Wood Foundation, Scleroderma Foundation and Lupus Foundation of America. His research areas range from environmental health science, nutrition for breast cancer patients, cancer control and prevention with a focus on colon, prostate, and liver cancer, and melanoma, health disparities issues and intervention programs to fight obesity in African American, Asian American and Latino communities in southern California, to innovative statistical research supported by several R01 grants from NIH as PI.
“Besides being an internationally renowned expert in statistical methodologies for designing experimental studies, Prof. Wong has done very important work in collaboration with the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA in rheumatology, with a particular emphasis on rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and lupus,” Banerjee said.“His work in this area has gained R01 grant awards from NIH and a senior investigator grant award from the Scleroderma Foundation. We take great pride in the honors and achievements of our faculty, and it is always a pleasure to see those achievements recognized by our colleagues and peers internationally.”
Wong teaches multiple biostatistics classes at the graduate level, and has supervised, co-supervised, or served as a committee member on more than 90 doctoral theses and master’s reports at UCLA and other universities. He is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the American Statistician Association, and was elected chair of the Fielding School’s Faculty Executive Committee from 2014-16.
He has organized or co-organized several workshops in statistics at the national and international levels, the last of which was a one-week online international workshop held this month entitled “Metaheuristic Optimization, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence” at The Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute in Durham, North Carolina.
Named after the tallest mountain in Taiwan, the Yushan Scholarship, or “Mount Jade Scholarship,” is the highest honor given by the Taiwan Ministry of Education. Established in 2018, the program recruits top international scholars to teach or conduct research at various Taiwan universities and colleges in an effort to expand Taiwan’s academic environment and enhance its international influence. Yushan scholar candidates are nominated by national universities and selected through public review and competition.