About the Human Studies Lab

How we got startedPhoto of a groupd of students and faculty in the Human Studies Lab

Dr. Lawson has been working in Human Studies, also known as Epidemiology, for more than 20 years. Dr. Lawson and Dr. Ferguson began working together 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. Dr. Lawson’s Design and Analysis of Human Studies (STAT 4125/8125) class that semester 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 one or two new cohorts 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 Department of Statistics and Analytical Sciences. Currently, several PhD faculty conduct and supervise research in the lab, which is directed by epidemiologist Dr. Louise Lawson and co-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.

Photo of students working on research using computersThe 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