Rob Frost, PhD

Rob Frost, PhD

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Data Science
Associate Director, Quantitative Biomedical Sciences

What are your research interests?
My research focuses on the development of bioinformatics and biostatistics methods for analyzing high-dimensional genomic data. Areas of statistical interest include dimensionality reduction (e.g., PCA), hypothesis aggregation (e.g., gene set testing), and penalized estimation (e.g., LASSO penalized regression). Areas of biological interest include cell signaling, tissue-specific gene activity, tumor immunology, and cancer prognosis prediction.

In your opinion, what is the relevance and significance of QBS’s mission and training to scientific advancement in both academia and industry?
QBS is a unique interdisciplinary program that trains graduate students in both quantitative methods (e.g., statistics, informatics, machine learning) and disciplines that leverage those techniques for the analysis of biomedical data (e.g., epidemiology, bioinformatics, medical informatics). This training provides students with a solid computational foundation and appreciation for the translational application of quantitative methods to advance biomedical knowledge.  QBS students leave the program with a set of skills that are critical for careers in academia, industry or government.

What are positive aspects of having interdisciplinary students in your lab?
My lab pursues research that spans statistical methods development and analysis of genomic data to address specific biological questions. Pursing this combination of quantitative and applied research requires knowledge of the mathematical foundations of data analysis methods and a solid grounding in molecular biology. The interdisciplinary training provided by QBS aligns perfectly with these requirements and allows the QBS students in my lab to both develop novel methods and effectively communicate with more biologically oriented researchers on translational projects.

You were one of the first students to join the QBS PhD program.  How did your career path lead you to where you are now: the Associate Director of the QBS program, and in two years the Director of the QBS program? 
I had a non-traditional path to academia. After undergraduate and graduate training in mechanical engineering at Stanford, I spent over a decade working in the commercial software industry. During the later part of my commercial software career, I had an opportunity to collaborate with researchers at Harvard Medical School on a project that involved researchers at Dartmouth, including Dr. Jason Moore, the first QBS program director. That experience motivated me to pursue my PhD and a career in academic bioinformatics research and the newly formed QBS program provided the prefect combination of rigorous statistical training and exposure to molecular biology. I have been very fortunate to be able to transition from doctoral studies and post-doctoral research into a faculty position in the Department of Biomedical Data Science at Dartmouth. One of the most rewarding aspects of my faculty role has been my continued involvement with the QBS program on both educational and administrative fronts. I have helped teach a number of QBS courses and currently serve as the instructor for our mathematical statistics class (QBS 120). My administrative work has included participation on the QBS Advisory Committee, chairing the QBS PhD Admissions Committee and now work as the Associate Director for the program.

What vision do you have for the program based on your experiences as a student, professor, and now associate director of the program? 
The QBS program has evolved over its first 10 years from an initial cohort of just 3 PhD students to a nationally recognized and highly competitive program that matriculates 8-10 PhD and 30-40 MS students each year. The program has also seen dramatic growth in the number offered courses and affiliated faculty. During my tenure as associate director and director, I would like to help grow the number of matriculated students, increase the number of supported courses (especially in the areas of bioinformatics and advanced statistical methods), and strengthen the ties between QBS and other graduate programs at Dartmouth (e.g., MCB and TDI).