Faculty Bulletin Board

Statistics professor honored as a leading woman in STEM

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Jingyi “Jessica” Li
Reed Hutchinson/UCLA

Jingyi “Jessica” Li

Jingyi “Jessica” Li, a UCLA assistant professor of statistics, has been selected as one of six inaugural winners of the Johnson & Johnson Women in STEM2D Scholars Award, which supports outstanding women researchers in their careers in the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, manufacturing and design.

The women each will receive up to $150,000 in funding over three years, and three years of mentorship from Johnson & Johnson leaders as well as members of the award’s advisory board, which is composed of female leaders in science and technology disciplines. Johnson & Johnson received more than 500 applicant submissions for the award from women worldwide.

“The six women honored as recipients of the 2018 Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholar Award are the best of the type of talents we believe are essential to global innovation today and in the future,” said Kathy Wengel, worldwide vice president, Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain.

Li conducts research at the intersection of statistics and biology. She and her research team, which is called the Junction of Statistics and Biology, develop new statistical methods for understanding biological questions, especially those related to large-scale genomic data. They identify and resolve important, previously unanswered statistical questions at the frontiers of biology, including bioinformatics. The statistical methods her research group developed serve as effective tools for biomedical researchers to uncover hidden information from genomic data, such as identifying important genes associated with various animal tissues and cells; discovering and quantifying mRNA from RNA sequencing data; and capturing and investigating complex gene interactions.

“Winning the inaugural Johnson & Johnson WiSTEM2D Scholars Award for Math is a significant milestone in my research career and strongly motivates me to continue my efforts in bridging statistics and biology,” Li said.

She and UCLA doctoral candidate, Wei “Vivian” Li, published this year in the journal Nature Communications their new computational tool that increases the reliability of measuring how strongly genes are expressed in an individual cell, even when the cell is barely reading certain genes. She was also awarded a 2018 Sloan Research Fellowship.

Li and the five other winners will present their research projects during a symposium at the company’s corporate headquarters in New Brunswick, New Jersey on April 26.

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