Alumni profile: Michelle Quinlan describes biostatistics career as "incredibly fulfilling"

Published by Amy Crawford 8 months ago on Tue, Aug 15, 2023 12:44 PM

Michelle Quinlan (’05) grew up in a Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod and attended Denver Lutheran High School. She knew she wanted to attend a small, Lutheran university. After visiting the Concordia Nebraska campus, she was impressed with the people, the academics, the Christian atmosphere and the university’s cross country program. 

She has a bachelor of arts in math and business with a minor in actuarial science from Concordia Nebraska. She also has a master of science and Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
She said she loved many things about her time at Concordia but that she especially appreciated the close-knit Christian atmosphere, supportive professors, staff and coaches, and the relationships she developed with her cross country teammates. 
“I had lots of one-on-one conversations with my professors learning about career paths and opportunities. They really took an interest in helping me exceed,” she said. “My math courses especially set the foundation for success in graduate school and ultimately my job as a statistician. I learned to ask questions to deepen my understanding. My business classes were helpful in learning aspects of collaboration with others to succeed in the real world. My Concordia experience helped me appreciate the opportunities I have been given and use my talents to help others.” 

Following her time at Concordia and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she moved to New Jersey and began her first job as a biostatistician at Novartis Pharmaceuticals.  
“My current title is director of biostatistics at Novartis Pharmaceuticals. I started off at a junior level role in charge of the statistical aspects of rather simple clinical trials,” she explained. “Since then I have taken on increasingly more responsibilities and oversight of larger more complex trials.”  

She now oversees other statisticians working on clinical trials in the same therapeutic area. In addition, she serves as the subject matter expert for clinical pharmacology trials. 
“I help with various aspects of clinical trials - such as designing the trial, determining sample size, collecting adequate data, analyzing data, making informed decisions about the results - to investigate the safety and efficacy of new drugs,” she said. “I collaborate with other line functions to execute the clinical trial and explain results from my statistical analysis to my non-statistical colleagues such as medical and regulatory affairs. I also mentor junior level employees, providing advice and assistance from my experience.” 

If a drug proves to be efficacious, her job then entails helping submit the data and results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and answer questions they have prior to approval of the drug for market. 
“It is in incredibly fulfilling knowing I'm helping develop new drugs that will help people or even save their lives,” she said. “In addition, it is fulfilling to know I'm using statistics to make informed decisions for the greater good.” 

Quinlan has a beloved dog named Millie, and she enjoys running, traveling and volunteering at her church. 
“Looking back, my time at Concordia was one of the best four years of my life,” she said. “I grew in so many ways and feel blessed to have benefited from the professors, coaches, academics, spiritual aspects, and relationships I developed during my time there.” 

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