Natalie Dean, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of biostatistics in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine, has received UF’s Excellence Award for Assistant Professors for 2020. The award is one of the university’s top honors for a junior faculty member.
“Dr. Dean has made many important and influential research contributions in the areas of emerging pathogens and vaccine evaluation for fighting infectious disease outbreaks,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions. “This accolade is a fitting recognition of her significant academic accomplishments, which have been highlighted by her important professional contributions during the current COVID crisis.”
A member of the Emerging Pathogens Institute, Dean’s research focuses on methods for clinical trial and study design for evaluating vaccine efficacy, with a focus on emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, Zika and COVID-19. She is the principal investigator on a five-year $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop innovative vaccine study designs so that agencies can implement vaccine trials quickly and effectively in the event of an outbreak. The project is part of the Modeling of Infectious Disease Agent Study, or MIDAS, a network of infectious disease modelers operated by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.
She has recent first-authored publications in the Annals of Applied Statistics, Science Translational Medicine, the New England Journal of Medicine and one forthcoming in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Her methodological research focuses on the statistical theory behind vaccine studies like the recent test negative case-control design.
Dean and Ira Longini, Ph.D., a professor of biostatistics, played an integral role in the design and analysis of trials testing the effectiveness of the Ebola vaccine rVSV-ZEBOV-GP. As members of a World Health Organization team, they used a ring vaccination approach to test the new vaccine. Approved for licensing last year, the vaccine is expected to save many lives. More than 300,000 doses of the vaccine have been used to prevent Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Dean has also emerged as a leading expert on the COVID-19 pandemic, conducting interviews with dozens of national and international outlets, including NBC News, BBC Radio, National Public Radio, CNN, Science, The Atlantic, Associated Press, USA Today and Wired. She has also published opinion pieces in the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Presented by the UF Provost’s Office, the Excellence Award for Assistant Professors comes with a one-time allocation of $5,000 in support of research. The award can be used to fund travel, equipment, books, graduate student stipends, and other research-related expenses.