Human Studies Lab

We use data to make a difference in human lives!

The Human Studies Lab is a teaching and research computer laboratory conducting medical and other public health research, housed within the School of Data Science and Analytics. We use high speed computers in a secure environment to conduct simple and complex analyses on small and big data. All analysts in the lab are HIPAA and Human Studies certified. We work with multiple faculty, as well as internal and external collaborators, clinicians, and clients.

Students from all levels actively assist with the research within courses and as research assistants. The employment rate for students leaving the lab is close to 100%, with virtually all of them attributing some of their employment success to working in the lab.

We have published papers in prestigious journals including Vaccine, Pediatrics, Neonatology, and Annals of Human Biology. Most of our recent publications include student authors. Inclusion of students in research and training students is a primary goal of the lab.

HELP SUPPORT THE HUMAN STUDIES LAB

About the Human Studies Lab

How we got started

Dr. Ferguson began working with Dr. Louise Lawson in Human Studies 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. That semester’s Design and Analysis of Human Studies (STAT 4125/7125) class 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 a new cohort 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.

Group of KSU human studies research students smiling for picture.

GOT Data? We Can Handle It.

The Human Studies Lab is housed within the School of Data Science and Analytics. Currently, several PhD faculty conduct and supervise research in the lab, which is directed by biostatistician Dr. Nicole Ferguson. The lab has card only access available exclusively to HIPAA trained faculty and employees who directly supervise all individuals working in the lab (also required to be HIPAA 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.

The 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, 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, and Tableau, with additional programs to be securely added as needed.

 Leadership

Dr. Nicole Ferguson, Lab Director

Dr. Nicole Ferguson, Lab Director

Dr. Ferguson brings her geek superpowers as a PhD biostatistician and R programmer to the Human Studies Lab. Her early research focused on developing methods for estimating non parametric multistate models with truncated and censored data and applying new and existing methods to real medical data. In 2013, her research focus shifted to preterm infant growth as she created growth curves on BMI for preterm infants. She and then colleague, Dr. Louise Lawson, developed new methods for creating gender-specific BMI curves. The resulting publication of the curves was fast tracked for publication at Pediatrics. She is first author on a subsequent paper addressing the choice of BMI as the best measure of body proportionality in preterm infants. She designed and conducted the analysis for that project, which illustrated why previous research had reached an incorrect conclusion about the best measure of body proportionality. She is a founder and long-time organizer of KSU's popular Fall Analytics Day (formerly KSU R-Day), Her background in biostatistical methods, statistical programming, medical research and event planning uniquely qualifies her to be the driving force within the lab. 

Google Scholar Profile

Supporting Faculty and Contributors

  • Kevin Gittner

    Dr. Gittner is an Assistant Professor of Biostatistics and Research Methods, specializing in statistics and research methodology. With a diverse background in survey methodology, study design, latent variable analysis, biostatistics, mixed methods, and evaluation research, he has developed expertise across multiple disciplines in public health and education. Throughout his academic and professional career, Dr. Gittner has collaborated on a wide range of research projects spanning various fields, including survey methodology, infant mortality, orthopedic outcomes, mental health, dietary habits, veteran studies, law enforcement, special education, and cardiovascular disease modeling. As the primary statistician in these collaborations, he has played a crucial role in assessing psychometrics of instruments, designing and improving survey instruments and recruitment plans, and conducting statistical analyses using various software tools to address research questions. Dr. Gittner is particularly passionate about designing methodological studies, utilizing latent variables in research, and supporting practitioners in advocating for marginalized populations. His research interests extend to the development and refinement of statistical methods, with a focus on providing rigorous and meaningful insights to improve public health outcomes and enhance the quality of research in diverse fields.

    In addition to his research endeavors, Dr. Gittner actively contributes to several research initiatives. He serves as a statistician and methodologist on the NIH-funded TOPOWA social drivers of mental illness study, collaborating with an international team of researchers in Georgia and Uganda. In this role, he contributes his expertise in statistical analysis and research methodology to further understand the complex factors influencing mental health outcomes. Furthermore, Dr. Gittner holds a collaborative faculty support role in the Human Studies Lab at KSU, where he provides guidance and mentorship to undergraduate and graduate students interested in conducting research related to infant growth and mortality. His active involvement in decision-making processes and valuable insights contribute to the scholarly work conducted within these programs.

    Through his interdisciplinary collaborations and research involvements, Dr. Gittner exemplifies his dedication to advancing statistical methodologies and promoting evidence-based practices. His commitment to addressing important social and health issues, along with his expertise in statistical analysis, positions him as a respected researcher and advocate for equitable health outcomes. Overall, Dr. Gittner's extensive training, collaborative approach, and research interests make him a valued contributor in the field, with a strong commitment to methodological rigor and improving the lives of individuals and communities through evidence-based practices.

  • Jessica Woo

    Dr. Woo is a Professor at University of Cincinnati's Department of Pediatrics and a Professor in the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. As an epidemiologist, Dr. Woo's research is related to childhood obesity and nutrition and their long-term impact on cardiometabolic health into adulthood. She is also interested in early-life exposures occurring during pregnancy and breastfeeding that may help establish developmental trajectories into childhood and beyond. She has significant expertise in how children develop relative to growth charting.

    Her groundbreaking work has centered on the use of growth charts to evaluate infant obesity and identify critical time periods for the development of early-onset severe obesity. Dr. Woo's work has been published in journals such as Journal of Pediatrics, Pediatrics, Journal of Nutrition, and New England Journal of Medicine. You can read more about Dr. Woo's work on her website

  • Marion Granger
    My name is Marion Granger. I found the Human Studies Lab during my senior year of undergrad (Fall 2019). I was a psychology major minoring in statistics and had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation. I went on to complete the MSDSA program at KSU and am currently persuing my PhD in Epidemiology at the University of South Carolina thanks to my time and experience in the lab. I want to continue my passion of improving patient outcomes through research. 

Current Lab Members

  • Brandi Jones
    My name is Brandi Dent Jones. I have a B.S. in Psychology, M.S. in Biology and am currently a graduate student in the statistics and data analytics program. As an Anatomy & Physiology professor for the last 13 years, I have always had a strong interest in human-centered/medical research. My interest in data analysis and my continued interest in a career in research in human biology/medicine led me to KSU's data analytics program. I first learned of the Human Studies lab at KSU during the graduate application process and hoped for the opportunity to join ever since. As a member of the lab, we are given the chance to work with real world medical data alongside clinicians and faculty mentors, allowing for the application of knowledge gained through coursework, skill building crucial to future career pursuits, and the rewarding opportunity to be a part of the scientific process through the contribution of new research and literature in the medical field. Aside from graduate studies and research, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, painting, hiking, and reading as many books as I can get my hands on. 

  • Natalie Jordan
    Hey, my name is Natalie Jordan, and I am a graduate student in the statistics and data analytics program. After taking a biostatistics course at Kennesaw, I became intrigued with the idea of observing datasets, forming assumptions, and constructing the best models and visuals from these data. My interest in data analysis and my continued interest in pursuing a career in medicine led me to obtain a minor in data analytics. I decided to join the team after finding the Human Studies Lab by surfing the web for undergraduate research opportunities. I am now thrilled to say that I’ve been with lab ever since, working alongside phenomenal mentors and colleagues as well as neonatologists, clinicians, and statisticians who have experience in the data analysis field. I think it’s even more fascinating and rewarding to be exposed to and work with real-world data while being able to apply knowledge from previous statistical courses. I have thoroughly enjoyed lab as it’s been a real eye-opening experience learning everything from clinical methodology/coding to all things scientific writing oriented. Aside from school and research assisting, I enjoy hiking, reading, hitting golf balls at the range, and spending time with family and friends.

  • T Pacheco
    My name is T Pacheco and I am a graduate research assistant in the Human Studies Lab! I graduated with my B.S. in Biology from KSU in 2023 and am currently pursuing my master’s in data science and analytics. I developed a fascination for epidemiology while taking biostatistics amid the COVID-19 pandemic and realized just how important the data analytics side of medicine could be. This interest led me to join the Human Studies Lab in the Spring of 2023. While working in the lab, I have learned so much from my mentors, fellow lab members, and the epidemiologists and clinicians we have the pleasure of working with. Being able to use analytical skills learned throughout my academic career to work on real world data that impacts the treatment and assessment of preterm infants has been such an amazing and rewarding experience. When I’m not busy with school, work, or research, I can often be found hiking with my dog or enjoying a good book in my hammock.
  • Joseph Stanton

    My name is Joseph Stanton. I hold an undergraduate degree in political science and first joined the human studies lab while completing the applied statistics minor. After a period of time working in industry conducting judicial workload analysis, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in data science and analytics, which allowed me to return to the human studies lab as a graduate research assistant. I am pursuing a career in research design and process improvement and enjoy using data visualizations to convey complex ideas in simple ways. Working with real world medical data alongside knowledgeable faculty and clinicians is an incredibly fascinating and unique experience. Once a lab member, always a lab member. The mentors and friends made here are lifelong.

  • Caitlin Callahan
    My name is Caitlin, and I am an undergraduate student majoring in psychology with a minor in applied statistics and analytics. A lot of my research interests are in the public health field so I knew this lab would be a perfect fit for me! I plan to pursue the master’s in data science and analytics here at Kennesaw State University starting in the fall of 2024. Outside of the lab, I am president of the Undergraduate Research Club, and I am a social media coordinator for the Office of Research. I enjoy rock climbing, listening to Taylor Swift music, and spending time with my two cats!

  • Job Golden
    Hello, I’m Job Golden and I am an undergraduate volunteer student researcher currently majoring in Biological Sciences. I always found data fascinating, but always held a greater interest in science and its ability to greater define the world around us. A close friend of mine was the one who introduced me to the potential career in biostatistics and put me in touch with the Human Studies Lab. This career caught my attention because it would allow me to enjoy two of my interests through research of biological systems with mathematical analysis. Since the summer of 2023 when I joined the lab, It has been a joy to be able to learn the practical application of some of the concepts I have learned throughout my undergrad. I have also met some truly great individuals while helping with the lab and it has helped me gain a better perspective of how the research field operates. When I’m not studying or working, I enjoy reading, conversing with friends, or even knitting while watching a good show!

Lab Alumni

  • Dr. Louise Lawson
    A founding member of the Human Studies lab, Dr. Lawson had over 20 years of experience in medical research. She had over 40 publications in medical literature on topics ranging from pulmonary function to pain to obesity to influeza to preterm infant growth, to name a few. She received grant funding for all these projects, among others. Her choice of topic was dicated by the clinicians who came to her with problems to be solved. This approach was extremely successful. She achieved one of her dreams in cofounding the Human Studies Lab. It combined her love for teaching and Human Subject research...a legacy that continues today. 

  • Emma Pham
    My name is Emma Pham. I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology at KSU and I am currently in the MSDSA program. Entering the program with little experience in statistics/programming, my professors have helped me build a toolbox of valuable skills to prepare for future opportunities within statistics.  I have always wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, but didn’t have a concrete plan as to which career within the industry. After some introspection as to what I wanted to do career-wise, I completed a Co-Op at a gene therapy company and found a passion for improving patient outcomes through statistics. This led me to pursuing the Human Studies Lab. I joined the lab in Fall of 2021 and hope to learn more about how we work with real-life data, how we present the data in an easily understandable way, and a glimpse into what it is like to be a Biostatistician.

  • Waleed Masoud
    Hi! My name is Waleed Masoud. I am a first year MSDSA student and KSU alum. My undergraduate degree was in Biology with a minor in Data Science and Analytics at KSU. I joined the Human Studies Lab Fall of my junior year after some lab members came and talked to my class. This lab has taught me a lot of skills that I do not think I could have learned without being a part of it. We get to work with real world data and help answer important questions from clinicians and biostatisticians. It can seem overwhelming, but we have created a great support system in lab. Everyone in the lab helps each other and we all want to see each other grow. I highly recommend this lab to those who are considering. It is a great way to feel how it is to work as a junior biostatistician and learn skills that are highly applicable to any data field

  • My name is Hailey Treadaway. I joined Human Studies Lab during senior year of my undergraduate degree (Computational and Applied Mathematic with a minor in Data Science and Analytics) in the Spring of 2019. This is where I found my true passion, which prompted me to apply for the MSAS program. After getting into the MSDSA program, I continued working in the lab all the way through the program. I enjoyed being in the lab and learned so much as well as made great friends with many people and got amazing mentors. After finishing the MSDSA program in December 2020, I wanted to and still volunteer my time in the lab. I plan to go on to earn a PhD in Epidemiology and work specifically in mental health research. This lab has given me the passion I did not know I had and found my true calling in life, and would highly recommend anyone that is looking at joining to apply to do so. 

  • Claire Simms
    Hey, I am Claire Simms! I am an alumnus who majored in Biology with a concentration in Pre-Med and a minor in Data Science and Analytics. I am currently in my gap year working at Piedmont Atlanta. I have submitted my medical school applications and just waiting to see where they lead me. This lab has taught me how to read statistics from a clinician’s point of view and think outside the box when needing to present data. I never thought that in my college years that I would learn how to program. I started in Biostatistics for my major and I got hooked. After that, I did the following classes that were needed and after the Human Studies Lab came and talked in one of my classes I decided to finish my minor in statistics and joined the lab. I have learned how to collaborate with professors, fellow students, clinicians, and epidemiologists. As a team in Spring '21, we thought outside of the box and produced innovative graphs to visualize data that is easily understandable to the normal person. This is not the typical lab that produces basic plots for visualization but pushes you to think abstractly not only in statistics but in your everyday life.

  • Anjie Adeyemo
    My name is Anjie Adeyemo. I graduated with a major in Biology and a minor in Data Science and Analytics from Kennesaw State University in May 2021. I first heard about the Human Studies Lab as a freshman when I took Dr. Lawson’s biostatistics class. She motivated me to pick up the statistics minor and I later joined the lab during my junior year. The lab helped me develop my skills in programming and gave me experience in public health and infant health research. It also helped to push me out of my comfort zone and try new things. I also had the chance to complete an honors research capstone project with a thesis in this lab. Recently, I participated in the 2021 Harvard Summer Program in Biostatistics & Computational Biology where I had the chance to conduct and present statistical pediatric research and attend health data science and epidemiology classes and seminars. 

    Without this lab, I wouldn’t have had all the opportunities to do 11 research presentations at conferences, attend rigorous summer programs and acquire in demand skills needed for a career in biostatistics and research.

    Currently, I teach middle school and high school girls coding as a Club Facilitator in the Girls Who Code Club. Additionally, I’m building my data science knowledge. My dream is to use data to improve healthcare for minorities and to track the spread of diseases. Outside of school and research, I enjoy painting and playing the piano.

  • Alyssa Venn
    Hello! My name is Alyssa Venn, and I am currently pursuing my M.S. in Data Science and Analytics. I first joined the Human Studies Lab in the fall semester of my Junior year in my Applied Mathematics undergrad, where I researched the mathematical methodology of growth curve creation. In the lab, I have learned a great deal about working with real-life data, and the interdisciplinary nature of the lab has been a fantastic experience. I have learned a lot from my peers in different fields, combining our different knowledge bases to answer our research questions, and I am so glad I was given the opportunity. Since I started my undergraduate degree in 2016, I have presented my research on sixteen separate occasions, including five international conferences, on topics ranging from video games to social media to preterm infant growth curves, and am in the process of writing several publication manuscripts. In my free time, I play video games, go to the gym, or draw, and I have a multitude of pets in my apartment—a cat, a snake, a guppy tank, and a shrimp tank.

  • Randall English: Undergraduate Research Assistant
    Hello, my name is Randall English, and I am happy to call myself an alumni of the Human Studies Lab at KSU! I attended KSU from 2018-2020 under the Master in Data Science and Analytics program, though back then it was the Master of Science in Applied Statistics and Analytics. During my first semester at KSU, I had was looking for some sort of study group or community to help me more actively participate with others at the program, and I stumbled into the HSL at the recommendation of a classmate. I spent the second semester of school as a student in the class dedicated to the lab, and then I was able to work as a Graduate Research Assistant for my last year at KSU. I am very thankful that I joined, because the experience I gained at the Human Studies Lab taught me many skills, from working with real public health data, coding, to managing research projects. My favorite part of the experience had to be working with the other students in the lab, and having ample opportunities to sneak in bad puns throughout the day! In all serious though, the skills and experience I earned at the HSL lab were paramount to my career, and led me to get hired as a data manager at the CDC after I graduated, where I currently work on a team of epidemiologists whose focus is domestic polio, acute flaccid myelitis (a similar paralytic disease), and their related viruses. When I am not focusing on my job as a data manager, I am playing music; I like to play bass guitar, contra clarinet, and especially my favorite instrument, the accordina!

Human Studies Lab Projects

“Project Grow Baby Grow”​
Growth and Outcomes for Preterm Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). "Determining what values in growth curves best classify small and large-for-gestational age in preterm infants to predict morbidity and mortality". Funded by The Gerber Foundation.

Dr. Ferguson provided an overview of the past and current research related to this project at KSU's PechKucha Night in November 2023. The presentation is below.

Evaluation of Cobb County Family Treatment Court​
Pro bono service project​.

Clinical Outcomes, Internal Projects ​
Funded by Wellstar Health Systems.

Diagnosis of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Hospitalized Patients
Funded by Piedmont Physicians Group​.

Risk for Gestational Diabetes: A Condition of Abdominal Fatness or Sedentariness?​
Internal Collaboration with Dr. Katherine H. Ingram in the Department of Exercise Science and Sport Management.  NIH Funded.

ksu human studies lab students at computers

Human Studies Lab Research and Publications

Human Studies Research Lab Presentations

Invited Presentations

  • Ferguson, A. N., PechaKucha Night, Grow Baby Grow: Helping Clinicians Learn about Preterm Infant Growth and How It Impacts Outcomes​, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA (November 16, 2023) Link to Presentation
  • Ferguson, A. N., RSS 2018 International Conference, Growing Preterm Infants in the United States Proportionally ... the Past, the Present, and the Future, Royal Statistical Society, Cardiff, Wales, UK. (September 5, 2018)

Oral Presentations

  • Visualizing Chronic Lung Disease Incidence in SAS; An Educational Journey to Data Visualization, SESUG Conference 2023, Charlotte, NC. Presented by Natalie A. Jordan, October 2023.
  • Navigating Self-Doubt in Medical Research: Turning Fear into Triumph in 12 Not-so-easy Weeks, 33rd National Conference on Undergraduate Research, Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA. Presented with Dr. M. L. Lawson and Dr. K. D. Gardner, April 13, 2019.
  • msSurv, an R Package for Nonparametric Estimation of Multistate Models, The 8th International useR! Conference, Nashville, TN, June 2012.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the Human Studies Lab, please don’t hesitate to contact us using the information below.
Email: HumanStudiesLab@kennesaw.edu

Nicole Ferguson, Ph.D.
Director of Human Studies Lab
Email: Nicole.Ferguson@kennesaw.edu

Lab Location:
Kennesaw State University (KSU), Kennesaw Campus, Clendenin Building, Room 3028
275 Kennesaw State Univ Rd NW
Room 3033, MD 1103
Kennesaw, GA 30144