David Vock and Rui Zhang
Drs. David Vock and Rui Zhang

Two CTSI faculty awarded McKnight Presidential Fellowships

David Vock, PhD, who is part of CTSI’s Biostatistical Design and Analysis Center (BDAC), and Rui Zhang, PhD, MS, who is part of CTSI’s Biomedical Informatics Program (BMIP) and serves as the leader of the Natural Language Processing services through the Best Practices Integrated Informatics Collaborative Core, were recently awarded three-year McKnight Presidential Fellowships.

The award is given to promising faculty members based on their research, scholarship, leadership, and ability to advance University of Minnesota priorities. Awardees have been granted both tenure and promotion to associate professor in an academic year and have been recommended by their college dean.

Vock is an assistant professor in the Division of Biostatistics with the School of Public Health. He has expertise in causal inference—a set of statistical tools using observational data to determine the effect of an intervention. He is currently developing methodology for a study funded by the NIH and FDA Center for Tobacco Products to analyze the impact of reducing the nicotine content of cigarettes to curb smoking. Vock is also an expert in dynamic treatment regimes, which are used to evaluate and advance personalized treatment strategies.

In an announcement through the School of Public Health, Vock conveyed his appreciation for the award and the support of his his students and colleagues:

“I am incredibly honored to receive the McKnight Presidential Fellowship,” says Vock. “I want to especially thank the students who have worked in my group over the years; their curiosity, diligence, and brilliance is the driving force behind my research. Additionally, my success would not have been possible without the outstanding mentors and colleagues in the Division of Biostatistics and School of Public Health, and across the University.”

Zhang is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Care & Health Systems with the College of Pharmacy. He is a data scientist who develops health informatics methods and applies them to advance the promise of precision medicine. Zhang’s research provides innovative methods of capturing and filtering through volumes of health and biomedical big data to make novel discoveries about the safety and effectiveness of medical care and drug therapy. He specializes in natural language processing (NLP) and his translational informatics framework has been successfully applied to drug-nutrition supplement interactions, pharmacogenomics-drug relationships, and other clinical applications.

In an announcement through the College of Pharmacy, Zhang shared his appreciation for the award and his future plans:

"I'm truly humbled and appreciative to receive the McKnight Presidential Fellowship Award," Zhang said. "Receiving this award is important to me as it was recognition of my academic achievements and my dedication in the research areas of health informatics. I would like to thank those who supported me, including my mentors, colleagues, and students. I will continue to develop innovative and practical computational methods and tools to advance health care and precision medicine."

Vock and Zhang are two of seven University of Minnesota faculty members selected for the award, which will support their research and scholarly activities through 2022.