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DANVILLE, Pa. – Geisinger Health System, Penn State University and Penn State Hershey have teamed up in a $2.4-million program to train the next generation of biomedical scientists in the use of big data.

The Biomedical Big Data to Knowledge Training (B2D2K) program has been established with nearly $1.4 million in funding from the National Library of Medicine of the U.S. National Institutes of Health and more than $1 million from Penn State.

This new initiative brings together Pennsylvania data scientists, biomedical researchers and life-science researchers whose work increasingly depends on the ability to analyze, interpret and visualize very large and complex sets of data, known as "big data."

Yearly, the B2D2K program will support up to nine Penn State graduate students pursuing doctorate degrees in the realm of data analytics.  Each B2D2K trainee will be mentored by faculty members with complementary expertise in data sciences and biomedical sciences.

The Penn State B2D2K program was developed by Marylyn D. Ritchie and Penn State faculty members: Vasant Honavar and Runze Li.

Ritchie, who is director of Geisinger’s Biomedical & Translational Informatics Institute and chief research informatics officer, serves as the new program's director. She is also a professor at Penn State in the Eberly College of Science Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

"Students admitted to this training program will become a new generation of scientists who can mine mountains of complex scientific data to reveal the information buried there. This will lead to advances in genetic and other types of biological and health-related research," Ritchie said.

"The program complements the informatics research initiatives of the Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health," said Neil Sharkey, Vice President for Research at Penn State. "It also leverages Penn State's strategic investments in advanced computing infrastructure through faculty hires in the data sciences."

Graduate students in the B2D2K program's inaugural group, which began training during the 2017 spring semester, are Anna Basile (biochemistry, microbiology and molecular biology), Awtum Brashear (immunology and infectious disease), Miriam Brinberg (human development and family studies), Thanh L (information science and technology), Robert Nichols (molecular toxicology), and Jaiwei Wen (statistics Ph.D. program).

The second round of trainee selections will be announced in late spring 2017. Those students will be admitted to the program in the 2017 fall semester. Eligible students may contact Associate Professor Cooduvalli S. Shashikant at to obtain more information about participating in the B2D2K program.

About Geisinger
Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for the more than 1 million people it serves. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 10 hospital campuses, a health plan with more than half a million members, a research institute and the Geisinger College of Health Sciences, which includes schools of medicine, nursing and graduate education. With more than 25,000 employees and 1,700+ employed physicians, Geisinger boosts its hometown economies in Pennsylvania by billions of dollars annually. Learn more at or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.


For media inquiries:

Marc Stempka

Media specialist
Geisinger Marketing & Communications

Marilyn Ritchie
Marilyn Ritchie, who is director of Geisinger’s Biomedical & Translational Informatics Institute and chief research informatics officer, serves as the Biomedical Big Data to Knowledge Training program director.
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