Innovative training in methods for future data

Maarten van Schaik

Statistician developing mixed effect models for measurement error and overdispersion in correlated samples



Hello, my name is Maarten van Schaik and I am a PhD student at University of Leeds at the School of Mathematics. I received my BSc in Criminology and MSc in Statistical Science for Life Sciences at Leiden University in the Netherlands. During my Master’s I had the opportunity to learn about and apply a diverse set of statistical methods, from including methods from the fields of traditional statistics, to machine learning and artificial neural networks. During my Master’s I also taught classes in statistics to undergraduates at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences of Leiden University. In January 2018 I moved to the United Kingdom to start my work as Early Stage Researcher within the IMforFUTURE Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Network, under the supervision of Prof. Jeanine Houwing-Duistermaat and Prof. Arief Gusnanto.  

The human microbiome

Using modern 16S rRNA sequencing techniques, the human gut microbiota has become a new field of research. The scientific community is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of the gut microbiome for human health and longevity. It is believed that among other omics field such as genetics, proteomics and glycomics, a “healthy gut” microbiome plays a key role in healthy ageing. 


As an ESR in IMforFUTURE, I am working on the development of novel statistical methodology to analyse the multivariate count data that are encountered in high throughput omics research such as the human gut microbiome. Modeling these counts it not an easy task. After mapping the bacterial RNA to a reference library and binning them into Operational Taxonomic Units, we are left with samples which are comprised of a very high number of different species per sample (high-dimensional data) and these data are highly variable by person, environment and time. 

My project aims to develop new methods while working with data from centenarians and people with Down’s Syndrome collected by the University of Bologna and data on twins collected by King’s College London.


During my secondment at glyXera GmbH I had the opportunity to learn from colleague-ESR Frania Zúñiga about her work with low-abundance glycoproteins. It was very interesting to see the work of the wet lab from a statisticians’ point of view.

In September-November 2019 I will be working at the University of Bolgona in Italy, doing joint research with colleague-ESRs Iva Budimir and Zhujie Gu on statistical modeling of omics data.


More information