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Data-adaptive approaches for causal inference

  • Full or part time
    Dr S Burgess
  • Application Deadline
    Tuesday, January 07, 2020
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

Identifying causal relationships is of vital importance for understanding disease processes, and for prioritizing risk factors as potential therapeutic targets. It is well-known that “correlation is not causation”. But how then can causation be demonstrated? One potential approach is instrumental variable analysis. An instrumental variable is a factor that is not controlled by an experimenter, but behaves similarly to randomization in a randomized controlled trial to provide a natural experiment in an observational dataset. Naturally-occurring genetic variation represents a fertile source of plausible instrumental variables. The use of genetic variants as instrumental variables is known as Mendelian randomization.

The majority of Mendelian randomization analyses have considered a single risk factor and a single outcome. However, datasets with concomitant measurements on genetic variants, risk factors, and outcomes are increasing in terms of size and scale. This allows the possibility of performing more complex analyses to understand causal relationships between related variables, and to try to unpick complex relationships between risk factors and diseases. This project will involve developing and applying data-adaptive methods, such as those in the machine learning literature, to large-scale datasets with information on imaging phenotypes (including cardiac imaging) and disease outcomes (such as coronary artery disease).

Funding Notes

The MRC Biostatistics Unit offers 4 fulltime PhDs funded by the Medical Research Council for commencement in April 2020 (UK applicants only) or October 2020 (all applicants). Academic and Residence eligibility criteria apply.

In order to be formally considered all applicants must complete a University of Cambridge application form. Informal enquiries are welcome to

Applications received via the University application system will all be considered as a gathered field after the closing date 7th January 2020

For all queries see our website for details View Website

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