Cisca Wijmenga appointed to new Lodewijk Sandkuijl chair

1st Nov 2017 – Cisca Wijmenga has been appointed to hold a new chair installed by the University of Groningen in memory of Lodewijk Sandkuijl (1953-2002), who helped lay the foundations of statistical genetics. He conceived and developed methods to unravel the hereditary factors involved in complex diseases. See an obituary published in AJHG in 2003.

Prof. Wijmenga says ‘Statistics plays a large part in genetic research. It is needed to work out which part of the DNA is linked to a particular disease when studying family trees. ‘Lodewijk Sandkuijl, a doctor who had retrained as a statistician, was there to help me. I could always rely on him.’ He died in 2002 at a relatively young age. ‘I still miss him.’

Sandkuijl taught Wijmenga one very important rule: ‘Decide which statistical analysis method you intend to use before you start. Write it down, put it in a safe place and only retrieve it once you have all the data. Apply the method exactly as you had intended. This prevents you from fishing in the data until you find something.’ He was referring to a mortal sin in statistics, which unfortunately is still being committed. Wijmenga: ‘Sandkuijl impressed this upon me right from the start. These days, we call it academic integrity.’

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