Laura B. Balzer

University of Massachusetts Amherst Assistant Professor of Biostatistics Laura Balzer
Assistant Professor
427 Arnold House

UMass Causality Lab


B.S., University of Vermont, 2008; MPhil, University of Cambridge, UK, 2009; PhD, University of California, Berkeley, 2015; Post-Doctoral Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health, 2015-2017

Area(s) of Specialization: 

Causal inference, Machine Learning, Cluster randomized and pragmatic trials, Epidemiologic methods, Differential measurement, missingness, and censoring

Research Description: 

I am methodologist with substantive interests in global health, community-based participatory research, and social determinants of health. My areas of expertise are Causal Inference and Machine Learning. These disciplines are integral to developing, evaluating, and implementing data-driven solutions in Public Health and Medicine. My research has focused on challenges that arise when making causal inferences with clustered and longitudinal data. I am is also interested the design and analysis of pragmatic trials and observational studies, which are both subject to complex measurement, missingness, and dependence. 

I am the Primary Statistician for three cluster randomized trials in East Africa: the SEARCH study to prevent HIV and improve community health, the SATURN study to improve care outcomes among HIV+ youth, and the SPIRIT study to prevent TB. My work is supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has been recognized by ASA’s Causality in Statistics Education Award and the Gertrude M. Cox Scholarship. Overall, my research is informed by cross-disciplinary real-world problems and aims to ensure methodological advances in Academia translate into real-world impact.

Key Publications: 

L.B. Balzer, W. Zheng, M.J. van der Laan, M.L. Petersen, and the SEARCH Collaboration. A new approach to hierarchical data analysis: Targeted maximum likelihood estimation for the causal effect of a cluster-level exposure. Statistical Methods in Medical Research, OnlineFirst, 2018

M. Petersen, L. Balzer, D. Kwarsiima, N. Sang, et al. Association of implementation of a universal testing and treatment intervention with HIV diagnosis, receipt of antiretroviral therapy, and viral suppression among adults in East Africa. JAMA, 317(21):2196–2206, 2017.

L.B. Balzer. “All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.” - Alexandre Dumas [Commentary]. Epidemiology, 28(4):562–566, 2017.

L. Balzer, P. Staples, J. Onnela, and V. DeGruttola. Using network-based simulations to evaluate the effect of adding targeted PrEP to an ongoing treatment-as-prevention trial. Clinical Trials, Jan:1–10, 2017.

L. Balzer, M. van der Laan, M. Petersen, and the SEARCH Collaboration. Adaptive pre-specification in randomized trials with and without pair-matching. Statistics in Medicine, 35(25):4528–4545, 2016.

L. Balzer, M. Petersen, M.J. van der Laan, and the SEARCH Collaboration. Targeted estimation and inference of the sample average treatment effect in trials with and without pair-matching. Statistics in Medicine, 35(21):3717–3732, 2016.