Published: Nov. 29, 2020

Susan MurphyAPPM Colloquium:
Speaker : Susan Murphy
Affiliations: Department of Statistics, Harvard University
Department of Computer Science, Harvard University
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University

Day/Time: Friday, December 4th 2020, 4:10pm-5:10pm MST
Location: Virtual talk on Zoom:

Talk Title: Challenges in Developing Learning Algorithms to Personalize Treatment in Real Time

Abstract: There are a variety of formidable challenges to reinforcement learning and control for use in designing digital health interventions for individuals with chronic disorders. Challenges include settings in which most treatments delivered by a smart device have immediate nonnegative (hopefully positive) effects but the largest longer term effects tend to be negative due to user burden. Furthermore the resulting data must be amenable to conducting a variety of statistical analyses, including causal inference as well as for use in monitoring analyses. Other challenges include an immature domain science concerning the system dynamics yet the need to incorporate some domain science due to low signal to noise ratio as well as non-stationary and sparse data. Here we describe how we confront these challenges including our use of low variance proxies for the delay effects to the reward (e.g. immediate response) in an online "bandit" learning algorithm for use in personalizing mobile health interventions.


Susan A. Murphy is Professor of Statistics and Computer Science, and a Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, all at Harvard University. Her research focuses on improving sequential, individualized, decision making in health, in particular on clinical trial design and data analysis to inform the development of just-in-time adaptive interventions in mobile health. Professor graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in Mathematics and earned her PhD in Statistics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1989. She is an elected  Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association, and an elected Member of the International Statistical Institute. In 2014, she was elected as a member of the National Academy of Medicine, and in 2016 as a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Professor Murphy was a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship, a sizeable award also referred to as the "genius grant", which is awarded anually to 20-30 US citizens who have shown "extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction" .