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FSP Behind the Scenes with Jeff Thompson, R Senior Statistical Programmer

Cytel’s Functional Service Provision (FSP) teams work on exciting projects with biotech and pharmaceutical companies as statistical programmers and biostatisticians. We spoke with Jeff Thompson, R Senior Statistical Programmer, who is based in the US and working with a leading global biotech company, about the projects he’s found most fascinating and what it’s like to work as a statistical programmer with Cytel’s FSP.

FSP BTS_banner_Jeff Thompson

Can you share a little background on your career at Cytel so far?

I have been an employee of Cytel working with a leading global biotech company for a little over two years. I have been privileged to work with the talented members of the R Team in FSP, which works on a variety of projects mostly centered around the R programming language. Most of my work has involved Shiny, which is a framework allowing one to create web applications using R. While mostly I have used Shiny to develop interactive tools for users to explore data, I have also used it as a GUI to run scripts for other projects. Outside of R, I have also had the privilege of creating a couple of dashboards in Power BI, which were a fun excursion from my normal work.

Can you share an example of a project you've worked on that was really fascinating and/or impactful for you?

This is a difficult question for me because I have been given a lot of opportunities that have been both fascinating and impactful. I would say one such project would be an adverse events explorer I developed in Shiny. Previously, the exploration was being done in Excel. One person would have the master workbook that they would create the charts and pivot tables on and then share it. The Shiny application allows them to upload the data itself and instantly explore. This project was particularly impactful for me because some of the requested visualizations could not be completed efficiently just using the R code. That project made me realize just how much a Shiny app can be improved with a little bit of JavaScript and CSS knowledge.

What motivates you in your work?

If I had to boil it down to one word, I would say curiosity. I have been fortunate (in my opinion) to be involved with a number of projects with fairly open-ended objectives. This results in a lot of opportunities to play around with new ideas and develop new skills. It’s always fun to improve upon a framework that’s been in place or to create something new. There are so many interesting things people are doing with R and I enjoy looking for opportunities to try them myself.

What are some of the ways the FSP team fosters a positive work environment?

One way is by creating a sense of community — being able to easily stay in touch with colleagues, checking in on each other’s well-being, and finding ways to collaborate. I know not everyone enjoys this, but personally I like being pinged by my teammates with random questions and whatnot.

Another is kindness. Honestly, everyone I’ve interacted with has been so kind and helpful. It really fosters a positive working environment where people are willing to help others when needed and don’t fret about getting help themselves.

What does it take to be in Cytel FSP?

I would say being motivated. Some of the more interesting and rewarding work is only going to be given to you if you want it and ask for it. Of course, communication, kindness, and motivation will only get you so far, you also need to have the skills. And with the changing landscape, you also need to be getting new skills. It’s a balancing act, having skills allows you to work on the fun/interesting projects, which in turn allows you to acquire new skills. Rinse and repeat.


Thank you, Jeff, for sharing your experience!


Interested in a career as a statistical programmer? To learn more, or to explore our openings, click below:


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