Professor has passion for polka

Videography by Alex Rauch


As professor of biostatistics in the School of Public Health, Donald Hedeker has a long list of achievements that fill a CV more than 50 pages long.

But Hedeker has a second career, one where his accomplishments are tallied on a set list — as Dandy Don Hedeker, lead guitar and vocalist for The Polkaholics.

“I try to keep the two lives distinct,” says Hedeker, a fellow of the American Statistical Association and a 2000-2003 University Scholar.

“I never really talk about it in class or anything like that. I feel if people want to find out about it, they will.”

Hedeker joined UIC in 1989, soon after completing his Ph.D. in quantitative psychology from the University of Chicago (he earned a bachelor’s in economics there).

His research in biostatistics focuses primarily “in psychiatry or in smoking related studies,” he says.

His work includes a long list of articles, books and studies with colleague Robin Mermelstein, director of the Institute for Health Research and Policy, whose research focuses on smoking and nicotine dependency in young people.

In his life as a musician and self-described “polka addict,” Hedeker has been playing shows for well over a decade, dressed in lederhosen and glitter.

For more on the Polkaholics, including upcoming shows, visit their Facebook page.

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