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News & Events

Graduate students receive awards

The School’s 2014 annual award ceremony honored graduate students for their achievements. The winners of the awards were:

Ph.D. Awards

  • Alumni: Dootika Vats
  • Lynn Lin: Sijia Liang, Adam Maidman, Ming Gao
  • Lindgren: Adam Maidman, Meng-Hsuan Wu
  • Martin-Buehler: Boxiang Wang, Dootika Vats
  • GRPP: Aaron Molstad, Megan Heyman
  • Director's Award: Brandon Whited, and Chunlei Li

M.S. Awards:

  • Whitcomb & Napier: Qiao Gu
  • Thibodeau: Yin-Ting Chou, Jeffrey Moulton, Kedong Chen, Li Zhong, Ujjal Kumar Mukherjee, Jiuwu Jin
  • Quiring: Kaiyu Wang, Jingxiang Li, Xihuan Zeng, Jung Koo Kang

Congratulations to all on their achievements.

School consulting center named for benefactor

At the 2014 award ceremony, the School’s consulting center was dedicated to Lynn Lin, a 1975 PhD graduate and long time supporter of the School’s activities in promoting statistics and its applications.

Lan Wang now full professor

The School’s nomination of Lan Wang to a full Professorship has been approved. She is a respected teacher, and has established a formidable reputation in her research areas of nonparametric and semiparametric statistics with focus on high-dimensional data analysis, variable selection, quantile regression, estimating equations, censored data, model diagnostics and their applications.

Data Analytics Competition for Undergraduates

Seven undergraduates from the School of Statistics, accompanied by Dr. Aaron Rendahl, participated in the Midwest Undergraduate Data Analytics Competition (MUDAC), held April 11-12, 2015 at Winona State University. In a simulation of what the students might see in their work after graduation, teams were given a large, complex real-world data set at noon on Saturday. They were then given 24 hours to analyze the data, write a report, and present their findings to judges from both academia and business. The data set was provided by Fastenal, who sponsored the competition, and comprised 400,000 cases with 13 mainly categorical variables on each case.

Given the tight schedule, the students did not get much sleep Saturday night. Despite this they found the whole experience exciting and immensely educational. Typical comments:

  • “The data set was really different from those we get from class.”
  • “…real world data analysis doesn't necessarily need complicated statistical processes but rather logical and critical thinking skills.”
  • “I also realized the importance of translating statistics and graphs into words clients can understand.”
  • “All of these have helped me realize my learning ability, and helped me gain confidence in handling challenges later on, in academics and career.”
  • “Teamwork was definitely the difficult part of the competition.”

And a gratifying wrap-up:

  • “What’s more, I made a lot of friends during this competition. It was really a beautiful time.”

Thanks and congratulations to Tianyi Sun, co-founder of the undergraduate Statistics Club, for organizing our participation and to Dr. Aaron Rendahl, Statistical Consulting Manager, for accompanying the students as faculty mentor.

Undergraduate internship opportunity

The School of Statistics is excited to announce that it plans to establish an internship program for our undergraduate majors. Internships can be a win-win experience for both the student and the employer. Students benefit by being given the chance to apply what they have learned, experience what real-world statistical work might be like, and have work experience to point to on their resumes. Employers benefit by having the opportunity to explore research interests that they wouldn’t ordinarily have time to address, and have access to a potential applicant pool for future hiring. Both gain from the cross dissemination of ideas between academia and the work place.

Our short-term plan is to create a pilot internship program the summer of 2015, learn from this experience and build a larger, improved program for the summer of 2016. Our long-term vision is to connect all of our majors to an internship position that will require them to work as part of a team, solve problems, and communicate solutions.

Our focus is to place students who completed their 3rd or 4th year in statistics into internship positions. By the end of their 3rd year, students typically would have completed introductory statistics, data analysis, applied regression and a year of statistical theory. Seniors will have completed all of the above coursework plus finished at least three of the following courses: experimental design, statistical computing, categorical data analysis, nonparametric statistical methods, multivariate statistics, time series, and survey sampling.

Barbara Kuzmak will oversee this program, mentor undergraduates during their internship and serve as the contact person for supervisors within organizations. Please contact her (internships@stat.umn.edu) if you would like to discuss this opportunity in greater detail.

Taryn Verley Joins School as DGS Assistant

Alice Young left the School at the end of February to take up a position as Student Personnel Coordinator in the Center for BioEthics. She was a valued member of our staff during her year with us, and will be missed.

Her successor is Taryn Verley, who comes to us from Feminist Studies. Taryn writes:

I am thrilled to be joining the team in Statistics! I began my career at the University last August with the Feminist Studies department as the DGS Assistant and Executive Office Administrative Assistant, and look forward to learning and contributing to the School of Statistics this spring. I grew up in St. Cloud, MN and moved to Virginia and Jersey before I came back home to be closer to my family. I'm currently working towards an MFA in Playwriting and spend my free time between working in theaters around the Metro and camping/kayaking.

Taryn starts March 30. Please stop by the office to welcome her.

Hui Zou honored as Scholar of the College

Professor Hui Zou is one of two Scholars of the College of Liberal Arts for 2015. Hui is a 2005 graduate of Stanford University, widely regarded as the world’s top Statistics department, and has been with the School since graduation. His work in high-dimensional data analysis places him among the world experts in this area, with publications in the leading statistics journals. This sometimes esoteric work has also found application in such real-world problems as understanding the genetics of prostate cancer.

Previous awards include a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, a McKnight Professorship, a McKnight Presidential Fellowship and research grants from the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.

Zou is enthusiastic about both classroom teaching and research advising, and two of his PhD thesis advisees are already making their mark in academia.

He joins Statistics’ previous Scholars of the College: Dennis Cook, 1997, and Xiaotong Shen, 2012.

New faculty member coming

The School is happy to announce that Lan Liu will be joining the School as an Assistant Professor from Fall 2015. Lan told us that:

"I am excited to join the School of Statistics at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)! I was born and raised in Shanghai, China. When I was 18, I left home for the very first time and attended college at University of Science and Technology of China, which is in Anhui province. My undergrad major was pure math. After graduation, I switched my major and attended a doctoral program in Biostatistics at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Currently, I am working as a postdoctoral research fellow at Biostatistics department at Harvard University.

My research interest lies in causal inference, missing data analysis and doubly robust inference. In the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of interest in methods for drawing causal inferences across several disciplines including econometrics, social sciences, epidemiology and biomedical areas. However, previous methods for causal inference have relied on assumptions that may not hold in the context of modern complex studies or in the presence of social interaction. My research interest is to develop and apply novel methods to evaluate causal effects in such complex settings."

We're looking forward to working with our new colleague.

Alumnus and Benefactor Honored

Dr. Lynn Lin, (PhD 1975) has been recognized by the University as an Alumnus of Notable Achievement, and will be honored at a CLA dinner on March 26. The College’s nomination form summarizes his professional achievements. Dr Lin was raised in Taiwan in humble circumstances, but excelled at school and university there, before making his way to Minnesota for his PhD. From his earliest days, Dr. Lin was dedicated to statistical solutions for real-world problems. He worked at Pillsbury and Booz, Allen Hamilton before branching out on his own. He is perhaps best-known for BASES, the new-product sales forecasting methodology he invented, and which now has an 85% market share.

Dr. Lin is also focused on giving back. He is a regular speaker at educational events for quantitative professionals. The School has benefited from his subvention of the summer internships that have exposed so many of our graduate students to the uses and applications of statistics in the real world. The School is proud of its role in the life of this innovator and benefactor, and of his well-deserved recognition.

Undergraduate Program Featured

A recent article in Amstat News highlights the School's rapidly-expanding undergraduate program. The interview with Dennis Cook adds background on the School's teaching philosophy and the reasons for its success. Read the full article at http://magazine.amstat.org/blog/2015/02/01/undergraduatedepts_feb2015/

School of Statistics Junior Taylor Aldridge wins at iGEM Competition

From October 30 to November 3, Taylor Aldridge, a junior majoring in Statistics, competed in an iGEM competition in Boston, MA and won the Environment track, as well as qualifying for Gold. Aldridge has been working with the University of Minnesota's iGEM team since May 2014 on a project that combined biology, engineering, and human practices to remove harmful methyl mercury from Minnesota waters.

Link to full article here.

School of Statistics Faculty Member Wins Coveted CAREER Award from NSF

Assistant Professor Adam Rothman of the School of Statistics has just learned of his CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. These awards are made to young faculty members judged to be exceptionally promising, and support their research in their early years on the faculty. The award recognizes Adam’s work in the analysis of high-dimensional data sets – those where each individual in the sample provides a large number of measurements. Data sets of this sort are increasingly common, and new techniques for extracting useful information from the deluge of numbers are vital. Most current methods involve selection, resting on assumption that the relevant features of the data set are a small fraction of those that are possible. Adam’s work recognizes that this assumption is not always tenable and that the alternative “shrinkage” methods that are the focus of his research may be better for some high-dimensional data sets.

The award starts in summer 2015, and will run for five years.

Stat Student Featured in U Newsletter

Grad student Lindsey Dietz is featured in a recent Graduate and Professional Student Spotlight, published by the U’s Graduate School in their biweekly e-newsletter. Read her story here. http://www.grad.umn.edu/news-grad-student-profiles/dietz

Eaton festschrift

The recent IMS collection edited by School professors Galin Jones and Xiaotong Shen honors emeritus professor Morris L. (Joe) Eaton. The book includes a sketch of some of Joe’s many contributions to both the profession and the School.

Recognize anyone?

Fifty winners of prestigious awards from the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies discuss statistics’ past and present, and stick their necks out on its future in this forthcoming Chapman and Hall book. One of them is from the School of Statistics….

ALR Fourth Edition

The fourth edition of Sandy Weisberg’s text Applied Linear Regression has come out. The text builds on the School’s research and expertise in regression modeling and diagnostics. The companion monograph shows “how to do all this in R.”

Cook’s Distance Anyone?

Sue Beseler, who teaches AP statistics at the Cochrane Fountain City High School in Fountain City WI, liked the look of the School of Statistics tee shirts, and thought her students would be proud to wear them. So we donated a shirt to each of these aspiring statisticians, and here they are, using them as props for their statistical know-how. We hope they will continue to plot and regress as they finish up high school, and that we will be seeing some of them in our degree program.

“Statistics is Sexy”

By now, we have probably all heard that in 2009 Google’s chief economist Hal Varian described statistics as “the sexy job of the next ten years.” (If you haven’t, see the tab “Are you thinking about a statistics major?”)

On November 16, the normally staid Wall Street Journal had an article entitled “Odds Lot: Statisticians Party Like It's 2.013 x 10 Cubed” reflecting the broadening realization of the sexiness of our field, and quoting a number of our colleagues

The recent movie “Moneyball” and books “The Black Swan” and “Freakonomics” are more signs of this popular groundswell.

So while we will likely continue to get the groan “Statistics? That was my worst nightmare in college” from people we meet who ask what we do for a living, we can now bask in more glory than we would have had had ten years ago. For the pictorially minded, the WSJ article also includes some fun youtube links:

Stats can be cool, you see

My statistician friend

A day without statistics

Why statistics matters

Are you thinking about a statistics major?

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