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2016 Geisser Lecture: Robert E. Weiss: Analysis of Hierarchical Sexual Behavior Profiles over Time

Robert E. Weiss, received his PhD from the School of Statistics, University of Minnesota in 1989. He is Professor in the Department of Biostatistics in the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association. His biostatistical research includes development of hierarchical regression models for univariate and multivariate longitudinal data. He specializes in analysis of data on human behavior, particularly sex and drug behaviors and for HIV+ and HIV-at risk populations. He is author of Modeling Longitudinal Data (2005) and he teaches courses in longitudinal data, multivariate data analysis, Bayesian data analysis and statistical graphics.

Abstract: The Healthy Living Project was a behavioral intervention study targeting HIV+ people who were at elevated risk of transmitting HIV to others. The main goal was to evaluate the effects of the counseling intervention on the sexual behaviors of the participants over time. Sexual behavior is a complex behavior with acts nested within partners and then repeatedly assessed over time. Binary covariates at the partner level (partner is HIV+ vs HIV-/unknown) and act level (protected vs unprotected) divide partners and acts into smaller units. We analyze the entire sexual behavior profile as a hierarchical-longitudinal structure. A highly multivariate outcome over time has many many potential inference targets. We briefly discuss intervention differences; covariate effects; an explanation for the substantial drop in risky sex acts from baseline to follow-up in both intervention and control groups; and presence of sero-sorting, which is when a person changes his/her sexual behavior based on their HIV status and the HIV status of their partners.

Two School Alums inducted as ASA Fellows:

Francesca Chiaromonte (PhD 1996) and Murali Haran (PhD 2003), both of Penn State University, were inducted as Fellows of the American Statistical Association in 2016 -- Congratulations Francesca and Murali! The accompanying picture shows Francesca and Murali celebrating their awards with Galin Jones who was inducted at the same time (see related article).

ACLS Fellowship and Grant Programs

School Alum now Dean in Korea

Chang Wook Kang (PhD 1990 Hawkins) has been appointed Dean of the College of Engineering Sciences at the ERICA Campus of Hanyang University, one of Korea’s leading institutions. This elevation follows his award in 2013 of the university’s Distinguished Teaching Professorship and other national awards and recognitions.

Noel Schumacher -- new Associate Administrator

Noel Schumacher will be joining us, starting July 11th, as our new Associate Administrator. Noel received her BA from the University of Minnesota’s College of Liberal Arts in 2008 and her MS from Saint Cloud State University in 2015. Noel has worked at the University of Minnesota in a wide range of finance positions throughout the University since 2006. She spent the past four years as a Financial Professional in the University of Minnesota’s Medical School Department of Pediatrics. During the summer months, Noel enjoys biking to work and around the metro area. In the winter she switches over to cross country skiing, where she loves to make frequent trips north to hit the Birkebeiner Trail in Hayward, WI. When not biking or skiing, Noel takes time to cuddle with her two dogs, read a good book or work on perfecting her baking and crafting skills.

Statistical Skills Help Earn Money

An article in the June 2016 issue of Money magazine lists “the 21 most valuable career skills”. Statistical abilities feature prominently, with the top two items being a command of SAS, and of Data mining / data warehousing. Data Modeling follows closely behind.

See the full list and the potential value of these skills online at: career-skills/?xid=homepage

We are glad to see confirmation of the value of statistical skills to all of our students.

New Director Appointed

The College has just appointed Galin Jones to a three-year term as Director of the School. Galin will take over from current Director Dennis Cook at the start of the Fall semester.

Galin Jones to be a Fellow of the ASA

The news is out – Galin Jones will be inducted as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association at the Fall JSM. The citation for this honor reflects his groundbreaking research in Markov Chain Monte Carlo methodology, his transformative contributions to graduate and undergraduate statistics education, and his services to ASA journals.

Honor for Cook

We are pleased and proud to hear that School Director Dennis Cook is being recognized as a distinguished alumnus of his alma mater, Kansas State University. His Distinguished Alumni award will be made at a reunion in Manhattan KS

New Assistant Professor

After a successful search, we look forward to Xiaoou Li joining the School as of Fall 2016. She says:

“I am very excited to join the School of Statistics at University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)! I was born and raised in Zhengzhou, a mid-sized city in east-central China. I went to Peking University for my undergraduate study when I was 17, where I studied Mathematics and Economics. After graduating from Peking University in 2007, I attended the doctoral program in Statistics at Columbia University. Currently, I am in my fifth year at Columbia, and I expect to obtain the PhD degree in May 2016.

My research mainly focuses on three parts. The first part deals with asymptotic analysis and computation for random functions.  In applied probability, the random functions of interest are classic stochastic processes; in statistics, of interest are functions of the data, such as likelihood functions. The second part of my research is on sequential analysis and adaptive experimental design with applications in business and engineering. The third part of my work is on latent variable modeling with applications in psychological and educational assessment.”

Student wins Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship

Shubho Majumdar has just heard of winning a Graduate School Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship which will support him for the upcoming academic year. His research, joint with Prof. Saonli Basu of Biostats and the Minnesota Center for Twin and Family Research, will encompass “Simultaneous Selection of Multiple Genetic and Environmental Factors in Genome Wide Association Studies for Families”. Well done, Shubho

Masters student wins award

A multidisciplinary team comprising Raoul Fernandez, a 2016 master student in Statistics and three students from neuroscience and computer science won the Bronze medal in this year’s Acara challenge. Their idea was a health sync which would distribute remote health monitoring stations to rural villages in India. This will help gather data for health professional in the area that are trying to address the lack of health care access in the area.

Acara is an organization at the University of Minnesota which empowers the next generation of leaders to tackle social and environmental challenges through business. The Acara Challenge is open to graduate and undergraduate student teams within the University to develop solutions to address global issues.

Another award

Boxiang Wang, the School's 2014 Bueher-Martin awardee, has been selected as one of the winners in the 2016 American Statistical Association Statistical Learning and Data Mining Student Paper Competition. The winning paper is "Another Look at DWD: Thrifty Algorithm and Bayes Risk Consistency in RKHS", work dne jointly with his advisor Hui Zou. He will be sponsored to present the work at JSM 2016 in Chicago.

Boxiang was honored again at the 10th Annual Machine Learning Symposium, held by New York Academy of Sciences. His spotlight talk "Another Look at Distance Weighted Discrimination" won first prize.

Good work, Boxiag.

School student wins two awards

The School is happy and proud to report that Dootika Vats, the School’s current Alumni Fellow and a Lindgren Teaching Award winner has added another prestigious award to her resume. As noted in the cover letter from the Graduate School, her University’s Louise T. Dosdall Fellowship “ is a tribute to her excellent academic record and professional promise”. The Fellowship will support her for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Dootika is also one of the winners of a best paper award, and will be sponsored to attend the 2016 JSM in Chicago to present her research The paper is available at

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