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MS Graduate and Advisers win Award

Mark Albrecht, a recent MS graduate from the School, is the lead author on the paper winning the 2013 Youden Award from the American Statistical Association. The award is given annually for the best expository paper appearing in Technometrics, the ASA’s flagship journal for engineering and physical sciences applications. The winning paper is “Experimental Design for Engineering Dimensional Analysis” (

Mark shares the award with his advisors, Dennis Cook and Chris Nachtsheim, and his brother Tom, who provided engineering insights.

ASA Honors Faculty Member at Seattle Conference

At the recent quadrennial joint research conference ( of the ASA’s Statistics in Physical and Engineering Sciences section and its Quality and Productivity section, Douglas Hawkins was Guest of Honor. His award is a “recognition and appreciation of his many contributions to industrial statistics.” He gave the plenary lecture “A Random Walk in Useful Statistics”, a reminiscence of statistical methodologies motivated by practical problems.

Photo: Hawkins delivering plenary lecture at Seattle conference

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.

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.

Associate Administrator joins the School.

John McEwen of the Department of Art History will be moving to Statistics to take up the post of Associate Administrator. John writes:

I couldn't be more excited to join the staff of the School of Statistics on April 7th as the new Associate Administrator. I am originally from Ellsworth Maine, but I grew up in Appleton Wisconsin. I have been married to my wife Jessica for 9 years and have a 2 1/2 year old son named Miles and another on the way (due in August). I have played in rock and roll bands since I was 15 years old and continue to play, write, and record original music in my free time. Professionally, I have been at the University of Minnesota for almost ten years, the last eight in the Department of Art History. I started as an Office Specialist in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies and then moved to the role of Executive Office and Administrative Specialist in the Department of Art History. Here my duties included being an assistant to both the Director of Undergraduate Studies and the Director of Graduate Studies as well as running the main office. Three years ago I was hired as Associate Administrator in the Department of Art History. My staff and I won the CLA Outstanding Service Team Award in 2012 and I am currently on a few different committees in the College of Liberal Arts including the Executive Committee for the Administrator's Forum and the Graduate Education Transition Team (GETT). I am also a team lead for the CLA-OIT Affinity Group which focuses on Communication. I look forward to the challenges that the School of Statistics presents and hope to hit the ground running in the weeks to come.

New Executive Office and Administrative Specialist

Kate Klosterman has made her temporary transition from Psychology, and joined us as a permanent staff member. Her message to the School is:

I am excited to officially be joining the School of Statistics. I’ve spent the last 10 months in the Department of Psychology here at the U of M with the last month split between Psychology and Statistics. Prior to that I worked in Customer Service at Cabela’s, a popular sporting good store. I just completed my AAS in Business Management – HR and am planning on going back for a Bachelor’s in either HR or accounting. In my free time I like to do anything that gets me outdoors – hunting, fishing, and camping are my three favorite activities. I also love photography – I almost completed a degree in it before changing to business management!

Buehler Martin Lectures for 2014.

This year’s Buehler-Martin lecture series will be given by Bruce Lindsday. Dates and titles are:

March 10: Mixture models: the data story, the mysteries, and the surprises.

March 12. Sufficient projections through a Fisherian information matrix

About the speaker

Bruce Lindsay started his statistical career at University of Washington in Seattle, where he received his Ph.D. in Biomathematics in 1978. His advisor was Norm Breslow. He followed this with a one year postdoc at Imperial College in London under the supervision of D.R. Cox. In 1979 he joined the faculty at Penn State University where he has been ever since. He has written multiple papers in a diversity of statistical subjects including likelihood, mixture models, robustness, estimating functions, statistical computing, and cross validation. Among other things he has supervised 30 Ph.D. students and has served as the Department Head at Penn State for 8 years.

About the series

Visit to learn about the Buehler-Martin annual lectures and previous years’ speakers and titles.

New face in the front office

Alice Young is joining the School as of February 10. Her primary focus will be working with the DGS in managing the graduate program. Originally from Wisconsin, Alice recently relocated to Minnesota from Denver, Colorado where she was the Graduate Studies Coordinator for the MS in Biomedical Sciences program at Regis University. Prior to that, she lived and studied for several years in the Netherlands. She is currently pursuing a graduate degree of her own in Communications and Leadership. In her free time Alice enjoys hiking and kayaking... or at least she will when it stops being so dang cold.

Nate Helwig is our latest Assistant Professor

I am excited to join both the Department of Psychology and the School of Statistics at the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities). I was born and raised in Chicago, which is where a majority of my family lives. However, I have not lived in Chicago for the past 11 years… I did my undergraduate work at the University of Miami (Florida), where I studied Psychology and Mathematics. After graduating from the University of Miami (May 2007), I returned to the Midwest to attend a doctoral program in Quantitative Psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. While at Illinois, I earned an MS in Statistics (Dec. 2010), an MA in Psychology (Dec. 2011), and a PhD in Quantitative Psychology (May 2013). Currently, I am working as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I have diverse research interests with a focus on developing mathematical models and computational algorithms for analyzing psychological and biological data. In particular, I am well trained in multimode data analysis (tensor analysis) and nonparametric regression (smoothing splines). I am interested in developing and applying these methods to understand group and individual differences in various types of multidimensional psychological and biological data (e.g., neuroimage and locomotion data). Ultimately, I hope to combine my interest in multimode analysis with my interest in smoothing splines to develop multimode smoothing models; such models should be useful for extracting functional multilinear components from many types of psychological and biological data. Finally, I have a general interest in psychological measurement and psychometrics (e.g., item response theory).

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.

New Lecturer Joining the School: Barbara Kuzmak

My BS and first MS degrees, from Cornell and Kansas State, were in entomology. I then did a second MS in Statistics at Kansas State before going to Virginia Tech for my PhD.

After graduation, I worked as a statistician for Procter and Gamble for over 20 years in Research and Development. I had a wide variety of assignments ranging from pharmaceutical drug development to understanding how to make a tastier potato chip (Pringles) and a better performing laundry detergent (Tide). I collaborated with chemists, biologists, product researchers, modelers, physicians, lawyers, etc. to design experiments, develop and validate global test methods for performance, mine data, model responses and support claims and patents. I taught experimental design courses at P&G and mentored summer interns. I like to apply statistical theory to solve real world problems and teach others to do the same.

Moving out

Two long-term faculty members are now in phased retirement on fractional appointments.

Sandy Weisberg’s tenure will end in 2016 (along, he notes, with that of President Obama.)

Doug Hawkins is slated to keep going a bit longer, to 2018.

“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?

Change at the top

Glen Meeden has stepped down as Director of the School. Dennis Cook was elected as the new director, and has now taken the reins.

Statistics welcomes 3 new Professors

Zack Almquist:

I am excited to be joining the faculty of both the Sociology Department and School of Statistics this Fall. I am originally from Bend, Oregon and most recently from Irvine, California; however, I have also lived in Eugene, Oregon and Chicago, Illinois. In June I received my Phd from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). I also hold MA degrees in Sociology and Demography from UCI, a MS in Statistics from Northwestern University, and a BS in Mathematics from the University of Oregon.

My research is centered in two primary areas: the first is social network analysis, where my work includes research on the effects of geography and time on social processes (and large-scale social structure) and the simulation, measurement and sampling of social networks; the second is the field of demography, where I look to integrate spatial analysis and social network analysis with classic and formal demographic theory. Underlying both of these themes is a strong interest in developing statistical techniques for application to social science problems, especially social network analysis and demography.

Charles Doss:

I was born in Tallahassee, Florida but mostly grew up in Columbus, Ohio. I studied mathematics at the University of Chicago, and then worked as a research associate at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for a year before starting graduate studies in statistics at the University of Washington, where my dissertation work was with Jon Wellner on problems related to shape-constrained inference and the mode of a density. There are many open problems remaining, including the study of asymptotic behavior for concavity-based estimators in dimension larger than 1 and finding efficient estimators in such settings.

I enjoy running, my Big Ten sports allegiances are already set (Ohio State!), and am looking forward to having more sunshine here in Minneapolis than I had in Seattle.

Gongjun Xu:

I am currently an Assistant Professor of Statistics at University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I received my Ph.D. in Statistics from Columbia University in May, 2013, under the supervision of Prof. Zhiliang Ying and Prof. Jingchen Liu. Prior to this, I was a student at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), where I completed my B.S. in Statistics in 2008.

My research mainly focuses on three topics. The first topic deals with statistical problems arising from educational and psychological assessment. The second part is in the area of survival analysis, including sequential and adaptive designs of clinical trials, spatially correlated failure time data, and change-point problems.

The third part of my work pertains to applied probability. It involves asymptotic analysis and efficient simulation of rare events in various application areas.

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