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News Archive

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: http://time.com/money/4328180/most-valuable- 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 http://arxiv.org/abs/1512.07713

First Year Experience Videos

Administrator Honored

John McEwen, the Schools Associate Administrator, has just been notified of a CLA Outsstanding Service Award in recognition of his contributions to the effective running of the School. He will receive the award and a certificate at a ceremony on February 25. More detail on the awards can be found at http://intranet.cla.umn.edu/hr/OutstandingServiceAwards.html

2015 Quantitative Finance and Statistics

Dear Colleagues:

As assistant to Galin Jones at the School of Statistics, we are pleased to invite you to attend the 2015 Quantitative Finance and Statistics Graduate Student Career Fair at the University of Minnesota!

The Fair is Co-Sponsored by:

  • · MCFAM (Minnesota Center for Financial & Actuarial Mathematics) in the School of Mathematics
  • · Graduate Program, Statistics - School of Statistics
  • · Financial Mathematics Student Organization (FMA) and Graduate Statistics Students

Event Time/Place:

  • · November, 6, 2015
  • · Registration: 5:00-5:30 PM
  • · Career Fair: 5:30-9:00 PM
  • · No Registration Fee
  • · McNamara Alumni Center & Parking
  • · Appetizer & Dessert Refreshments served during the event

Quantitative finance and data analysis at your firm is interdisciplinary, so we are bringing together students with mathematical finance, statistical modeling and programming skills. Some also have had work/internship experience in banking, asset management, commodities, health care analytics, insurance, retail and other business segments. They have an interest in doing quantitative finance and data analytics work and include:

  • · MCFAM’s Master of Financial Mathematics (MFM) students and recent alumni,
  • · School of Statistics Master Students/recent alumni
  • · School of Mathematics PhD candidates & recent alumni
  • · School of Statistics PhD candidates/ recent alumni
  • · MCFAM’s Undergrad Actuarial students focused on data analytics/quant finance
  • · Members of the FMA Student Organization from other Colleges within the University

Student Resumes:

  • · Students will bring copies of their resumes to share with you during event
  • · Electronic resume book will also be sent to you shortly before the event

Fair Set Up:

  • · One table per firm is included in registration; request additional table via online registration form.
  • · You can bring your own tablecloths, signage, table tops/ posters/company materials
  • · We can also provide you with tablecloths and small tabletop signage with company name/logo; see registration form:
  • · For any event questions, please contact Taryn Verley at tverley@umn.edu or Robin Dixon at rdixon@umn.edu

To register for this event click link: Employer Registration

We look forward to seeing you in early November at the University of Minnesota!

Laurie Derechin, Executive Director – MCFAM, School of Mathematics

Dr. Galin Jones, Director of Graduate Studies – School of Statistics

Aaron Shi and Will Wang – Co-Presidents- Financial Mathematics Association (FMA)

Dootika Vats – Leader, Statistics Graduate Student Group

Quant Finance and Statistics Career Fair

The Fair is Co-Sponsored by:

MCFAM in School of Mathematics

Graduate Studies in the School of Statistics

Financial Mathematics Student Organization (FMA) at the University of Minnesota

Event Time/Place

November 6, 2015

Registration: 5:00-5:30 PM; Career Fair: 5:30-9:00 PM

McNamara Alumni Center (light refreshments will be served)

Types of Employers Invited Attend:

Banking, insurance hedging, asset/capital management, agribusiness, trading, retail, data analytics departments/firms in health care, insurance, banking, manufacturing, government and other sectors.

Students Invited to Attend:

MCFAM MFM students/recent alumni

MCFAM Actuarial students with data analytics/quant finance focus

School of Mathematics PhD candidates & recent alumni

School of Statistics Master Students/recent alumni

School of Statistics PhD candidates/ recent alumni

Members of FMA Student Organization

Student Resumes:

Students must bring copies of their resumes to the event.

An Electronic Resume Book will be sent to all attending employers:

MCFAM students, you must submit your resume in Word format to Taryn Verley at tverley@umn.edu by 10/26/15.

To register for this event click link: Student Registration

Please RSVP by 10/26/15. Career Fair Preparation Session

It is critical to be prepared and polished at the Career Fair when you are talking with employers. To get ready please attend the Quant Finance & Statistics Career Fair Prep Workshop on 10/23/15 from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm in Bruininks Hall 412.

Hui Zou elected IMS Fellow

The School’s Professor Hui Zou has just been elected Fellow of the Institute for Mathematical Statistics. This high honor is in recognition of his ground-breaking research in high-dimensional statistics, statistical computing and machine learning. He has also done sterling work for the profession in refereeing and editorial work for the major statistical journals.

The formal announcement and some further detail can be found in http://bulletin.imstat.org/wp-content/uploads/Bulletin44_4.pdf

Well done, Hui.

Major HIV trial shows that early treatment of HIV infection is beneficial.

A major international HIV clinical trial, the "Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START)" study found that starting treatment early, at high CD4+ T-cell counts, reduces the risk of serious disease by half. The interim results were so compelling that an independent review board recommended that they be released a year ahead of schedule. The University of Minnesota contributed to the success of the study.

A May 25 press release from the NIH announced the study results. The announcement was big news; within hours, it was on the websites of major newspapers; the next day, on the front page of the New York Times, on the PBS Newshour, and in the news in Europe, Australia and South Africa.

The global impact of HIV and AIDS is enormous. Millions of people all over the world are infected with HIV. Untreated, HIV slowly destroys the immune system, leading to death. There is no cure, but effective treatment is available.

Currently, it is hotly debated whether treatment should be started as soon as a person gets infected, or whether it is safe to wait, since it usually takes many years before symptoms develop. It was known that anti-HIV drugs substantially reduce the risk of transmitting HIV, but it was uncertain whether the individual patient would see any health benefit, or even might be harmed, while the immune system was still normal. START looked into whether giving the drugs early, at high CD4+ cell counts, even as soon as HIV was detected, would improve the patient’s outcome. The study was a huge international effort, conducted at 215 sites in 35 countries, by hundreds of investigators. The trial enrolled 4,685 HIV-infected men and women who, on average, were followed for three years. It was a stunning success; START showed that the starting treatment early benefits the individual along with the community.

The study was mainly funded by the NIH, but the administrative sponsor was the University of Minnesota, and we provided the statistical support. Prof Jim Neaton of Biostatistics is the PI of the clinical trials network that conducted START, and Prof Birgit Grund of the School of Statistics was part of the study’s statistics team.

We are excited to be part of an international collaboration like this, with its major benefits to the world. Here is some more information about START, and press coverage:

NIAID Press Release: http://www.nih.gov/news/health/may2015/niaid-27.htm

NIH Questions and Answers (Q&A): http://www.niaid.nih.gov/news/QA/Pages/STARTqa.aspx

New York Times (US) http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/health/hiv-treatment-should-start-with-diagnosis-us-health-officials-say.html?hpw&rref=health&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region®ion=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

Wall Street Journal (US) http://www.wsj.com/articles/hiv-drug-therapy-should-be-started-as-soon-as-possible-study-shows-1432764083

Associated Press (US) http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_MED_HIV_STUDY?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

BBC News (UK) http://www.bbc.com/news/health-32914219

ABC News (Australia) http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2015/s4244007.htm

iol scitech (South Africa) http://www.iol.co.za/scitech/science/news/early-treatment-breakthrough-in-hiv-trial-1.1866376#.VW4MQ0bMl8M

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?

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 http://stat.umn.edu/seminars/buehler-martin 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).

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.

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.

Farewell to Mary Hildre

Mary Hildre, the School’s executive administrative assistant, has retired. She took care of the school’s front office for thirty years, and has seen many faculty and countless students come and go during her time with us. She tells us that she leaves with mixed emotions; sad to leave the stat community but ready for retirement and for her time being her own. We all wish her well.

Photo: Mary prepares to cut the cake at her retirement party while Birgit Grund, Lan Wang and Gongjun Xu look on.

Honor for Alum

Hanyang University in Korea has given its highest teaching award – the 2013 Distinguished Teaching Professorship – to Chang Wook Kang (PhD 1990). Since joining Hanyang’s Department of Industrial and Management Engineering in 1991, Dr. Kang has received a number of recognitions, notably the Korean Government’s President’s Award (2004) and Korea Medal of Service (2007). He is past president of the Korean Society of Industrial and System Engineering, and the Society of Project Management.

McCulloch gives 2013 Geisser Memorial Lecture

The Seymour Geisser Distinguished Lecture is given annually in memory of Seymour Geisser, who led the School for 30 years. This year’s speaker was Rob McCulloch of University of Chicago, a 1985 PhD advisee of Seymour’s.

Rob’s interesting talk on the volatility of financial instruments centered on the tools of predictivism, an area Seymour pioneered. It was attended by Anne and Mindy, Seymour’s wife and daughter. After the talk Anne spoke briefly, and presented Rob with a memento of the occasion.

Photo: Anne Geisser presenting the award to Dr. McCulloch

Photo: Anne and Mindy Geisser with the speaker after the lecture

Outstanding Faculty Award: Associate Professor Hui Zou

Associate Professor Hui Zou has been awarded the Council of Graduate Student (COGS) Outstanding Faculty Award. This award recognizes faculty members for their exceptional contributions to graduate education. This is the only faculty award that expresses the appreciation of the graduate student body – it was created by graduate students, nominations are made by graduate students, and the winners are selected by graduate students.

Award to Honor Bernard Lindgren

For more than half a century, Bernard W. Lindgren was a pillar of U of M Statistics, where he played a major role in administration, teaching and research. He is also familiar to statistics students around the world for his texts, and to the local music community for his talents on the piano and organ.

Bernie passed away in November 2012. To honor his memory and in recognition of his commitment both to teaching and to development of graduate students, his daughters and friends have set up the Bernard W Lindgren Award. This annual award will recognize a graduate student who has demonstrated excellence in teaching undergraduate students.

The first award is planned for Spring 2014, and will recognize teaching by graduate students during the 2013/2014 academic year. The selection committee, consisting of the Directors of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies, will accept nominations in the Spring semester and make the award at the end of the school year.

Congrats: Mark Albrecht

Readers of Technometrics, a flagship journal of statistics in the physical and engineering sciences, will have noticed that the first article in the August 2013 issue, “Experimental Design for Engineering Dimensional Analysis”, is a discussion paper by Albrecht, Nachtsheim, Albrecht and Cook. The lead author, Mark Albrecht, is a recent MS graduate of the School, and the paper is based on his research with Chris Nachtsheim as advisor. Having a discussion paper in a leading journal is a rare honor, and this comes on top of this paper having been selected as the Technometrics Randy Sitter Invited Paper at the 2013 Spring Research Conference. Congratulations, Mark.

Photo: Mark presenting his work at the SRC.

New pastures

Peihua Qiu left the University at the end of the academic year to take over as the inaugural Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Florida in Gainesville. We all wish him good luck in setting up his department.

Obituary:

Bernard W. Lindgren

1924-2012

Bill Sudderth's Retirement

View pictures from his party.

40th Reunion

View photos from the reunion.
View Reunion Slideshow

Thanks to everyone who attended!

The School of Statistics recently celebrated its 40th anniversary at the University of Minnesota on May 13 and 14, 2011, with a reunion for all bachelor, master, and doctoral alumni.

View the invitation (PDF), the list of attendees (PDF), Sandy Weisberg's presentation (PDF), or a slideshow from the reunion.