Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Georgetown University
The George Washington University, DC: PhD, Statistics (2001)
University of Maryland, College Park: MA, Mathematics (1998)
University of Maryland, College Park: BS, Mathematics (1994)
Kimberly Sellers is a statistician and associate professor of mathematics and statistics specializing in statistics at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, and a principal researcher with the Center for Statistical Research and Methodology Division of the US Census Bureau. A DC-area native, she completed her BS and MA degrees in mathematics at the University of Maryland College Park. During her graduate studies in mathematics at Maryland, she became inspired to study statistics, thanks to instruction by Professor Piotr Mikulski. After completing her MA degree, she earned her PhD in mathematical statistics at The George Washington University, partly through support as a Gates Millennium Scholar (one of the inaugural cohort recipients).
Sellers held faculty positions at Carnegie Mellon University as a visiting assistant professor of statistics and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as an assistant professor of biostatistics. She was also a senior scholar at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics before her return to the DC area.
Sellers’ research areas of interest and expertise are in generalized statistical methods involving count data that contain data dispersion and image analysis techniques, particularly low-level analyses including preprocessing, normalization, feature detection, and alignment. Her primary research centers on the Conway-Maxwell-Poisson distribution. Sellers is the leading expert on this distribution, having developed various statistical methods associated with distribution theory, generalized regression models, control chart theory, multivariate distributions and analysis, and stochastic processes for count data expressing data dispersion. Her single-authored and collaborative works have been published in prominent journals, and she is a nationally and internationally invited speaker.
Sellers is likewise recognized both nationally and internationally for her service activities. She is an associate editor for the Journal of Computational and Graphical Statistics and The American Statistician. She is also an active contributor to efforts to diversify the fields of mathematical and statistical sciences, both with respect to gender and race/ethnicity. Last but not least, she is the 2017–2018 chair for the American Statistical Association’s Committee on Women in Statistics and an advisory board member for the Black Doctoral Network.
Who are you, and what is your statistics position?
My name is Claire Bowen, and I am a statistics PhD candidate in the applied and computational mathematics and statistics department at the University of Notre Dame.Tell us about what you like to do for fun when you are not being a statistician.
When I’m not being a statistician, I participate in endurance races such as marathons and triathlons.What drew you to this hobby, and what keeps you interested?
During high school, I was overweight and could barely run a mile. Originally, I joined the cross country team as the student manager and started running to keep up with the team better. Through the encouragement of the team and coach, I changed to a runner by the end of the season.
Since then, I discovered I enjoy long-distance races. I completed my first marathon when I was 19 and my first half-Ironman when I was 24. My goal is to complete an Ironman before I am 30.
I continue this hobby to help maintain a healthy lifestyle and for the overall positivity I’ve experienced from running and triathlon communities. Being overweight before, my training keeps my physical and mental health in check more easily. I love that I can do other physical activities like hiking and snowboarding without being exhausted afterward. My stress has gone down considerably, and training breaks up my day when I’m stuck on a research problem (or sometimes I figure out the problem during a run).
I joined the local biking and triathlon clubs, where I have the opportunity to meet people in different social groups. In these endurance race communities, everyone is encouraging and positive about the sport they’re in, because it doesn’t matter how you perform in the races. What matters is that you are swimming/biking/running and you are doing it for you, becoming the best you can be.
Vice President, Data Science, Talkspace
Columbia University (Office of Naval Research Graduate Fellow): PhD, Statistics (1991)
Baylor University: BSc, Mathematics (1985)
Bonnie Ray currently leads data science activities at Talkspace, a NYC-based startup that enables improved mental health for all by providing an affordable, accessible, and secure platform for messaging-based psychotherapy. Previously, she led the data science team at Arena, a Baltimore-based startup focused on analytics-driven hiring assessments. From 2001–2015, she held positions of increasing responsibility at IBM Research, where her role immediately prior to moving to the start-up world was director of cognitive algorithms and she led teams charged with developing machine learning methods for next-generation AI applications.
A graduate of Columbia University and Baylor University, Bonnie started her career in academia as a post-doctoral fellow at the Naval Postgraduate School working with the late Professor Peter Lewis on his study of sea surface temperatures. She went on to hold assistant and associate professor faculty positions in the applied mathematics department at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, during which time she received three National Science Foundation awards, including a CAREER grant awarded to promising young scientists that funded her educational and research activities related to environmental time series analysis.
Bonnie was born and raised in the Deep South, living first in Mississippi and then in northern Louisiana before attending college in the heart of Texas. She always had a love of mathematics, but was introduced to statistics as a junior in college and knew almost immediately that a continuing study of pure mathematics was not to be. Summer internships at Texas Instruments after her junior and senior years helped her appreciate the importance of mathematics to address business challenges and the power of computing to obtain efficient solutions, both of which continue to serve as career touchstones.
Bonnie has published more than 60 refereed papers, holds 12+ patents, and is an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association. In her spare time, she loves to swim, watch independent films, and relax with a good book.
Director, Mathematical Statistics Research Center, Office of Survey Methods Research, Bureau of Labor Statistics
Joint Program in Survey Methodology Certificate in Survey Statistics (2015)
George Mason University: PhD, Computational Sciences and Informatics (Computational Statistics area) (1995)
The George Washington University: MS, NASA Langley Research Center, Aerospace Engineering (1991)
Cameron University: BS, Physics and Mathematics (1989)
Wendy Martinez was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. After high school, she served as an active-duty member of the US Army Signal Corps, where she had the opportunity to be stationed in Germany for several years.
Martinez has been serving as the director of the Mathematical Statistics Research Center at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for six years. Prior to this, she worked in several research positions throughout the Department of Defense. She held the position of science and technology program officer at the Office of Naval Research, where she established a research portfolio comprised of academia and industry performers developing data science products for the future Navy and Marine Corps.
Her areas of interest include computational statistics, exploratory data analysis, and text data mining. She is the lead author of three books on MATLAB and statistics. These books cover topics ranging from classical approaches in statistics to computationally intensive methods and exploratory data analysis. She became interested in data science when pursuing her PhD under Edward Wegman (GMU), who had founded a new curriculum in computational statistics that included most of the courses in what is now considered data science.
Martinez was elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2006 and is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. She was recently honored by the American Statistical Association when she received the ASA Founders Award at the 2017 Joint Statistical Meetings.
Human Rights Data Analysis Group
Rice University: BA, Statistics and Mathematics (2006)
Duke University: PhD, Statistical Science (2010)
Kristian Lum is the lead statistician at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG). Previously, she worked as a data scientist at a small technology startup and was a research assistant professor in the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech.
Lum’s research primarily focuses on examining the uses of machine learning in the criminal justice system, developing new statistical methods that explicitly incorporate fairness considerations, and advancing HRDAG’s core statistical methodology—record-linkage and capture-recapture methods for estimating the number of undocumented conflict casualties. Although statistics and other quantitative disciplines are not the typical path to social impact, Lum is drawn to applications in which she can use her knowledge of statistics to address important societal problems and amplify the voices of marginalized groups and individuals.
In her work on statistical issues in criminal justice, Lum has studied uses of predictive policing—machine learning models to predict who will commit future crime or where it will occur. In her work, she has demonstrated that if the training data encodes historical patterns of racially disparate enforcement, predictions from software trained with this data will reinforce and—in some cases—amplify this bias. She also currently works on statistical issues related to criminal “risk assessment” models used to inform judicial decision-making. As part of this thread, she has developed statistical methods for removing sensitive information from training data, guaranteeing “fair” predictions with respect to sensitive variables such as race and gender. Lum is active in the fairness, accountability, and transparency (FAT) community and serves on the steering committee of FAT, a conference that brings together researchers and practitioners interested in fairness, accountability, and transparency in socio-technical systems.
Lum’s work on record linkage and capture-recapture focuses on solving problems that arise in HRDAG’s conflict casualty estimation work. In capture-recapture, she has proposed methods to obtain reliable casualty estimates, even when some victims are unlikely to be recorded. She is also the primary developer of the DGA package for R, which implements a popular Bayesian method for capture-recapture.
Lum is originally from Auburn, California—a small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. For as long as she can remember, she has enjoyed math and logic puzzles. Her interest in math took off in high school when she took calculus from an excellent professor at the local community college, Sierra College. For the first time, she felt she was learning why math worked, rather than how to manually implement an algorithm to solve an equation. In college, she took a few statistics courses as electives for her math degree and grew interested in discovering patterns in data that explain real-world phenomena. This led her to graduate school in statistics, where she first became involved with HRDAG after “cold emailing” the organization’s founder. She has been focused on applying statistics to important problems in human rights ever since.
The American Statistical Association and Council of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) issued a joint statement to inform discussions and planning around the drawing of voting districts as we approach the 2020 census. This marks the first time in recent history the two organizations have issued a joint statement of broad interest to the American public.
The statement is organized around the following three facts:
- Existing requirements for districts generally do not prevent partisan gerrymandering.
- It has become easier to design district plans that strongly favor a particular partisan outcome.
- Modern mathematical, statistical, and computing methods can be used to identify district plans that give one of the parties an unfair advantage in elections.
“While these points may be common knowledge in some circles, it’s important they be stated by objective and respected authorities like the AMS and the ASA and for them to be more widely known in the redistricting discussions around the 2020 Census,” noted 2018 ASA President Lisa LaVange.
AMS President Ken Ribet said, “Our community is poised to play a central role in ongoing discussions about methods for creating voting districts and the evaluation of existing and proposed district maps. It has been a pleasure for me to observe the recent explosion in interest in this topic among colleagues and students in mathematics and statistics. I anticipate that the new statement by the ASA and AMS Council will lead to increasing transparency in the evaluation of districting methods.”
“Statistical and mathematical standards and methods can be very helpful to inform decision-makers and the public about partisan gerrymandering,” remarked the statement’s main architect, Jerry Reiter, chair of the ASA Scientific and Public Affairs Advisory Committee. “The statement acknowledges the value of partisan asymmetry as a standard, and it highlights some methods for measuring partisan asymmetry. The statement does not endorse any one method, as ultimately this issue is determined by policymakers and the courts.”
In issuing the statement, the two societies also offer to connect decision-makers and policymakers with mathematical and statistical experts.
More than 350 statisticians, methodologists, and health policy experts gathered January 10–12, 2018, at the Marriott Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina, for the 12th International Conference on Health Policy Statistics (ICHPS). This was a record-breaking year in terms of number of conference abstracts and attendance.
ICHPS is held every two years, jointly sponsored by the ASA and Health Policy Statistics Section (HPSS). Conference co-chairs Laura Lee Johnson (US Food and Drug Administration) and Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar (RAND Corporation) were supported by a 30-member organizing committee, including two student representatives and past conference chairs.
The theme—Health <-> Statistical Science <-> Care, Policy, Outcomes—reflected the interactive relationship between health services and outcomes research and innovative statistical methodology to facilitate informed discussions regarding health reform and other efforts to improve health care in the United States.
ICHPS 2018 was supported by grant number R13HS025884 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) through a Eugene Washington Engagement Award. Project officers took an active role, challenging attendees to find effective mechanisms for disseminating results so they translate into actual policy and practice.
Presentations and posters covered a range of topics, including fraud detection methods, causal inference and treatment heterogeneity, real-world evidence, pragmatic clinical trials, and comparative effectiveness. The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science conducted a workshop using improvisational theater techniques developed to help people speak more vividly and expressively. Wednesday included a career panel and networking lunch for students. Thursday afternoon included town halls and roundtable discussions to allow for idea sharing and informal networking. Town halls were on global real-world data, the VA, engaging with community partners, Medicaid payment reform, and health care delivery system transformation.
Networking dinners and meet-ups afforded opportunities to mingle in a relaxed environment while enjoying Charleston’s hospitality and delicious food during the local restaurant week.
Workshops included sequences on causal inference, complex survey analysis, and patient-reported outcomes, plus workshops on social network analysis and an introduction to several data sets from the US government, including the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and Medicare Beneficiary Survey.
Rousing addresses were delivered by Robert Califf, “Evidence Generation in the Era of Ubiquitous Information,” and Suchi Saria, “A Methodologist’s Quest to Improve Health Care.” Each offered advice on opportunities to redesign the health care delivery system in an evidence-driven way with incentives. Both emphasized high-risk, interdisciplinary problems of real interest requiring scalable interventions.
Conference proceedings will be published in Health Services and Outcomes Research Methodology.
HPSS presented its Long-Term Excellence Award to Sally C. Morton (Virginia Tech University) and Paul Rosenbaum (University of Pennsylvania). Anirban Basu (University of Washington) received the Mid-Career Award.
ICHPS also provided 21 student travel awards, supported by grants, the ASA’s Biopharmaceutical Section, and the ASA’s Mental Health Statistics Section. Conference activities were supported by grants, awards, and multiple industry and institutional partners, including AbbVie, Amplexor, Pfizer, and Research Triangle Institute (RTI).
Dean, Mellon College of Science, Carnegie Mellon Univeristy
Cornell University: Post-Doctoral Scholar (1993–1995)
North Carolina State University: PhD, Statistics (1993)
University of Utah: MS, Mathematics (1988)
University of Utah: BS, Mathematics (1986)
Rebecca Doerge is dean of the Mellon College of Science at Carnegie Mellon University. Prior to joining both the department of statistics and department of biology at Carnegie Mellon , she was the Trent and Judith Anderson Distinguished Professor of Statistics at Purdue University. Doerge joined Purdue University in 1995 and held a joint appointment between the colleges of agriculture (department of agronomy) and science (department of statistics).
Doerge’s research is focused on statistical bioinformatics, a component of bioinformatics that brings together many scientific disciplines to ask, answer, and disseminate biologically interesting information in the quest to understand the ultimate function of DNA and epigenomic associations.
Doerge is the recipient of the Teaching for Tomorrow Award, Purdue University, 1996; University Scholar Award, Purdue University, 2001-06; and Provost’s Award for Outstanding Graduate Faculty Mentor, Purdue University, 2010. She is an elected Fellow of the American Statistical Association (2007), an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2007), and a Fellow of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (2009). She has published more than 120 scientific articles and two books, as well as graduate 23 PhD students.
Doerge was born and raised in upstate New York. As a first-generation student, she studied theoretical mathematics at the University of Utah. It was there she gained interest and experience in both computing and human genetics (Howard Hughes Medical Institute). She earned her PhD in statistics from North Carolina State University under the direction of Bruce Weir and was a postdoctoral fellow with Gary Churchill at Cornell University.
Doerge is a member of the Board of Trustees for both the National Institute of Statistical Sciences and the Mathematical Biosciences Institute. She is a member of the Engineering External Review Committee at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Global Open-Source Breeding Informatics Initiative (GOBII) Advisory Board.
I know it is a little late, but Happy New Year!
I’ve been a SPES member for at least 20 years, and I still didn’t realize how active SPES is until I took on the role of chair this year. I am taking this opportunity to remind you of the many activities SPES sponsors and invite you to participate in at least one this year.
Networking is vitally important in any career, and you can meet your colleagues in SPES at three conferences. First up is the 2018 Joint Research Conference on Statistics in Quality, Industry, and Technology. This is a joint meeting of the 25th Spring Research Conference on Statistics in Industry, which SPES jointly sponsors with the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and the 35th Quality and Productivity Conference, which is sponsored by the ASA’s Section on Quality and Productivity (Q&P). The joint conference is being held June 11–14 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is a small regional conference that provides a great opportunity for new researches to get to know the SPES and Q&P communities. Send questions by email.
The annual Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM) will be held in Vancouver, BC, Canada, this year from July 28 to August 2. SPES will host a variety of invited and contributed sessions during which you can learn about new statistical methods and applications to a variety of physical and engineering sciences. And don’t forget to attend the business meeting/mixer, which SPES usually cosponsors with other sections.
The last SPES-sponsored conference of the year is the 2018 Fall Technical Conference being held October 3–5 in West Palm Beach, Florida. This conference is cosponsored by the ASQ Statistics Division and the ASA’s SPES and Q&P sections. The theme is “Statistics and Quality: Riding the Big Data Wave.”
A continuing SPES program is the Marquardt Memorial Industrial Speakers Program, which is funded by a generous endowment made by Margaret Marquardt in memory of her late husband, Donald Marquardt, who was an ASA Fellow and former ASA president. The program’s objective is to familiarize students with the role of statisticians in industry, an application area to which students often are not exposed. The program seeks to fill this gap by bringing experienced industrial statisticians to campus to talk directly with students about their work and industrial experiences. If you would like to have a speaker visit your campus or if you would like to tell the world about life as an industrial statistician, contact the program’s chair, Vaneeta Grover.
We are also interested in new initiatives to provide services to our members. Currently, the ASA is promoting an initiative to improve mentoring in the statistical profession. If you have an interest in mentoring and would be willing to help SPES develop a mentoring program, send me a note.
SPES is open to any type of career development programs you think would be useful. If you have an idea, please contact me or any of the officers to see what we can do to help implement it. Also, if you want to add a leadership role to your résumé, please consider running for a SPES office. The jobs don’t require an excessive amount of time and you get the chance to meet some interesting and enthusiastic colleagues.
President’s Chair in Statistics (2016-)
Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences (2010-)
Director, Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (2015-)
Professor of Statistics, Iowa State University (2000–2009)
Associate Provost, Iowa State University (2000–2004)
Associate Professor, Iowa State University (1996–2000)
Assistant Professor, Iowa State University (1990–1995)
Iowa State University: PhD, Statistics/Animal Genetics (1989)
Iowa State University: MSc, Statistics (1986)
University of Illinois, Urbana: MSc, Animal Genetics (1985)
Universidad de la Republica: BS, Agricultural Engineering (1982)
Alicia Carriquiry was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1957. She earned a BS in agricultural engineering from the Universidad de la Republica (at the time, the only university in Uruguay) in 1982. She truly hated her first job, and this motivated her to pursue a graduate degree in an area of interest to her. The opportunity arose soon after she graduated from college, when a professor from the University of Illinois who was visiting Uruguay offered her an RA in his animal breeding program.
Carriquiry completed an MSc in animal breeding and genetics in Urbana-Champaign in 1985. Also that year, a professor from statistics at Iowa State University approached her with an offer to join his group. Carriquiry moved to Ames and earned her doctoral degree in 1989. In Ames, she also met her husband of 30 years, Wolfgang Kliemann, who was an assistant professor in mathematics at the time. So that ISU would not lose him, Carriquiry was hired in 1990 for a tenure-track assistant professor position, half in statistics and half in agricultural economics. She was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 1996 (and moved to statistics full time), to professor in 2000, and to distinguished professor in 2010. Carriquiry was the first woman to become full professor in statistics at Iowa State and the first Latina/o to become distinguished professor at ISU. Between 2000 and 2004, Carriquiry was associate provost at ISU, in charge of research.
Carriquiry’s research has always focused on Bayesian methods and their application in various disciplines. She has worked extensively with human nutritionists on problems as diverse as survey design to measurement error modeling and density estimation. More recently, Carriquiry was principal investigator on a large award from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that helped establish the Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence, which she directs. Carriquiry has been a prolific writer (more than 130 peer-reviewed papers) and has raised more than $35 million in research funding. Her proudest achievement is the 20 doctoral students who have already completed (or are in the process of completing) their doctoral work under her mentorship.
Carriquiry is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Statistical Association, Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA), and International Statistical Institute. She was a member of the board of trustees of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, president of ISBA, vice-president of the ASA, and executive secretary of IMS. She has participated in multiple national and international panels and committees and currently advises governments in Asia, South America, and North America.
Managing Director at BlackRock where she leads Data Science together with Sherry Marcus.
Columbia University: PhD, Statistics (2009)
New York University: Master’s Degree, Mathematics (2003)
Stanford University: Master’s Degree, Engineering-Economic Systems and Operations Research (1999)
University of Michigan: Bachelor’s Degree, Honors Mathematics (1997)
Rachel Schutt was the Chief Data Scientist of News Corp where she oversaw the company-wide data strategy as an executive on the senior technology leadership team. There she established the company’s first data science team for Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, and other brands. Schutt was named a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader in 2015 and is on the 2014 Crain’s New York Business 40 under 40 list.
She has also been at the forefront of data science education. While working at Google Research (2009–2012), she recognized an emerging skill set (hybrid software engineer-statistician) was required. This skill set was not being taught in universities because it spanned traditional departmental lines and represented a new space of engineering, computational, and statistical problems coming out of technology companies. So to train the next generation of data scientists, Schutt proposed, designed, and taught the first Introduction to Data Science course at Columbia University (and one of the first such courses in the country). This course became the basis for the book she co-authored with Cathy O’Neil, Doing Data Science, published in 2013. Other university curricula now reflect the initial structure and content of her course. She is a founding member of the Education Committee for the Data Science Institute at Columbia.
While at Google Research, Schutt was part of the machine learning group in New York and holds patents based on her work in social networks, large data sets, experimental design, and machine learning.
Schutt is on the advisory board for Harvard’s Institute for Applied Computational Science (IACS).
She was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1976 and grew up in Cambridge, England, and Princeton, New Jersey. She was interested in math starting at a young age and found solving problems and puzzles fun and calming. When she was five years old, her father realized the girls at her primary school were being directed to practice knitting while the boys solved math problems. He intervened and came to the class to teach set theory to the girls. Schutt’s interest in math persisted throughout college, where she studied theoretical math. She worked for several years in a variety of jobs, and then—after having a chance conversation with Andrew Gelman—she returned to earn her PhD in statistics. Gelman became her adviser at Columbia along with Regina Dolgoarshynnikh. Schutt’s thesis work was on the spread of contagious processes in networks.
Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge: BS, Mathematics (1980)
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: PhD, Statistics (1989)
Susan Murphy is a professor of statistics and computer science at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Radcliffe Alumnae Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. Prior to joining Harvard in September 2017, she was the H.E. Robbins Distinguished University Professor of Statistics, professor of psychiatry, and research professor at the Institute for Social Research—all at the University of Michigan.
Susan’s present research focuses on causal inference and sequential decision-making. She works on both data analysis and design of experiments to inform the sequencing of treatments, as well as how online algorithms can be used both in experimental designs and in treatment design in mobile health.
Susan is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, both of the US National Academies. In 2013, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship for her work on experimental designs to inform sequential decision-making. She is a Fellow of the College on Problems in Drug Dependence, a member of the International Statistical Institute, a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (2000), and a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. She is also a former co-editor of the Annals of Statistics and delivered the IMS Wald Lectures in 2015.
Susan grew up in southern Louisiana and, as an adolescent and college student, always found mathematics to be beautiful and accessible. While attending Louisiana State University, she realized mathematics could be a career (!) and, better yet, she could use mathematics to improve our society via the field of statistics. Since then, she has never looked back!
Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Data Collaboratory
Carnegie Mellon University: PhD, Statistics (2005)
Carnegie Mellon University: MS, Statistics (1996)
Harvard University: AB, Applied Math (1995)
Michelle Dunn is CTO and co-founder of Data Collaboratory, a technology company that builds data science tools. Data Collaboratory’s flagship product is GRANTED!, a tool that uses data science to guide researchers to the most appropriate funding opportunities. GRANTED! builds on Michelle’s years of experience in federal funding at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
She started working at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the NIH, in 2009 as a program director who advocated for the funding of grants to develop statistical methodology. In this position, she advised applicants from across the country about appropriate funding opportunity announcements. GRANTED! automates this function by scraping FOAs from publicly available sources and using text-mining techniques to match them with a researcher’s interests.
Next to building a data science company from the ground up, Michelle is proudest of her contributions to developing and leading the NIH Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) Initiative. She was instrumental in conceiving and implementing a collection of programs aimed at nurturing a biomedical workforce capable of analyzing data and developing new methods for analyzing data. The BD2K Initiative provided funding for statisticians, informaticians, and other biomedical scientists to do research and receive training in data science.
Michelle grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and enjoyed math from an early age. She first learned about statistics on the drive from Memphis to Cambridge, Massachusetts, for the start of classes at Harvard. All freshman had to take a quantitative reasoning test based on a booklet containing essentially a “Stat 101” course. After reading that booklet, Michelle realized why math is important. At Harvard, she was fortunate to find professors and graduate students who encouraged her to pursue her studies in statistics. From Harvard, she went to Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) for a master’s, worked in government for a while, and then returned to CMU for a PhD.
Michelle’s thesis adviser, Jay Kadane, was supportive not only of her choice of dissertation topic, but also of her choice to be a stay-at-home mom following the completion of her dissertation. This choice could have ended her statistical career had it not been for an open-minded statistician and hiring manager at NCI, Brenda Edwards. Brenda strove to create family-friendly working conditions because she had witnessed the hardships women and working mothers had endured during her career.
Brenda is Michelle’s hero; she is a statistician who is dedicated to making the world a better place, not just through her work measuring the burden of cancer, but through her leadership of people and projects. Leadership requires taking calculated risks, making sometimes unpopular decisions, and communicating a vision and road map for concerted action. Michelle’s goal is to continue to put into action what she has learned about leadership from Brenda.
Student winners will receive registration and travel support to attend CSP 2018.John J. Bartko Award
Stephanie Strakbein completed a dual degree Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Science and Bachelor of Arts in Spanish at the University of Arizona and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Biostatistics at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU-PSU School of Public Health). She also works as a teaching assistant for graduate biostatistics courses and as a graduate research assistant to Thuan Nguyen. At present, she is assisting Nguyen’s research in the USRDS database by extracting data relevant to questions of interest identified by their collaborator, Al-Uzri, the clinical director of pediatric nephrology at OHSU. Together, their goal is to submit an abstract to the Pediatric Academic Society. In the long run, Strakbein and Nguyen will use this database for testing Nguyen’s developing method, called classified mixed model prediction, with the hope of publishing this work in an applied statistical/biostatistical journal. Strakbein also serves as president of the Portland ASA Student Chapter. Outside of academia, she enjoys hiking, spending time with her dogs, and traveling internationally.Lester R. Curtin Award
Samantha Montag earned both her bachelor’s degree (biology, science in human culture) and master’s degree (epidemiology and biostatistics) from Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois. She has worked in the Department of Preventive Medicine at Northwestern University since graduating in 2015 and collaborated with researchers studying sleep, cardiovascular disease, and organ transplantation. Montag specializes in data cleaning, data visualization, and survival methods and is fluent in SAS and R. She enjoys teaching and regularly is a teaching assistant for graduate courses in epidemiology and biostatistics. In her spare time, Montag cooks and plays board games.
Munir Winkel is a PhD candidate in statistics at North Carolina State University. While earning his master’s in statistics at the University of Georgia, he worked with researchers at the Rollins School for Public Health at Emory University. In addition to working on his dissertation, which uses a Bayesian approach for design of experiments, he is collaborating with researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Winkel especially enjoys bringing the tools of statistics to help address researchers’ questions.Lingzi Lu Memorial Award
Lingzi Lu Memorial Award Winner Lingyun Lyu is a second-year master’s student in biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh. Before studying at the University of Pittsburgh, she earned an MS in pharmaceutical science from China Pharmaceutical University and worked as a pharmacist at Nanjing, China. Lingyun is a self-motivated and vibrant student. She is not only the top performer in class, maintaining a GPA of 4.0/4.0, but also actively engages in the application of statistics to real-life research studies. Previously, she worked as a team member on a proteomics project; a paper from this work is under review at Proteomics. Working as a SAS programmer and analyst at the Department of Health Policy and Management, Lyu gained experience in big data management and Medicare data analysis. In addition, she is working on her thesis project, addressing imperfect compliance in clinical trials with noninferiority designs. Recently, she was selected as a graduate student researcher in the school of nursing and appointed as teaching assistant in the department of biostatistics. Lyu’s career goal is to improve public health and well-being as a biostatistician at a health care–related institution.
Nominations are sought for the 2018 Roger Herriot Award for Innovation in Federal Statistics.
The award consists of a $1,000 honorarium and a framed citation, which will be presented at a ceremony during the Joint Statistical Meetings in August 2018. The Washington Statistical Society may also host a seminar given by the winner on a subject of his or her choosing.
The committee may consider nominations made in prior years, but it encourages resubmission of those nominations with updated information. Completed packages must be received by April 1. Electronic submissions to Mary Batcher, chair of the 2018 Roger Herriot Award Committee, as Word or PDF files are strongly encouraged.
For more information, read the announcement in the last issue of Amstat News.
The ASA Board, led by 2017 President Barry Nussbaum, met at the ASA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, for its final meeting of 2017. The board was joined by the incoming members elected to serve in 2018–2020. Highlights of the meeting follow.Discussion Items
- Led by Paul Gallo, 2018 chair of the ASA Committee on Fellows, the board discussed aspects of the ASA Fellows program. The committee was interested in the board’s interpretation of portions of the requirements for ASA Fellow. No changes are planned for 2018, but further discussion is likely.
- The board conducted its annual review of the ASA Strategic Plan. Since the plan was thoroughly revised during 2016, no changes were recommended.
- After hearing reports from Steve Pierson, ASA director of science policy; Jerry Reiter, chair of the ASA Scientific and Public Affairs Advisory Committee; and Jake Bournazian, chair of the ASA Privacy and Confidentiality Committee, the board formally endorsed the report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking, titled “The Promise of Evidence-Based Policymaking.”
- The board adopted a statement titled, “Drawing Voting Districts and Partisan Gerrymandering: Preparing for 2020.” The statement, which may be issued jointly with the American Mathematical Society, notes that existing requirements for districts generally do not prevent partisan gerrymandering; that it has become easier to design district plans that strongly favor a particular partisan outcome; and that modern mathematical, statistical, and computing methods can be used to identify district plans that give one of the parties an unfair advantage in elections. Reiter and Pierson were instrumental in the development of this paper.
- The board adopted in principle a position paper on appropriate ways of evaluating academic faculty in statistics and biostatistics in a collaborative working environment. The paper was developed by a large group of statisticians led by William Bridges and Bruce Craig. Small editorial changes were recommended, which, once made, will lead to the paper’s formal adoption by the Executive Committee of the Board.
- The board also agreed in principle (conditional on minor changes) to the creation of a new ASA award to recognize excellence in the statistical use of administrative records and alternative data sources in government statistics. The award is being created in honor of statisticians Connie Citro, Robert Groves, and Fritz Scheuren.
- The board formed a task force on sexual harassment and assault, to be chaired by Leslie A. McClure of Drexel University.
- The board allocated funds to engage a consultant to assist the board in collecting data and preparing for a discussion at its next meeting about how the ASA should position itself with respect to data science.
- Associate Executive Director and Director of Operations Steve Porzio updated the board on ASA financials for 2017. He said net revenue for 2017 is expected to be positive.
- ASA Treasurer Amarjot Kaur reported on the ASA’s investments. She said the market value of ASA investments was about $20 million as of September 20. She noted the Finance Committee had met with our investment advisers and that no change in investment policy was recommended at this time.
- Nancy Potok, chief statistician of the United States, updated the board on matters related to the federal statistical system and the report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking. She was a member of that commission.
- John Thompson, director of the Council of Professional Associations on Federal Statistics (COPAFS) and former director of the Census Bureau, updated the board on the activities and goals of COPAFS.
- The Council of Chapters Governing Board (COCGB) and the Council of Sections Governing Board (COSGB) reported on their recent activities. The COSGB has been working with interest groups to provide funding. The COSGB has created a “Getting Started” guide for people interested in starting an interest group. Two new interest groups have recently formed: Statistical Auditing and History of Statistics. The COCGB highlighted the success of its “chapter stimulus funding” program, which the board extended for an additional two years.
- ASA Vice President Rob Santos reported on the 2017 activities of the Education Council and the plans of the various council entities. Council reports are a key way the board and committees stay in contact with one another.
- Amanda Malloy, ASA director of development, updated the board on the development program. She reported the outcome of a recent benchmarking study involving the development programs of associations belonging to the Joint Policy Board on Mathematics (JPBM) and Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA). Malloy said the study was encouraging, showing us to be about where we should expect to be relative to other societies with respect to the age of the development program. She also reported that 2017 fundraising is going well and the recent matching campaign has been a success.
- Executive Director Ron Wasserstein reported that the ASA will be ready in early 2018 to launch its “Count on Stats” campaign. The ASA, in partnership with other organizations in the statistical community, is promoting and defending the federal statistical system and its important work through a public outreach initiative to enhance awareness of the importance, reliability, and trustworthiness of government data. Count on Stats is designed to elevate the public discourse about government data and the value of the system.
- The board reviewed the interim report of the AAPOR-ASA Task Force on Improving the Climate for Surveys. The task force is chaired by former AAPOR President Peter Miller and former ASA Board member Cynthia Clark. (AAPOR is the American Association for Public Opinion Research.) The board noted that many of the recommendations of the task force dovetail with the goals of the ASA’s Count on Stats campaign.
- Director of Science Policy Steve Pierson reported on the ASA’s recent efforts to support funding for statistical agencies and research, to track the report of the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and the resulting legislation, and to continue support of former head of the Greek statistical system, Andreas Georgiou. Pierson said he is also monitoring the administration’s efforts to defund forensic science activities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and to terminate the National Commission for Forensic Science at the Department of Justice.
Nussbaum thanked the ASA staff for its work and for supporting him so well. He also expressed appreciation for the board’s commitment to the ASA and its active participation at the board meetings and throughout the year. He said these are what make the ASA run well.
The board meets again April 13–14, 2018, at ASA headquarters.2018 Board of Directors
- Lisa LaVange, President
- Karen Kafadar, President-elect
- Barry Nussbaum, Past-President
- Kathy Ensor, Third-Year Vice President
- David Williamson, Second-Year Vice President
- Katherine Monti, First-Year Vice President
- Paula Roberson, Third-Year Council of Chapters Representative
- Julia Sharp, Second-Year Council of Chapters Representative
- Don Jang, First-Year Council of Chapters Representative
- Eileen King, Third-Year Council of Sections Representative
- Jim Lepkowski, Second-Year Council of Sections Representative
- Katherine Halvorsen, First-Year Council of Sections Representative
- Cynthia Bocci, International Representative
- Scott Evans, Publications Representative
- Amarjot Kaur, Treasurer
- Ron Wasserstein, Executive Director and Board Secretary
Somalia is experiencing a drought that has affected the educational system, leading to high dropout rates among children, a low number of teachers, and school closures. Data are needed to track the effects of the drought on school-aged children and help foreign aid workers coordinate food supplies.
To fill this gap, a Somali official and I constructed a school drought survey whereby school officials will be asked to report the number of school closings, student absences, meals delivered, and educational supplies received. We also drafted a supplementary survey involving parents of school-aged children to confirm the school officials’ reports. Parents will be asked about their children’s health and dietary habits, school status, and aid received.Monica Dashen, who retired early from the federal government, recently worked on a Somali civil worker gender survey. Contact her if you have questions or would like to know more.
When designing and implementing a survey in a crisis situation, a survey methodologist may find standard tasks to be more challenging (particularly in developing countries). For example, trained and experienced interviewers may not be readily available at the time of implementation, and the methodologist will have to take time to train a group of novice interviewers and vet their English-speaking skills. To obtain an interviewer job, for example, candidates may say they speak and understand English better than they actually do. Here are five lessons I learned while trying to implement a school drought survey:1. Asking foundational questions about sanitation is important.
A survey designer should not limit questions to aid distribution, student enrollment, and school status. Instead, the designer must paint a broader picture of the crisis and ask about the school toilets and water source functionality. Unclean water is often the source of cholera and other diseases. In Somalia, the drought may eliminate clean water sources and force people to drink unclean water.
Likewise, sanitation habits and bleach availability are important topics to assess. For instance, in rural areas, cholera is difficult to treat, as it requires truckloads of intravenous (IV) fluid for those patients who suffer from severe dehydration. Rural clinics simply do not have a ready supply of IV fluid for a large number of patients. Also, the roads leading to these clinics are in poor condition, thereby limiting access to large trucks. Such roads and distances make prevention all the more critical, and clean water and good sanitation habits are preventative methods.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bleach—a water treatment—be available in every village, as bleach is easy and cheap to produce in any country. (In many American homes, water is chlorinated at the source and does not need to be purified at the tap.)2. Asking gender-specific questions is important.
The survey designer should ask about the number of boys and girls enrolled by grade level. In Somalia, boys, who are viewed as “future bread winners,” are encouraged to pursue their education more so than girls. Typically, more boys attend secondary school than girls. To encourage more Somali girls to attend school, an NGO recommends providing scholarships, solar lanterns for night time studying, sanitary kits, job-training skills, and a greater number of female instructors. A survey designer may consider inquiring about incentives used to keep the children (particularly girls) in school during the drought.
The survey designer may also want to collect data on the number of single-gender toilets per school. Not only are toilets a sanitation issue, but toilets are a school enrollment issue, too. Girls drop out of school due to the lack of single-sex toilets. Some girls have experienced violent attacks in a mixed-gender bathroom. When an NGO or government official installs a single-gender bathroom in a school, for example, the teachers may use it for themselves while the girls continue using the unisex bathroom.3. Designing the questionnaire can be trickier than expected.
The designer may find some questions to be seemly straight forward to draft, but require multiple rewrites. The “change in dietary habits after a crisis” question is one such example. Asking about the number of meals eaten per day, or whether one has eaten enough, is ineffective. Rather, the type of food eaten and how it differs after the drought is key, along with where the food was obtained. The designer should find out whether the food is home-grown, donated, or store-bought. Likewise, the designer may find it difficult to ask people about their job and income. For example, farmers who are unable to grow food may still report working after a disaster. Once a farmer, always a farmer.4. Obtaining a detailed map of drought-affected areas is difficult.
Unlike a hurricane that strikes in a clear location, the Somali drought is gradually spreading throughout the country. Some areas are more affected than others. To the best of my knowledge, detailed maps depicting the drought severity of villages or towns are difficult to obtain or nonexistent. As a result, the team and I had to rely on the villagers to tell us about the severity of the drought. Interestingly, simply asking the people about the last time it rained did not provide a full picture of the drought. Instead, we asked people to describe the (1) rate of rain fall—sheets or drizzle, (2) soil moisture, and (3) last time it rained. Another way involves physically analyzing the ground water.5. Implementing a survey has security risks.
Having a security guard accompany the team in the field is prudent after any disaster. That is, the act of asking people about aid after a disaster and how they are doing can enrage them, particularly if they are hungry and homeless. Likewise, a methodologist should be present at the time of implementation to make sure the interviewers follow proper survey protocol. With the political unrest in certain areas of Somalia and lingering anti-American sentiment, it is difficult for a non-Somali like me to be present at implementation. For example, the team’s visits to schools around Mogadishu would require an SUV, security team of three persons, guide, and driver, so it was unclear whether the interviewers and I would find a seat in this SUV.
To extend our reach outside of Mogadishu and the state capitals, the team and I could conduct a phone survey of school officials listed in the national registry. Somalia has about 50% phone coverage, and people don’t have to pay to receive a phone call. However, our reach would be limited for three reasons. First, phone coverage is lower in rural areas than urban. Second, people do not always keep their phones “on” so as to save power. And third, people sometimes do not have the money to pay their phone bills. Providing phones along with phone credit to survey participants is a “work around” practiced by other researchers, but it comes with its own problems (e.g., the participants sell their phones for cash).
To determine where in Somalia the team and I could go with a reduced security risk, I looked at what other researchers did. I learned we could simply go to Somaliland, an autonomous region to the north of Mogadishu. This region has been fairly stable and even has its own currency. There is also a World Health Organization contact there. A census pre-count was done in this region, along with work on mobile money usage, reasons for piracy, and opinions toward the new government. Still, security precautions are needed, given the drought.
Are you tired of winter? I invite you to think about summer. Vancouver. The 2018 Joint Statistical Meetings! The 181 invited sessions have been scheduled and, in the next few weeks, we will organize the contributed abstracts into sessions. When you consult the online program, I am sure you will find exciting sessions to attend from Sunday afternoon through Thursday morning and you will want to join us to “#LeadWithStatistics” at JSM 2018.
Preparing such a big program requires much advanced planning, so the invited session proposal deadline is in early September. Of course, much can happen in the ensuing 11 months, which is why there is a call for proposals for late-breaking sessions. A late-breaking session must cover one or more technical, scientific, or policy-related topics that have arisen during the one-year period prior to JSM.
A late-breaking session must cover one or more technical, scientific, or policy-related topics that have arisen during the one-year period prior to JSM.
To give you an idea of the type of sessions that have been selected in the recent past, here is a handful of late-breaking session titles:
- National Governments, Coerced Narratives, Creative Language, and Alternative Facts
- Hindsight Is 20/20 and for 2020: Lessons from 2016 Elections
- Invest in What Works: First Steps Toward Establishing Evidence-Based Policymaking Clearinghouse
- Data Journalism and Statistical Expertise: An Urgent Need for Writers, Bloggers, and Journalists to Be Statistically Savvy
- The VA Secretary Bans a Statistics Book
- Meeting the Challenges of a Pandemic: The Statistical Aspects of Dealing with Ebola
- Statistical Science and the President’s BRAIN Initiative
- Recent Concerns About Reproducibility and Replicability: The Statistical Aspects
Proposals for late-breaking sessions should be emailed to JSM 2018 program chair, Christian Léger, with a copy to the ASA meetings department by April 16. The competition is open to any member or organization of a partner society.
Proposals will be judged on statistical and scientific quality, timeliness, significance and impact, potential audience appeal, and completeness. Up to two late-breaking sessions will be selected from the proposals received by the deadline (subject to approval by the ASA Committee on Meetings). The proposal must include the following:
- Session description—including a title, summary of statistical and scientific content, and explanation of the subject’s timeliness and significance—and comments about the intended target audience
- Format of the session (e.g., a chair and four panelists, 2–3 speakers and a discussant, etc.)
- Names, affiliations, and contact information for the session organizer, chair, and all participants (speakers, panelists, discussants)
- A title for each presentation in the session
- Web links to relevant technical reports or news reports, if applicable
Organizers should make sure the participants agree to participate before the proposal is submitted. The JSM participation guidelines state that a speaker can give a main presentation and participate in a late-breaking session at the same meeting, so previous commitment to a regular session does not preclude participation.
We look forward to reading your proposals!
The ASA’s public education campaign, ThisIsStatistics, expanded its educational footprint in 2017 on “all things statistics” with high-school and undergraduate students in today’s increasingly digital and mobile world.Police Data Challenge
In the Police Data Challenge, students helped make communities safer by analyzing emergency call data from metropolitan police departments in Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Seattle. The ASA joined forces with the Police Data Initiative in this unique partnership to provide students with open and publicly accessible data sets on emergency calls, giving them an opportunity to apply their savvy statistical skills to an important cause and providing major cities with a better understanding of the value and use of statistics in public safety. Hundreds of students from across the United States participated, and the following winners were recently announced:Best Overall Winners
- Undergraduate: Jimmy Hickey, Kapil Khanal, and Luke Peacock – Winona State University (Sponsored by Silas Bergen)
- High School: Catalina Bartholomew, Sophie Mason, Grace Ding, and Allie Restani – Valley Christian High School, San Jose, California (Sponsored by Claudia Smith)
- Undergraduate: Julia Nguyen, Katherine Qian, Youbeen Shim, and Catherine Sun – University of Virginia (Sponsored by Jordan Rodu)
- High School: Alex Lapuente, Ana Kenefick, and Sara Kenefick – Charlotte Latin School, Charlotte, North Carolina (Sponsored by Donna Minnig)
- Undergraduate: Luke Zheng, Qianyu Liu, Scott Lai, Sicheng Chu, and Xi He – University of Wisconsin (Sponsored by Karl Rohe)
- High School: Alaina Cerro, Sean Conroy, and Elise Bermudez – Bethel Park High School, Bethel Park, Pennsylvania (Sponsored by Lee Cristofano)
Teaming up with The New York Times Learning Network, ThisIsStatistics developed a unique exercise, titled “What’s Going On in This Graph?” Spearheaded by ASA member Sharon Hessney, this partnership is modeled after the Times’s popular series, “What’s Going On in This Picture?” and is intended to inspire students to examine graphs, charts, or maps via a rich and robust supply of the Times’s infographics.
Each month, a different New York Times graph will be published on a topic suitable for a variety of subjects across the curriculum. Students will then be asked to use math and statistics thinking skills to answer the following questions:
- What do you notice?
- What do you wonder?
- What’s going on in this graph?
Under Hessney’s leadership, an ASA team will help select graphs to use each month, moderate discussion, engage students, and provide a ‘reveal’ at the end of the week-long session that incorporates the graph’s original title and caption and related statistical concepts and vocabulary to help students transform the data into information.What’s Next?
Stay tuned this winter and spring for Statistics Is for Everyone, the latest video showcasing professionals from a variety of occupations demonstrating that everyone is connected to statistics at some point and the field can be applied to a diverse group of professions. Included in the video are the following:
- Hillary Parker, data scientist, Stitch Fix
- Dawn Eash, associate director, Berkeley Research Group
- Dave Robinson, data scientist, Stack Overflow
- Alexander Oftelie, analytics subject matter expert, IBM
- Matthew Krachey, data scientist, HomeAway
Statsketball returns to see who can score big and best predict the winner and brackets for March Madness. The website and social media platforms will launch as the college basketball season heats up.
With graduation inching closer, check out ThisisStatistics for more dynamic education tools and resources, including data about statistics degrees and career projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, to help foster statistical literacy and excitement in the next generation of critical thinkers.