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Fall 2020 Newsletter

December 21, 2020

Dear alumni and friends,

As we continue to confront the challenges posed by the pandemic, it is important to keep in mind that the future remains bright for both our profession and the School of Statistics. Accordingly, I am writing to take notice of a few achievements by our alumni and faculty and to draw your attention to some programmatic updates below.

Alumni News

Vera Bulaevskaya (PhD ’02) received an esteemed Mitchell Prize award for co-authoring the paper “Inferring Atmospheric Release Characteristics in a Large Computer Experiment Using Bayesian Adaptive Splines,” published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association. The award is jointly sponsored by the Section on Bayesian Statistical Science (SBSS) of the ASA, the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA), and the Mitchell Prize Founders’ Committee. Bulaevskaya was advised by Gary Oehlert.
Steve MacEachern (PhD ‘88) was elected a fellow of the International Society for Bayesian Analysis (ISBA), recognized for his “foundational contributions to Bayesian computation, Bayesian robustness, and Bayesian nonparametrics, in particular the original development of now widely used dependent nonparametric models, and for his dedicated service to ISBA and the Bayesian community.” MacEachern was advised by Donald Berry.
Joseph Ibrahim (PhD ‘88) was also elected a fellow of the ISBA for “outstanding contributions to Bayesian statistical theory, methods, and applications; for high-impact contributions to incorporation of Bayesian methods in mainstream statistical software; for education and training of students and researchers in Bayesian statistics; and for exceptional service to the profession.” Ibrahim was advised by Sanford Weisberg.

Faculty News

Professor Dennis Cook and visiting scholar and alumna Liliana Forzani (PhD ‘07) of the Universidad Nacional del Litoral were featured on the cover of the October 2020 issue of the Journal of Chemometrics for their perspective article "Envelopes: A new chapter in partial least squares regression." We applaud this accomplishment, as statisticians are not typically featured by subject matter journals that are outside the mainstream of statistics.
The School welcomes new faculty member and assistant professor Lu Yang. Yang's research has focused on the development of statistical methodology motivated by insurance applications. In particular, she is interested in multivariate analysis with discrete outcomes, and she has worked on nonparametric estimation of copulas.

Yang's recent research also includes regression model diagnostics, especially with discrete and semi-continuous outcomes. Prior to this position, she served as an assistant professor in actuarial science and mathematical finance at University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
Assistant Professor Sara Algeri was interviewed and featured by the College of Liberal Arts in a short video entitled “The Beauty of the Numbers.” She discusses applying statistical tools and the principles of astrostatistics to help physicists “see” dark matter.

Programming Highlights

The School of Statistics is teaming up with the University of Minnesota’s physics, astrophysics, data science, computer science & engineering, and electrical and computer engineering departments to produce an NSF Graduate Research Training program titled Data Science in Multi-Messenger Astrophysics. This unique interdisciplinary program is designed to educate students in modern data science techniques using the field of multi-messenger astrophysics as a training ground. Students will have opportunities to directly contribute to cutting-edge astrophysics research, while at the same time gaining experience in working with large databases, advanced statistical techniques, and machine learning algorithms.
The Institute for Research in Statistics and its Applications (IRSA) collaborated with the GEMS Agro Informatics Initiative to co-host “Unlocking the Agricultural Data Revolution” in September. The two-day, virtual event amassed over 450 event registrations, reflecting a critical need to discuss and improve the management and use of data in agriculture. Read a brief event recap produced by the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences.
As always, we welcome news of your achievements and statistical endeavors. Please share your updates with us at

Warm regards,

Galin Jones
Professor and Director, The School of Statistics