Hui Zou Receives Inaugural Dr. Lynn Y.S. Lin Professorship

Hui Zou, a person with short, black hair, light brown skin, wearing a suit and tie

This September, School of Statistics professor, Dr. Hui Zou, was honored with the inaugural Dr. Lynn Y.S. Lin Professorship in Statistics, making him the first School of Statistics faculty member to receive this professorship.

Sparking Interest in Statistics

Earlier in his academic career, Zou was focused on physics. One of the requirements of his master of science program at Iowa State University was to take classes outside of his major. “At that time,” he says, “I took a stats class called statistical methods[...] And it sparked my interest.” He went on to earn his PhD in statistics from Stanford University.

Galin Jones shakes Hui Zou's right hand. Zou holds the award in his left hand. We see a number of people in the audience watching.
School of Statistics Director Galin Jones awards Professor Hui Zou the Lin Professorship at the school's kickoff and awards ceremony.

Zou’s interest in statistics has led him to success in the field. Earlier this year, he was honored as an AAAS Fellow (American Association for the Advancement of Science), and he is one of the world’s top 2% most cited scientists across all fields.

He describes his love for statistics with two words: “intellectual diversity.” “[Statistics] itself is a very attractive field. [If I] have to describe why statistics is so attractive, I would say intellectual diversity.” He says that this is what drew him to the field, and why he loves learning, researching, and teaching it so much. He appreciates how statistics can be used for a variety of purposes, and explains that he’s “mostly interested in developing useful tools to solve challenging data analytical problems.” 

Research Focuses

Dr. Zou’s research specialties include statistical learning and high-dimensional statistics. Galin Jones, director of the School of Statistics, says that “there’s not just one [research focus]. I mean, that’s the really remarkable thing. In general, he’s done a lot of foundational research in [...] statistical learning. But he has also done foundational research in statistical computing and flexible modeling data.”

Jones describes Zou by saying that he’s “not just prolific, he thinks carefully about things. [...] He is a dedicated instructor and [a] prolific scholar.” Dr. Zou’s dedication to instruction stems from his personal experience as a student. He felt supported by his instructors and wanted to offer that same support to students of his own. Their example made him want to become a professor himself. “Sometimes I think [that] nice words can really change students’ career paths,” he says.

Teaching at the U of M

When describing why he chose to teach and research at the University of Minnesota, Zou says, “the short answer is really the outstanding faculty here at the School of Statistics. [...] When I was interviewed here a long time ago, I was really thrilled to meet some really famous statisticians.” His peers were then the same statisticians he studied while earning his degrees in statistics—great minds that Zou was honored to be teaching beside.

Jones mentions that when the committee was looking for someone to honor with this professorship, “there was one obvious person to start with.” Dr. Zou’s research in statistics and commitment to students has made a big impact on his peers and on the school, as shown through how often his research is cited as well as how engaged he is with his students.

“I would like to thank Dr. Lynn Lin, who has been a generous supporter of the School of Statistics. This new professorship is a new item on the list of gifts from Dr. Lin. Secondly, I feel really honored to be recognized by the school. I’d like to thank the school for the nomination, and also thank the college for the trust in my work,” says Dr. Zou.

The Dr. Lynn Y.S. Lin Professorship in Statistics

Dr. Lynn Y.S. Lin generously established this professorship as a gift to the School of Statistics. A University of Minnesota alum himself (PhD ‘75, statistics), Dr. Lin has dedicated his career to finding statistical solutions for real-world problems. His varied and accomplished work in statistics, economics, and advertising research, as well as his invention of BASES, a new-product sales forecasting methodology for which he is widely recognized, continues to inspire and inform today’s statisticians, business leaders, and the U of M students following in his footsteps. He created this professorship to help the School of Statistics and the College of Liberal Arts recruit, support, and retain outstanding faculty members with a focus in the field of statistics.

Dr. Lin serves as a member of the School of Statistics Advisory Board and also generously supports undergraduate students through his support of the summer internship program and a fellowship for graduate students working in the Statistical Consulting Center.

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