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On Purpose: Portrait of Statistics

August 14, 2018
To commemorate our 150th anniversary in 2018, the College of Liberal Arts commissioned 60 photographs taken by Xavier Tavera. Departments and programs partnered with Tavera to envision their images and to write the narratives that accompany each photograph. View On Purpose: Portrait of the Liberal Arts.

Three cross country skiers stand in a snowless woods dressed in race bibs
Pictured L to R Noel Schumacher, Ziyue Zhu, Singdhansu Chatterjee

Statisticians, the original data scientists, stand ready to interpret the information of the digital age. 

In less than three years we will be producing over 1.7 megabytes of new information every single second for every human being on the planet. This new information, along with the vast amount of information that has already been collected, ranges from the mundane to the extraordinary. 

Through the lens of data science, this information can become something larger, and statisticians are at the forefront of this field. 

In the School of Statistics, our faculty and graduate students work with collaborators across the campus and around the globe to create meaning from information. We currently have faculty collaborating with members of the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center who are working to discover a cure for HIV. 

Another faculty member is working with collaborators in the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering to help unravel the mysteries of climate science. This same faculty member has also worked with collaborators in India, Sri Lanka, China, and several European countries to develop better climate models for crops and ocean temperatures around the world. 

Not only are we working with other research groups; we’re also working with local companies such as Nice Ride, Aveda, and Minnesota Gastroenterology who are looking to better use the information they have. All of this research requires not only using currently known statistical models and methods, but creating and developing new models, methods, and software that can address the questions big data raises. 

What does all of this mean for our future? In fall 2016, the School of Statistics, with the support of the College of Liberal Arts, launched the Institute for Research on Statistics and its Applications (IRSA). Through IRSA we continue to increase our outreach by offering workshops, short courses, consulting services, interdisciplinary conferences, and more. In spring 2018, IRSA held its inaugural conference on neurostatistics and also hosted a conference on statistics and data science for earth systems. Each year IRSA will be hosting events on wide range of topics that interact with the field of statistics. 

Note: the American Birkebeiner has only been cancelled twice in its forty-six year history.