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U of M Department of Statistics Turns 40

1 September 2009 2,158 views No Comment
Vijay Nair, Donald A. Darling Professor and Chair, Department of Statistics, University of Michigan



West Hall, current home of the University of Michigan’s Department of Statistics

West Hall, current home of the University of Michigan’s Department of Statistics

The University of Michigan Department of Statistics turned 40 years old this month. To celebrate, faculty and students attended a reception at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Washington, DC, and a half-day symposium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Even though the department is relatively young, statistics at the University of Michigan has a long history, dating back to the early 1900s. The first course in mathematical statistics was offered by James W. Glover in 1902, and the first course devoted exclusively to statistical theory was also taught by Glover, in 1912. The University of Michigan was one of the first two American universities to offer academic programs in mathematical statistics.

Harry C. Carver (on the faculty at Michigan from 1916–1960)

Harry C. Carver (on the faculty at Michigan from 1916–1960)

Harry C. Carver, who started the statistics program, also founded the Annals of Mathematical Statistics in 1930.The journal was edited at the University of Michigan until 1938. Carver also played a major role in creating the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS), which was founded at a meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in September of 1935.

Bill Ericson, chair (1969–1977), retired in 1995.

Bill Ericson, chair (1969–1977), retired in 1995.

During the 1950s and 1960s, an increasing number of U.S. universities began establishing separate statistics departments. The department of statistics at Michigan was founded within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts in September of 1969. At the time, there were about 10 faculty members. Bill Ericson was the first chair, and other founding members included Bruce Hill and Michael Woodroofe. The department was located in Mason Hall, where it stayed for 30 years.

Bruce Hill retired in 1998.

Bruce Hill retired in 1998.

Starting in the late 1970s, the department had primary responsibility for teaching undergraduate statistics courses. Since that time, the department has developed and offered many introductory courses, one of which has about 1,600 students enrolled per semester. The department also developed and offers courses with other departments, including biostatistics, bioinformatics, economics, industrial and operations engineering, mathematics, and philosophy.

Ed Rothman, chair (1983–1989), developed many applied courses.

Ed Rothman, chair (1983–1989), developed many applied courses.

The undergraduate concentration program in statistics was established in 1977. A new master’s degree in applied statistics was created in 1985, and there is also a master’s in statistics tailored to PhD students enrolled in another program at Michigan. Two undergraduate minor programs—applied statistics and statistics—were started in 1999. A new interdisciplinary undergraduate program in informatics, joint with the Computer Science and Engineering Department and the School of Information, was started in 2008 and is housed in the statistics department.

Michael Woodroofe, a founding member and chair (1977–1983), retired in 2008.

Michael Woodroofe, a founding member and chair (1977–1983), retired in 2008.

Since the inception of these programs, 130 students have graduated with PhDs, 202 students with applied master’s degrees, and 353 with their (dual-degree) master’s. In addition, 360 undergraduate students have majored in statistics and 220 undergraduates have received their minors since 1999.

As of this year, the department of statistics has 18 tenured and tenure-track faculty members and several other faculty with courtesy appointments. Due to growing teaching needs, the department also uses five or six teaching faculty members. Faculty research interests cover a range of areas in statistical theory, methodology, computing, and applications. Faculty members have joint appointments in biostatistics, statistical consultation and research, electrical engineering and computer science, industrial and operations engineering, social research, political science, psychiatry, psychology, and sociology.

To read more about the University of Michigan Department of Statistics, click here.

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