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A Message from the Chair

1 January 2010 780 views No Comment
Russell V. Lenth, University of Iowa

    I look forward to serving our section in the coming year—a year that will have our usual rich array of SPES activities, possible new projects, and challenges to increase our section’s membership. I am honored to have been elected the 2010 chair, and as a minimal ambition, I hope the whole year passes without giving anyone cause to regret their vote.

    I wish to thank (in alphabetical order) the following companies for their contributions to door prizes for the JSM 2009 SPES/Q&P mixer in Washington, DC:

      ASA/SIAM
      Bank of America
      Chapman and Hall/CRC Press
      Freeman
      General Electric
      General Foods
      University of Iowa
      Lubrizol
      The Ohio State University
      SAS
      SAS Publishing
      Simon Fraser University
      Springer
      Stata
      StatGraphics
      Virginia Tech
      Wiley

        It was great fun to work with my Q&P counterpart, Mark Bailey, to gather these prizes and conduct the drawings.

        Over the years (a large number—I’ll decline to be more specific), I have been a member of several ASA sections and fairly active in a few. But SPES has always been what I consider my ‘home’ section, the one in which I identify most closely. I give its meetings, JSM sessions, and professional opportunities highest priority when deciding what to do outside of my regular job duties.

        I suppose my SPES orientation is due, in part, to being a proud alumnus of New Mexico, with the proximity of Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories to Albuquerque. The first statistics course I ever took was taught by Bill Zimmer, who at the time was an adjunct instructor from Sandia. If it weren’t for Bill, I might have turned into an algebraist or something, so I am truly thankful.

        I subsequently worked as a research assistant for a while under Bill and Dick Prairie, also at Sandia. I got the chance to see a lot of physical science applications from the get-go, and engineering and science look to me like the most natural context in which statistics and applications should meet. In later professional life, it has been my privilege to work as a consultant or visitor with excellent statisticians in various national labs, most notably Dick Mensing at Lawrence Livermore and Larry Bruckner and Ray Waller at Los Alamos.

        Through SPES, I have had the opportunity to work on various professional outreach activities with many wonderful people, really far too numerous to mention here. Some are academics like me; others have worked their whole lives in industry, government, or applied research; some have changed from one to the other. That, really, is what is so great about SPES membership—something you don’t find in too many other ASA sections: very diverse people and types of work. The only area in which there is low diversity is in the brilliance of their accomplishments. SPES has some of the most talented, serious, and broad-based statistical scientists among its membership, which shows in the historically strong SPES representation among the highest ranks of ASA leadership. Hanging out with such people is incredibly inspiring.

        That said, it is admittedly a bit puzzling to consider that such stellar individuals hold winning a Pillsbury Doughboy as a door prize at the JSM SPES/Q&P mixer as one of their highest aspirations. I think, though, it has to do with their being not only smart, but fun. (By the way, unlike some of my predecessors, I have won a doughboy—nyah nyah na nyah nyah!)

        I’ll be more specific about some important, nondoughboy-related reasons to be active in SPES. One biggie is meetings. We cosponsor two important meetings each year—the Spring Research Conference (SRC) and the Fall Technical Conference, both of which are wonderful opportunities to meet with a manageable number of like-minded individuals and really exchange ideas. We also always have a strong selection of invited and contributed JSM sessions on topics such as reliability, manufacturing, and experimental design. There’s also the Technometrics session, which isn’t officially a SPES session, but includes many of the same people and areas of research. Plus, of course, there is the SPES/Q&P mixer, where there is great food, drink, and conversation to be had, along with many, many door prizes ranging from books to software to clothing to toys (and not just the one).

        Another prominent SPES strength is its work to champion students. We give scholarships to help students attend and participate in the SRC and JSM roundtable luncheons. We give a number of awards for paper and poster presentations at meetings. And we have an active industrial speakers program, whereby we provide contacts with great speakers and travel funding to take those speakers to campuses so they can tell students about their work. When these speakers have come to my department, I have seen our students’ eyes really light up; this is a great program.

        I want to say a little bit about where we should build in the future. Sometimes it seems that with the expanding number of ASA sections, it is easy for us to get lost or clouded over in the shuffle. For one reason or another, we are experiencing some decline in membership. Perhaps, these days, “physical and engineering sciences” doesn’t sound as modern or sexy as the names of other sections. And if you look at our members, we are broader than that. We have had a terrific partnership with Q&P for some time; should we also consider offering joint memberships with other sections that align closely with ours?

        Another item to consider is our section name. My wife teases me about being a “spez” guy; somehow, this
        projects a plastic pocket protector sort of image. It’s also a little hard to figure out where we fit alphabetically in drop-down lists on JSM abstract submission forms. Should we consider changing our section name—or abbreviation—to something more descriptive of our broad and talented membership? [Nanotechnology, Engineering, Reliability, and Design (NERD)?] No? I invite your suggestions on these and other issues; just send me an email at russell-lenth@uiowa.edu.

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