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What Does Fred Faltin Do When He Is Not Being a Statistician?

1 May 2017 137 views One Comment
This column focuses on what statisticians do when they are not being statisticians. If you would like to share your pastime with readers, please email Megan Murphy, Amstat News managing editor.
Photos by Fred Faltin


Faltin image


Who are you, and what is your statistics position?

I am Fred(erick W.) Faltin. I’m managing director and—with my wife, Donna—co-founder of The Faltin Group. We’ve provided consulting and training services in statistics, Six Sigma, economics, and operations research to companies throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Previously, I started and managed the Strategic Enterprise Technologies Laboratory at GE Research. I’m a fellow of the ASA and, with my friends and colleagues Ron Kenett and Fabrizio Ruggeri, working on the book Analytic Methods in Systems and Software Testing. (Our previous projects were The Encyclopedia of Statistics in Quality and Reliability and Statistical Methods in Healthcare.)

Tell us about what you like to do for fun when you are not being a statistician.

My favorite pastime is researching, finding, and photographing ghost towns in America’s western states. Many of these towns have a rich history and played a role the growth of the nation and expansion of the U.S. economy from the mid-1800s through the mid-1900s.

While some western cities and towns—the ones we all know of—grew and became permanent centers of commerce, industry, and culture, others that seemed sure to succeed withered and passed into history. Some of these still have a few longtime or newly arrived residents, but many are completely abandoned. Creating a visual chronicle of what remains and exploring the civic structure and physical architecture of these towns has long been of fascination to me.

What drew you to this hobby, and what keeps you interested?

When I was an undergraduate at MIT, my adviser, Gian-Carlo Rota, was the mathematics fellow of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. That led to my working at the lab as a research assistant for a number of summers. Since I knew no one in the area at first, I had plenty of time to explore the mountains and deserts of New Mexico. I soon came across a number of interesting old (mostly mining) towns that were abandoned, or nearly so. Seeing and photographing some naturally led me to want to find more, and the rest is history (pun intended).

Today, I enjoy the fact that ghost-towning allows me to combine my interest in history with my love of the outdoors. Many of the towns I’ve located are in extremely remote locations in the vast reaches of the West, so I often find myself camped out under the stars beside my 4WD in what most people would consider the middle of nowhere. Always fond of hiking and backpacking, I love having an excuse to scramble up hill and down dale in search of what might be over the next rise. And there’s a sense of freedom and solitude that is hard to equal.

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One Comment »

  • Jim Comly said:

    A great piece – nice to hear about you and your ongoing interests! Best regards to Donna.

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