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1 October 2015 No Comment

Xiao-Li Meng

Xiao-Li Meng, dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, recently addressed the administration’s Big Data Senior Steering Group (BDSSG) with a talk titled “Statistical Paradises and Paradoxes in Big Data.”

The BDSSG is a group of several dozen program officers from NSF, NIH, and many other federal agencies that was formed in the build-up to the 2012 launch of the White House Big Data Research and Development Initiative and meets monthly to continue to facilitate and further the goals of the initiative.

Meng’s invitation to speak resulted from the ASA’s outreach to Chaitanya Baru, the then-new senior adviser for data science in the NSF Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, about the ASA whitepaper “Discovery with Data: Leveraging Statistics with Computer Science to Transform Science and Society.” Meng has been invited back to NSF for another presentation this fall.

In his presentation, Meng highlighted important statistical concepts in Big Data and started with the “paradise” of the huge growth in statistics students, the growing appreciation for statisticians, the many opportunities for methodological research, and emerging theoretical foundations. His slides are available on the ASA website.

Stephen Fienberg

Nell Sedransk, acting director of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS), announced Stephen E. Fienberg as recipient of the 2015 Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research during a reception at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Seattle, Washington. Fienberg’s citation reads: “For a remarkable career devoted to the development and application of statistical methodology to solve problems for the benefit of society, including aspects of human rights, privacy and confidentiality, forensics, survey and census-taking, and more; and for exceptional leadership in a variety of professional and governmental organizations, including in the founding of NISS.”

The Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research was created in 2001 in honor of Jerome (Jerry) Sacks, founding director of NISS. As a Sacks award recipient, Fienberg receives $1,000 and his name will be added to a plaque at NISS that lists all recipients of the award.

Sastry Pantula

During his travels to visit family in India, ASA past-president Sastry Pantula met with India’s president, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the head of the state. Pantula was part of a special alumni group of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata.

Mukherjee welcomed the ISI alumni to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and said the ISI is a leading institution in India for research, teaching, and the application of statistics, natural sciences, and social sciences. He focused on the importance of statistics and the role ISI plays in financial planning in India.

For details, read the press release or see a video.

John Eltinge and Jamie Nunnelly

John Eltinge and Jamie Nunnelly recently received the 2015 Distinguished Service Award from the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS). Nell Sedransk, acting director of NISS, announced the awards August 10 at the NISS/SAMSI (Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute) reception held at the 2015 Joint Statistical Meetings in Seattle, Washington.

The NISS Distinguished Service Award was established by the board of trustees in 2005 to recognize individuals who have given extraordinary service that significantly advances NISS and its mission.

Eltinge, who is associate commissioner for the Office of Survey Methods Research for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, received the award for bringing insight to and implementing the vision for NISS as a multi-sector institute, especially through his leadership in the Affiliates Program. He is a fellow of the American Statistical Association, a member of the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, an associate editor for Survey Methodology and the Journal of Official Statistics, and a former associate editor for the Journal of the American Statistical Association and The American Statistician.

Nunnelly, who is communications director for NISS and SAMSI, received the award for her role in increasing the visibility of NISS, engaging the next generation of statisticians in NISS, and modernizing NISS communications, especially through the design of the new website. Nunnelly has been in the communications industry since 1985. She has worked for Fortune 500 companies such as General Motors and Tropicana Products, Inc. and for nonprofit organizations. For more than a decade, she worked in the economic development industry for the Research Triangle Regional Partnership and Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina. She also published a quarterly magazine called The Park Guide.

Eltinge and Nunnelly’s names will be added to a plaque displayed in the lobby of the NISS building in Research Triangle Park, which lists the names of all award recipients.

Jiming Jiang and Laura Steinberg

The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) initiated a new award to recognize the achievements of former postdocs. Jiming Jiang, professor of statistics at the University of California, Davis, and Laura J. Steinberg, professor in the college of engineering and computer science at Syracuse University received this award, which was presented at the NISS-SAMSI reception during the 2015 Joint Statistical Meetings in Seattle, Washington.

NISS started mentoring postdoctoral fellows and associates in 1993. Since that time, more than 70 people have been postdocs at NISS.

Jiang received the NISS Postdoctoral Achievement Award for “Honoring his distinguished career and excellence in leadership through research, through education, and through example as a role model for the profession of statistics,” said Nell Sedransk, acting director of NISS, during her presentation of the award.

Jiang graduated with a PhD in statistics from the University of California, Berkeley, and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics and probability and statistics from Peking University. After graduating from Berkeley, Jiang spent a summer as a postdoctoral associate at NISS. He later held academic positions at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Nebraska before being appointed as an associate professor in 2001 and director of the statistical laboratory at UC Davis from 2004–2007. He became professor in 2007.

Jiang has published more than 80 peer-reviewed papers and three books. He is particularly well known for his work on generalized linear mixed models, which was the subject of his first book. Other interests include small area estimation with applications to survey data, asymptotics and large sample statistics, and model selection.

Jiang has served on the editorial boards of several of the most highly regarded journals in statistics, including the Annals of Statistics, Journal of the American Statistical Association, and Journal of Multivariate Analysis. He is an elected member of the International Statistical Institute and a Fellow of both the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the American Statistical Association.

Steinberg received the award for “Honoring her distinguished career and impact through her leadership in realizing a vision for the intersection of environmental science and statistics,” said Sedransk.

Steinberg credits her experience at NISS with broadening her ability to apply statistics to interdisciplinary problems. “Much of my growth as a researcher and collaborator came from the intense research environment at NISS,” Steinberg says. “I had a set of incredibly talented postdoc peers to work with and the privilege of being personally mentored by director, Jerry Saks, and associate director, Alan Karr.”

Steinberg is professor and special assistant to the chancellor at Syracuse University, where she previously served as dean of the college of engineering and computer science. In her new, university-wide assignment, she will conduct a comprehensive assessment of the university’s campus, planning, design, and construction operations.

Prior to her becoming dean at Syracuse University, Steinberg served as professor and chair of environmental and civil engineering at Southern Methodist University. She earned her PhD in environmental engineering from Duke University and was a NISS postdoctoral fellow from 1993–1995. Her areas of expertise include environmental modeling and policy, diffusion of innovation, and critical infrastructure protection.

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