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Kimberly Flagg Sellers

1 February 2020 2,173 views No Comment

Kimberly Flagg Sellers

Affiliation: Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at Georgetown University and Principal Researcher with the Center for Statistical Research and Methodology at the US Census Bureau
Educational Background: PhD, Mathematical Statistics, The George Washington University; BS, MA, Mathematics, University of Maryland College Park

A DC-area native, mathematics was always Kimberly Flagg Sellers’s favorite subject—she recalls wanting a PhD in a math-related discipline at an early age. She was (in part) inspired by tracking (with her father, a college music professor) the number of African-American PhDs in various disciplines as reported through Black Issues in Higher Education. The reported number of African-American PhD graduates in the mathematical sciences was always small, which motivated her to want to be one of the few who achieved this goal.

Sellers was a strong student academically and graduated from high school at age 16. She earned her BS in mathematics at age 20 on a full academic scholarship from the University of Maryland College Park. During her time at Maryland, Sellers credits the marvelous mentorship from faculty and staff, including Raymond Johnson, former chair of the mathematics department who (during his time as chair) was the only African-American head of a mathematics department at a predominantly white institution in the United States. They shared a lot in common, as Sellers was the only African-American undergraduate math major in (at that time) the largest graduating class for the department. Having initially continued in graduate school at the University of Maryland with interests in applied mathematics, her desire to pursue statistics did not occur until she completed a year-long statistics course sequence with Piotr Mikulski.

Sellers earned her PhD in mathematical statistics at The George Washington University (GWU) after graduating with her BS and MA degrees in mathematics from the University of Maryland College Park. She completed her dissertation under the direction of Nozer Singpurwalla and recalls interacting with many notable faculty members, including Hubert Lilliefors and Samuel Greenhouse. Further, she earned the prestigious Bill and Melinda Gates Millennium Scholarship as one of its inaugural cohort recipients.

Sellers worked as a visiting assistant professor in the statistics department at Carnegie Mellon University from 2001–2004, primarily with Bill Eddy and Steve Fienberg through the NSF-VIGRE program. Following that appointment, she worked at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine as an assistant professor of biostatistics and senior scholar at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics from 2004–2006, before returning to the DC area and taking her faculty position at Georgetown in the fall of 2006. Meanwhile, her secondary appointment as a principal researcher at the US Census Bureau developed through her participation as a research fellow with the Census Bureau’s Center for Statistical Research and Methodology in 2014–2015, thanks to the ASA-NSF-Census fellowship.

Sellers’s current research interests focus on methodological and computational matters associated with count data that contain data dispersion, particularly advancing research regarding and/or motivated by the Conway-Maxwell-Poisson distribution; she has (co-)authored numerous journal manuscripts and R packages in this area. Past studies and interests include image analysis techniques—particularly low-level analyses such as preprocessing, normalization, feature detection, and alignment—and methods in reliability theory.

Sellers became an elected member of the International Statistical Institute in March 2018. She is an active contributor to efforts to diversify the fields of mathematical and statistical sciences, both with respect to gender and race/ethnicity. She is the 2017–2018 chair for the ASA’s Committee on Women in Statistics and an advisory board member for the Black Doctoral Network.

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