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My ASA Story: Wendy Martinez, Mathematical Statistician

1 March 2023 No Comment

Wendy Martinez

I am grateful for this opportunity to share my ASA story. First, just a few words about where I am now in my career before I travel to my ASA beginnings. I am serving as a senior mathematical statistician for data science in the Research and Methodology Directorate at the US Census Bureau. Before going to the Census Bureau, I worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the director of the Mathematical Statistics Research Center and held various research positions at the Department of Defense.

I attended George Mason University in the early 1990s in pursuit of a PhD in computational sciences and informatics. While there, I learned about the American Statistical Association and joined with the reduced student rate. I let my membership lapse once I graduated. I had a family with two teenagers at that point, and I didn’t think I could afford the higher membership fees. However, being a statistician was my chosen profession, and I soon realized I had a duty to support it through ASA membership. Not to mention I loved being a statistician and wanted to be around others with the same passion! So, I quickly rejoined this wonderful community of colleagues and friends.

Joining an organization like the ASA is a great first step, but one needs to become involved to get the most value from it—networking, leadership opportunities, training, mentoring, etc. I joined several sections early on, including the Statistical Computing and Statistical Graphics sections, and I was one of the initial members when the Statistics in Defense and National Security Section was established. I ran for and was elected JSM program chair for SDNS, leading to other leadership opportunities … all the way to being the 2020 ASA president!

I have had many great experiences during my years as an ASA member, and my service as ASA president is at the top of the list. I will highlight a couple of others that mean a lot to me. I was serving on the ASA Archives and Historical Materials Committee in 2017. This led to several conversations with colleagues about the need for a group focusing on the history of statistics, rather than the history of the ASA, which was the committee’s focus. So, I spearheaded a successful effort to establish the ASA History of Statistics Interest Group. This enabled me to follow two of my passions: history and statistics.

Another of my passions is organizing data challenges. These have a long history in the ASA. To my knowledge, the first was held in 1982 and sponsored by the Statistical Graphics Section. I helped establish what is now an annual Data Challenge Expo sponsored by the Statistical Graphics and Statistical Computing sections and the Government Statistics Section, during which contestants present their analysis of the designated data set at the Joint Statistical Meetings. I am always amazed at the quality of the entries. What makes this even more meaningful is—through the challenges—students can work on real data and present their results at a conference.

I am happy to report that my leadership journey in the ASA continues. This year, I am honored to serve as chair of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Outreach Group and chair of the newly formed Section on Text Analysis. I am also having a lot of fun serving as editor of CHANCE magazine, along with my friend and colleague Donna LaLonde. We are always looking for interesting articles, so please consider submitting one. Speaking of challenges, Donna and I will be issuing one through CHANCE this spring, so keep an eye out for it!

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