Home » A Statistician's Life, Additional Features, Celebrating Women in Statistics

Nancy Reid

1 March 2024 267 views No Comment

Affiliation: Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Toronto

Educational Background: BMath, University of Waterloo; MSc, University of British Columbia; PhD, Stanford University

Nancy Reid grew up in Niagara Falls, Canada. The high schools were quite good, especially in mathematics, which might be why Reid is one of three well-known statisticians from there (the other two being Rob Tibshirani and Vern Farewell). She majored in mathematics as an undergraduate; her plan was to specialize in computer science, as that was rumored to be “the future” (in 1970). She did some programming and realized she had no talent for it but enjoyed the statistics courses. That was her first glimpse into using mathematical and statistical ideas for advances in science, medicine, health, and social science—and she found that fascinating.

Reid was unsure about her next steps but a professor encouraged her to complete an MSc degree, so she went to the University of British Columbia. She expected to look for a ‘real job’ at the end of the program, but the degree required a research thesis and she found she enjoyed research. Her advisers steered her toward Stanford University for doctoral studies. Without their encouragement, Reid is not sure she would have been brave enough to consider it.

The research environment at Stanford was so exciting to Reid she was inspired to make a career in academia. She was one of the few students who loved the “math stat” course. She has worked in theoretical statistics her whole career and still finds it interesting and useful. She also enjoys teaching math stat, although she has taught a variety of courses—both applied and theoretical.

Reid has won awards but having an impact on students is the achievement she values most. A few years ago, she stumbled upon a Twitter exchange between University of Toronto alumni from the 90s and one said a course she took from Reid changed her life.

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