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My ASA Story: Mark Daniel Ward, Professor and Executive Director of The Data Mine

1 April 2024 244 views No Comment

Mark Daniel Ward

I love working with the American Statistical Association. I am always looking for new ways to contribute to the ASA’s broad reach and impact.

I became a professor of statistics at Purdue in 2018 and an ASA Fellow in 2021. Mary Ellen Bock (who hired me at Purdue) and Rebecca Doerge (who was an excellent leader at Purdue) encouraged me to get involved in the ASA while I was on the tenure track. George McCabe also encouraged me to get involved in the larger activities of the statistics discipline.

My ASA friendships and partnerships are some of my most treasured, especially because the ASA has enabled me to work across many institutional boundaries and with colleagues from many types of organizations.

Although this is “My ASA Story,” I want to emphasize we have a stellar team at the ASA, Purdue, and our countless partner organizations. (The danger of naming names is I will surely omit hundreds of people!) I am especially thankful to Donna LaLonde and Kristin Mohebbi at the ASA and co-PIs Kathy Ensor, Monica Jackson, and Talitha Washington for enabling The National Data Mine Network.


My ASA friendships and partnerships are some of my most treasured, especially because the ASA has enabled me to work across many institutional boundaries and with colleagues from many types of organizations.

On our team at The Data Mine, Jessica Jud has played a leading role. Our National Science Foundation–funded program enables 300 undergraduate students from minority-serving institutions to work on research projects with faculty members or corporate partners, as well as learn data science methodologies that support their research experiences. Several of our students discussed their research at the 2023 Joint Statistical Meetings in Toronto.

I’m also especially proud of the work done by the ASA’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Outreach Group members. I played a tiny role in launching this group, but there is a large team of colleagues at both the ASA and from academia and industry who now support and sustain this wonderful initiative.

Several years ago, Jessica Utts and I coordinated an NSF grant that allowed several universities to create or sustain their research experiences with undergraduate (REU) students in statistics. Some of these programs evolved into REU sites. These opportunities for students were only possible because of the ASA’s ability to coordinate multi-institutional initiatives that have broad impact.

I have also played a small role on the ASA’s Committee on Membership Retention and Recruitment, which is devoted to initiatives that enable early-career statisticians and data scientists to become deeply engaged with the ASA and continue their membership for many years after school. A common theme among the ASA activities I have participated in is enabling others to grow in their careers, not only as students but during early-career stages.

At present, The Data Mine is planning to work with approximately 2,200 undergraduate and graduate students during the 2024–2025 academic year. We also plan to have more than 100 corporate partner projects for students to choose from. These partnerships range across all areas in which statistics and data science are used. Maggie Betz, Rebecca Sharples, and I just published an article in WIREs Computational Statistics titled “The Data Mine Model for Accessible Partnerships in Data Science.”

We endeavor to expand this model to many more companies and a similarly broad range of college and university profiles. I firmly believe in the value of students learning how to work not only on statistical modeling but also on cloud computing, full stack development, containerized environments, digital twins, large language models, and predictive analytics. Moreover, I love for students to learn directly from domain experts about how data science concepts are used in practice. As ASA members, it is perhaps more important than ever to identify ways for companies and universities to work together to provide early-career opportunities for students. I hope to work even more closely with the ASA in the future on innovative ways to build such partnerships.

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