Department of Statistics Unitmark
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Recent News

  • November 9, 2017, 12:17PM

    Brain-related disorders impact almost everyone, either directly or through family or friends. For many of the disorders, whether they’re psychiatric or neurological, there are basic scientific descriptions and valuable treatment options, but none has a satisfactory cure because the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood.

    The federal government launched the BRAIN Initiative in 2013 to ignite the development and application of new technologies needed for major advances toward understanding the brain. Carnegie Mellon University’s Rob Kass believes brain research is in desperate need of cutting-edge statistics, which can and should supply a crucial link between new, highly complex data and the thorough scientific explanations the research aims to generate.

    As the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies’ 2017 R.A Fisher Lecturer, Kass outlined his case in “The Importance of Statistics: Lessons From the Brain Sciences.”

    “Most people have no idea how advanced statistical thinking can elevate research and accelerate scientific discovery,” said Kass, Rob Kassthe Maurice Falk Professor of Statistics and Computational Neuroscience in CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “In my lecture, I pointed to some difficulties that arise when statistical ideas are ignored in the analysis of complex neuroscience data.”

    After illustrating how recordings of neuron activity have played a fundamental role in the brain sciences, Kass gave examples of neuroscience questions that led to interesting statistical problems, and how good solutions to those problems have been guided by the teachings of the discipline of statistics.

    “This lecture eloquently describes the central role of statistics in scientific inference, showing how several modern advances in neuroscience have been built on Fisher’s remarkable foundational work in statistics, nearly a hundred years ago,” said Nancy Reid, University Professor of Statistical Sciences at the University of Toronto.

    At CMU, Kass holds faculty appointments in the Statistics & Data Science and Machine Learning Departments and is the interim director of the Center for Neural Basis of Cognition. He is the co-author of the books “Geometrical Foundations of Asymptotic Inference” and “Analysis of Neural Data,” and has also written widely-read articles on statistical education, including, "Ten Simple Rules for Effective Statistical Practice."

    The R.A. Fisher Lecture recognizes individuals whose statistical achievements and scholarship have had a highly significant impact on scientific investigations. Kass was honored “for ground breaking contributions to several areas of statistics including use of differential geometry in statistical theory as well as theory and methodology of Bayesian inference; for strong commitment to the application of principled statistical thinking and modeling to problems in computational neuroscience; and for his strong dedication to training of students and users of statistics.”

    Watch a highlight video of "The Importance of Statistics: Lessons from the Brain Sciences,” edited to remove the most technical material.

    Watch the talk in its entirety.

  • October 19, 2017, 2:57PM

    Recent Dept. Ph.D. graduate Samrachana Adhikari will present “Post PH.D. Academic Life” on Oct. 30, sponsored by the Dept.’s Women in Statistics group. The talk will be held at 3:00 p.m. in the Steinberg Auditorium, Baker Hall A 53. Everyone is invited. Sam, a 2017 Ph.D. recipient, is a post-doctoral fellow in Statistics in the Dept. of Healthcare Policy and the Dept. of Biostatistics at Harvard Medical School.

  • February 23, 2016, 1:56PM

    The National Science Foundation has awarded Carnegie Mellon University’s Jing Lei and Ryan Tibshirani Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards.

    Lei and Tibshirani, both assistant professors in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Department of Statistics, each received five-year, $400,000 grants for their projects “Modernizing Classical Nonparametric and Multivariate Theory for Large-scale, High-dimensional Data Analysis” and “Locally Adaptive Nonparametric Estimation for the Modern Age — New Insights, Extensions, and Inference Tools,” respectively.

    The CAREER Award is the NSF’s most prestigious honor designed to support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through their outstanding research and excellent teaching.

    “These CAREER awards are a testament to the innovative contributions that both Ryan and Jing are making in their research,” said Christopher R. Genovese, head of the Statistics Department. “They are emerging leaders in the field, and their work is advancing our understanding of statistical inference with large, complex and high-dimensional data.

  • December 7, 2015, 3:47PM

    Chad Schafer has been elected co-chair of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Informatics and Statistics Science Collaboration. Starting in 2022, the LSST will digitally image the sky every night for a decade. The massive camera will gather roughly 30 terabytes - or 30,000 gigabytes - each night, creating "big data" for astronomy like never before. To help prepare for the data challenges, Schafer, associate professor of statistics in the Dietrich College, will lead the team to develop new methods to analyze and gain scientific insight from the data collected.

  • December 7, 2015, 3:23PM

    Ryan Tibshirani’s father is a statistician, but that is not the reason he went into the field. To Tibshirani, statistics is special because of its broad potential to impact almost any domain or field.

    “I went into statistics because I enjoy the beauty and elegance of math, but I wanted to feel more closely connected to science and data,” said Tibshirani, assistant professor of statistics in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “I found my own way to statistics because I loved the subject, but being able to share this passion and publish papers with my father is very special.”

    At Carnegie Mellon University, Tibshirani is involved in both undergraduate and graduate teaching and research. In his research, he develops mathematical models that work to understand simple patterns or structures that may be present in complicated data sets. With these models, he can leverage patterns and structures to predict unseen values of data. This concept can be applied to many different scientific domains.

    For example, with Roni Rosenfeld, a professor in the School of Computer Science, Tibshirani formed the research group DELPHI, which stands for Developing the Theory and Practice of Epidemiological Forecasting. DELPHI’s goal is to forecasting seasonal epidemics such as influenza and dengue fever. The CMU DELPHI group has built a system that can - at any given time – predict a flu outbreak in the United States. The group has also tailored the system to be able to forecast dengue fever in Brazil.

    “Ryan is advancing the state of the art for understanding the complex data that play an increasingly important role in science, industry and society,” said Christopher Genovese, head of the Department of Statistics. “He has made significant contributions in the theory and methodology of high-dimensional data analysis, and he applies those advances to tackle critical problems like disease forecasting. Ryan is truly an indispensable asset to the Statistics Department and to the university.”

    Tibshirani’s students believe that he is one of the best around. Sangwon Hyun, a second year Ph.D. student in the Statistics Department and Tibshirani’s teaching assistant, appreciates the way Tibshirani effectively delivers lectures, even with complex subject matters. Hyun feels that this is rare in at the Ph. D. level since the course materials can be hard to deliver effectively due to the layers of technical and mathematical details.

    “In addition to delivering lectures masterfully, Ryan also provides good motivation for further study, pays much attention to details of class administration, and is very willing to help students,” Hyun said.

    Tibshirani is an also asset to the Statistics Department in many ways. Yu-Xiang Wang, a third year Ph.D. student in machine learning who collaborates with Tibshirani said, “His way of thinking represent the modern view of statistics that incorporates techniques in machine learning, optimization, and theoretical computer science. Only a small number of professors in stats have such combinations and Ryan is probably one of the best among them.”

    According to Tibshirani, one of CMU’s best attributes is the collaborative nature of all of its different units, such as the way Computer Science and Statistics Departments worked together to create DELPHI.

    “You often hear that various programs at various institutions are inter-disciplinary, but honestly, I didn’t really know what that meant until I came to CMU,” said Tibshirani. “CMU has one of the best Statistics departments around; I feel very fortunate and proud to be here.”

    Learn more about Tibshirani.

  • December 7, 2015, 3:19PM

    IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization, will award Carnegie Mellon University faculty members John Lehoczky and Ragunathan “Raj” Rajkumar and the University of Illinois’ Lui Sha, a CMU alumnus, with the 2016 IEEE Simon Ramo Medal, which recognizes technical leadership and contributions to fundamental theory, practice and standardization for engineering real-time systems.

    Lehoczky, Ragunathan and Sha are being honored for revolutionizing how systems handle tasks with deadlines under serious weight, power and space constraints. Their work has been used on the original Mars Rover, NASA’s Space Station, submarines, military jets and GPS satellites.

    The trio will receive their medals, sponsored by the Northrop Grumman Corporation, at the IEEE Honors Ceremony in New York City on June 18.

    Lehoczky, the Thomas Lord University Professor of Statistics and Mathematical Sciences, has been on the CMU faculty since 1969. In addition to his work studying stochastic processes and how they can be used to model real applications, he is well known for applying stochastic modeling to problems in finance. He helped create CMU’s unique master’s degree program in computational finance — a joint program between the departments of Statistics and Mathematical Sciences, the Tepper School of Business and the Heinz College. The program has been ranked number one among financial engineering programs by QuantNet three times.

    Beyond teaching and research, Lehoczky has served CMU in numerous administrative roles, including interim executive vice president (2014-2015), dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences (2000-2014) and head of the Statistics Department (1984-1995).

    “John Lehoczky has worked behind the scenes for decades to develop ways that systems can reliably — and often in very complicated situations — meet demanding timing requirements. This honor is most deserving to recognize his work that, along with his fellow collaborators, many crucial national projects rely on,” said Richard Scheines, dean of the Dietrich College.

    Read more at:

  • December 4, 2015, 2:40PM

    Our new statistics department-sponsored student organization, Tartan Sports Analytics Club, was honored last night as a finalist for "Outstanding New Initiative" at the Student Organization & Award Recognition ceremony. The SOAR Awards are annually presented by the CMU Office of Student Activities and Student Government.

    You can learn more about the Tartan Sports Analytics Club here:

    and follow them @CMUAnalytics.

  • December 4, 2015, 2:34PM

    We are thrilled to announce that Rebecca Nugent is this year's winner of the American Statistical Association Waller Education Award. The award was meant to highlight an individual's commitment to teaching statistics, and their innovation in the field. Awardees are also selected for work that is impactful in the field of statistics beyond their own teachings and institution. The award is given based on letters of recommendation from students, and colleagues, and supervisors.

    You can read more about the Waller Awards here:

    Congratulations, Rebecca!

  • October 22, 2015, 11:54AM

    Stephen Fienberg has been selected to give the R.A. Fisher Lecture at the 2015 Joint Statistical Meetings in North America. The R.A. Fisher Lectureship was established in 1963 by COPSS to honor both the contributions of Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher and the work of a present-day statistician for their advancement of statistical theory and applications. The Fisher Lectureship is a very high recognition of meritorious achievement and scholarship in statistical science and recognizes highly significant impact of statistical methods on scientific investigations. COPSS has required that the Lectureship be awarded each year and that when possible the lecture be presented each year at the Joint Annual Meeting of Societies. The lecturer shall be selected by the COPSS R. A. Fisher Lecture and Award Committee which is chosen to reflect the interests of the member Societies. Fienberg is the Maurice Falk University Professor of Statistics and Social Sciences.

  • October 22, 2015, 11:06AM

    The federal Brain Initiative aims to revolutionize understanding of the human brain through development of innovative technologies. The new data being generated pose new challenges for statistical and machine learning methods. Rob Kass chaired a working group of the American Statistical Association ( that articulated these challenges. Together with Emery Brown (MIT and Harvard Medical School), he was interviewed for Chance magazine. Kass and Brown’s book Analysis of Neural Data (,+medicine+%26+health/book/978-1-4614-9601-4) was published last year.