• Post date: December 7, 2015, 3:47 pm

    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.

  • Post date: December 7, 2015, 3:23 pm

    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.

  • Post date: December 7, 2015, 3:19 pm

    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:

  • Post date: December 4, 2015, 2:40 pm

    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.

  • Post date: December 4, 2015, 2:34 pm

    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!

  • Post date: October 22, 2015, 11:54 am

    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.

  • Post date: October 22, 2015, 11:06 am

    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.

  • Post date: October 20, 2015, 12:00 am

    On Tuesday, October 20, Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Statistics celebrated World Statistics Day with a pizza party for faculty, staff and students. Guests were encouraged to share statistics-themed desserts, with prizes for the tastiest treats and the most clever statistics puns. Entries included a cake decorated with a scatter plot, “model-based coconut clusters,” “Tukey lime pie” and “chai squares”—chai-spiced bar cookies named for the chi-squared distribution. The coconut clusters and chai squares tied for first place.

    The contest has roots in the department’s holiday parties, where dessert competitions figure prominently. Justin Hyun, a Ph.D. student in statistics, won the previous contest with M & M’s candies hidden in yogurt parfaits. The dessert concept was a nod to the hidden Markov model (HMM for short.)

    “Data is everywhere. As a mathematics major before coming to CMU, I appreciate the real world application of math in data analysis and statistics,” Hyun said.

    Sponsored by the Statistics Division of the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs, World Statistics Day offers an opportunity for universities, statisticians and others to promote the importance of data. Activities and celebrations worldwide highlight the role of sound statistical methods and improved data sources in the development of policies that impact millions of people.

    Visiting Assistant Professor Sam Ventura said, “In today's data-rich world, terms such as ‘analytics’ and ‘big data’ are used and misused regularly. This can cloud perceptions about who is best suited to solve data-related problems. By celebrating World Statistics Day, we hope to remind everyone that statisticians are here to solve problems involving data.”

    According to numbers released earlier this year by the American Statistical Association (ASA), statistics is the fastest-growing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) discipline for undergraduate students. As a global leader in applying statistics to the fields of science, technology, policy and education, Carnegie Mellon has experienced even more dramatic growth in its statistics department, where the number of statistics undergraduate majors has roughly doubled since 2010 and has grown twenty-fold since 2005.

    CMU’s statistics program offers several paths that emphasize the connections between statistics and other disciplines. Options include joint majors with economics and machine learning; new tracks within majors in neuroscience and statistical theory; and a statistics-operations track in the Mathematical Sciences Department.

    CMU statistics graduates find jobs in diverse fields. The most common sectors are finance and banking, consulting and analytics, and management and marketing. About 10-20 percent of primary statistics majors have gone on to graduate or professional school, and a growing number of graduates are working in industrial research, the pharmaceutical industry, software companies and education.

  • Post date: October 6, 2015, 12:00 am

    For the third time, the Master of Science in Computational Finance (MSCF) program at Carnegie Mellon University was awarded the top position in the 2015 QuantNet rankings of financial engineering programs.

    Recognized as the most comprehensive ranking of master’s programs in financial engineering and mathematical finance in North America, QuantNet’s methodology includes a survey of hiring managers, corporate recruiters and professionals from financial institutions.

    “Earning the top ranking for the past three polls is a testament to the strength of the MSCF network,” said Rick Bryant, executive director of the MSCF program. “Our faculty, administrators and alumni never stop working for our students and this program.”

    This year, 30 master’s programs in North America were surveyed on admissions, placements and career services information. The rankings were based on a weighted average of employer surveys, placement success and student selectivity.

    “We work hard to attract bright and highly motivated students who can meet the demands of the increasingly quantitative and computational financial markets,” said Bryant. “Our commitment to dedicated faculty, relevant curriculum and a full-service career center – matched with the success of students in their careers – continues to increase the reputation of our program.”

    In addition to the No. 1 ranking, MSCF shared the No. 3 spot with Baruch College and Columbia University for financial engineering programs with the best employment outcomes.

    More than 50 of the world’s largest financial services firms recruit from the MSCF program. With nearly 1,200 alumni working in the quantitative finance industry, 80 percent of MSCF students accept full-time positions within three months of graduation.

    MSCF is a joint program between the Tepper School of Business, the Mathematical Sciences Department, the Department of Statistics and the Heinz College. Learn more about the MSCF program at Carnegie Mellon.

  • Post date: September 29, 2015, 12:00 am

    Eight Dietrich College seniors have been selected to the Andrew Carnegie Society (ACS) Scholars Class of 2016.

    ACS Scholars are CMU undergraduates who achieve high standards of academic excellence combined with outside of the classroom activities, such as volunteerism, involvement in student organizations, participation in sports or the arts and leadership.

    Zora Gilbert

    Gilbert is a linguistics major, with minors in psychology and professional writing. As both a teaching assistant and co-president of the undergraduate Linguistics club, Gilbert has developed into both a leader and a reliable and much sought-after source of support for their peers, particularly in matters of gender identify and self-assertion. Their studies and capabilities have led them into several roles and initiatives that reflect their desire and intention to have their work result in real and positive social impact. For example, last summer Gilbert received a grant to intern at a leading child language research lab in New York City and work in the classroom as a volunteer with the East Harlem Tutorial Program. This experience helped shape their senior honors thesis, which a study of how students use African American English in on-task discussions in the classroom. Gilbert is also one of two editors of an anthology of LGBTQ+ historical fiction (Dates Anthology), for which they have run a successful month-long Kickstarter campaign. Right now, Gilbert’s tentative plans for after college are to pursue a master’s degree in sociolinguistics while focusing on the educational implications and applications of the field.

    Rubini Naidu

    Naidu is a psychology major, with a minor in photography and on track for medical school through the pre-medical curriculum. Naidu is referred to by her nominators as “one of the most energetic, intelligent and thoughtful undergraduate students with whom we have ever had the pleasure of working.” Her interests and talents are breathtakingly broad, ranging from psychology and biology to art, design and photography. More significantly, she has integrated all of these into a coherent mission for her life. This is perhaps best illustrated by her efforts to combine her study of psychology and science with photography. She sees her photography as a means of capturing principles and phenomena that she has discovered and discussed in other facets of her education, bringing in connections from psychology, biology, philosophy and economics. Naidu has also demonstrated her commitment to service and capacity for leadership while at Carnegie Mellon. She has served as an academic coach, serves now as President of the Doctors of Carnegie Program for students interested in the health professions and founded Chinmaya Yuva Kendra, an organization that is dedicated to exploring Hindu religion and its applications to students' lives.

    Lucy Pei

    Pei is a global studies major, with an additional major in human-computer interaction. In addition to amassing an extraordinarily strong academic record across a broad and rigorous set of curricula, Pei also demonstrated her capacity for service, leadership and scholarship. She was selected for the Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program to support her in the early stages of her senior honors thesis research. In this project, Pei is working with Professor Sue-Mei Wu to study language use and code-switching in bilingual Chinese immigrant family storytelling. What's more, Pei's interests and engagement are not just academic. She has volunteered as a mentor for high school students in Pittsburgh and has served as a project leader for a student-led project in Nicaragua. She interned with TechBridgeWorld and has also created interactive modules for Social Change 101, a free on-line course on the history of social change for History Professor Nico Slate. On top of all of these activities, Pei has also been a longstanding member and leader of Counterpoint, an all-women's a capella group.

    Laura Scherb

    Scherb is a professional writing major, with an additional major in creative writing. On all counts, Scherb is an academically successful student. She has been on the Dean's List with high honors numerous times and is a member of the prestigious Sigma Tau Delta, a prestigious international English honor society. Scherb is also dedicated to developing herself professionally through a variety of on- and off-campus opportunities. On campus, she has developed her skills in writing and editing through her work at CMU's student newspaper. She started off as a staff writer and through her own effort and persistence worked her way up to manager and finally publisher of the paper. Off campus, she has also shown impressive professional development. This past summer she was selected as the editorial office manager of the Chautauqua Daily, a role in which she managed staff and wrote articles about events at the renowned Chautauqua Institution. In the spring, she interned for StandOut Marketing, where she developed skills in online research and social media strategies. Scherb also stands out because of her leadership and service. In December of 2012, Laura and another CMU student founded “CMU In Haiti” after returning from a course-inspired trip to the country and witnessing the economic and educational challenges it faced. She has served as an ambassador for the David Project, a Boston-based Israel advocacy organization striving to change public discourse on the Jewish situation a positive way.

    Ashley Sobhani

    Sobhani is a global studies major who has excelled academically, while also volunteering her time and talents to reducing gender-based violence both on- and off-campus. Sobhani has consistently impressed her professors with her subtlety and perceptiveness on complex issues. She has also had a deep impact on campus through her commitment to ending sexual assault and gender-based violence, both on-campus and beyond. She is a leading student voice on campus regarding these matters, serving on the Sexual Assault and Relationship Violence Committee in addition to being president of Got Consent, an advocacy group that works to help victims of sexual assault and reduce the prevalence of relationship violence. Last summer, Ashley interned with the Tahirih Justice Center, a U.S non-profit organization that seeks to protect immigrant women and children from gender-based violence. She has also recently received a fellowship from the People for the American Way, an organization that advocates to protect rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. Additional evidence of Sobhani 's leadership abilities comes from her position as an executive member of the University Student Affairs Council that meets regularly with the Dean of Student Affairs.

    Noel Um

    Um is a social and political history major, with minors in anthropology and English. Her academic and extracurricular records are simply extraordinary, and she impresses everyone she meets with the easy elegance and sincerity of her language and personal style. Um’s coursework is wide-ranging throughout Dietrich College and the College of Fine Arts. Um spent three semesters as news editor of The Tartan and is now starting her third consecutive year as a writing tutor. While working at The Tartan, she also served as a freelance reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and she published over 20 articles in the news, arts and entertainment sections. In the summer of 2013, she was an editorial intern at Interview Magazine in New York City, transcribing interviews with artists and musicians and gathering and categorizing visual images for the magazine's arts, music and film calendars. Most recently, in her junior year, she served as a research assistant for Blake Gopnik, the former chief art critic for the Washington Post. In this role, she gathered a wide variety of documentary and visual data for a biography he is writing on Andy Warhol. Other key off-campus service and leadership roles include Um’s ongoing involvement with both the Korean United Presbyterian Church and Asian Christian Fellowship, her work with Union Rescue Missions serving the homeless in Los Angeles and her teaching English as a second language to recent immigrants in Boston. At CMU, Um is deeply involved in Greek life. She has also trained as and remains a highly talented ballet dancer. At the moment, Um is planning to pursue a master's degree in museum anthropology after graduation from Carnegie Mellon, and to work several years before pursuing a Ph.D., very likely in anthropology and archeology.

    Jessica Wallach

    Wallach is an international relations and politics major, with an additional student-defined major in African Studies. She is an outstanding student with an intellectual curiosity that drives her to pursue academic pathways that are not always obvious and well¬ traveled. For example, Wallach developed a self-defined additional to combine advanced language study in both French and Arabic. She earned a prestigious scholarship through the Foundation for Global Scholars to study abroad in Muscat, Oman, which allowed her to perfect her Arabic language skills. She has held internships with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) West Africa Regional Agriculture Office in Accra, Ghana. As her knowledge of Africa, international relations and politics, Arabic and French grew, Wallach also developed a deep interest in agriculture, leading her to take a course in horticulture at Pittsburgh’s Phipps Conservatory. This past summer, Wallach interned at Township Valley Farms in California, where she learned the hard work of cultivating, harvesting and processing crops - while growing her interests in farm infrastructures and irrigation systems. She's combined her hands-on farm experience with academic research on agricultural technologies and innovations for West African small farmers. During her senior year, Wallach will complete a senior honors thesis on the gendered processes of agricultural development in Africa. Her hope is to gain a competent understanding of the context of Africa's most pressing issues as it plays its role as a rising economic and political force in a modern, complex and increasingly globalized world.

    Ronald Yurko

    Yurko is a statistics major with outstanding academic and co-curricular records. His professors report that he has taken many of the most challenging courses available, and he always gotten the most out of them and performed at the top of the class. They also have been uniformly impressed with his intelligence and dedication. For example, Yurko took two special topics courses instead of the one required. When a special course in astrostatistics was offered, Yurko took it. When the Statistics Department offered a more rigorous honors version of its statistical theory course, he applied and was accepted. He took the undergraduate research course, where only the top dozen students are accepted, and did an independent semester of research. Professor Andrew Thomas said, "He took complete leadership and produced an excellent analysis using the limited data we had at our disposal." This past May, Yurko presented his work at Meeting of the Minds and won first place in the Statistics Poster Competition. Outside of the statistics curriculum, Yorko has been very active with his sports interests. He created and taught a StuCo course on "sabermetrics" (the use of statistics in sports) as applied to baseball. He also co-founded and is vice-president of the Tartan Sports Analytic Club (TSAC), a very active campus club that has even been recognized by ESPN. Being the first official alumnus of the TSAC is one way Yorko plans to continue his CMU affiliation. In the professional realm, Yorko has participated in three internships related to statistics with PNC Financial Services, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Schenley Park Advisors.