About Me


Howard Seltman
Department of Statistics & Data Science
Carnegie Mellon University
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213

I received my BA in Biology from Oberlin College in 1975, my MD from Medical College of Pennsylvania in 1979, and my PhD in Statistics from Carnegie Mellon University in 1999.

I worked as a clinical pathologist at the Medical School of the University of Pittsburgh from 1979-1989, and at Eastern Virginia Medical School from 1989-1994.

Most recently I was Senior Research Statistician and the Director of the Masters's of Statistical Practice (MSP) program in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, which is in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh (Welcome Pittsburgh) (Allegheny County), Pennsylvania, USA. My research interests were at the intersection of medicine and statistics. Some of my research areas included:

  1. various aspects of longitudinal modeling, particularly as it applies to Psychiatry
  2. combining information from different types of studies
  3. use of haplotypes in genetic analysis
  4. analysis of spoken words from focus groups
Having been "on both sides of the fence", I was particularly interested in the education of scientists about the appropriate uses of statistics. I hoped that I am able to use my experiences as a working scientist to better understand the difficulties of learning how to apply statistical techniques in the real world. One of my key goals was to help bridge the gap between statisticians and users of statistics.

For several years, I taught 36-309/749, Experimental Design for Behavioral and Social Sciences. I have bundled my teaching materials into a free on-line textbook.

Until May of 2019, I taught Data Science, Professional Skills for Statisticians, and Statistical Practice (consulting) for the MSP.

As of June 2019, I am retired from CMU.

My Publications

I recommend riding PAT buses, sending your kids to Pittsburgh Public Schools, subscribing to Community Supported Agriculture from The Kretschmann Farm, and shopping at the East End Food Coop. Our best vacation yet was to Alaska in August 2011. Check out my Search Web page.

Pittsburgh Photos

Some favorite quotes:

"Damn it Jim, I'm a doctor, not a bricklayer." -- Leonard McCoy
"I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, to think it possible you may be mistaken." -- Oliver Cromwell
"The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold." -- Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
"If you can't read and write you can't think. Your thoughts are dispersed if you don't know how to read and write. You've got to be able to look at your thoughts on paper and discover what a fool you were." -- Ray Bradbury
"Western culture has accepted as unquestionable a technological imperative that is quite as arbitrary as the most primitive taboo: not merely (is it) the duty to foster invention and constantly to create technological novelties, but equally the duty to surrender to these novelties unconditionally just because they are offered, without respect to their human consequences." -- Lewis Mumford
"The scientific method is designed to help investigators overcome the most entrenched human cognitive habit: the confirmation bias, the tendency to notice and remember evidence that confirms our beliefs or decisions, and to ignore, dismiss, or forget evidence that is discrepant. That's why we are all inclined to stick to a hypothesis we believe in. Science is one way of forcing us, kicking and screaming if necessary, to modify our views." -- Carol Tavris
"If we want to have an educated citizenship in a modern technological society, we need to teach them three things: reading, writing, and statistical thinking." -- H.G. Wells
"Try to learn something about everything and everything about something." --Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist (1825-1895)
"The fact that all the organisms that are born or hatched or budded off do not and cannot possibly survive is natural selection." -- Lynn Margulis, biologist (1938-2011)
"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." --Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi's Law of Programming: "Program development ends when the program does what you expect it to do -- whether it is correct or not.
Steven Strogatz's First Law of Doing Math: "When you're trying to prove something, it helps to know it's true."
Philip Campbell's Second Law: "Scientists are as vigorous in complaining about the incomprehensibility of others' scientific papers as they are lazy in clarifying their own."
Alison Gopnik's Learning Curve: "The ability to learn is inversely proportional to years of school, adjusted for hormones."
"...in the name of a humanity fading in the shadow of the machine, I demand it." -- Samuel T. Cogley in regard to the right of a defendant to face his accuser even when the accuser is a computer

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