Department of Statistics Unitmark
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
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.

October 20, 2015, 12:00AM

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...

Read more
October 6, 2015, 12:00AM

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...

Read more
September 29, 2015, 12:00AM

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,...

Read more
September 24, 2015, 12:00AM

Carnegie Mellon University has appointed Robert E. Kass interim co-director of the Center of the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC). Kass, professor of statistics and machine learning, is one of the world’s foremost experts on using statistics in neuroscience, a key component of CMU’s approach to brain research.

Kass succeeds Marlene Behrmann, the George A. and Helen Dunham Cowan Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, who has stepped down to focus on her research.

The CNBC is a joint project between Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh that was founded 21 years ago to investigate the neural mechanisms that give rise to human cognitive abilities. The center integrates Pitt’s strengths in basic and clinical neuroscience with CMU’s strengths in psychology, computer science,...

Read more
September 14, 2015, 4:36PM

Eleven years ago, Carnegie Mellon University received a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to train the next generation of education research leaders. The award established the Program in Interdisciplinary Education Research (PIER), which implements a scientifically based and rigorous Ph.D. curriculum across several departments, including Psychology, Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction (HCII), Philosophy and Statistics.

Based on PIER’s impressive track record, with respect to training students both in their core disciplines as well as in education research, the DOE’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has funded CMU’s program for the third time with a grant of $3.67 million.

“Carnegie Mellon is among just a handful of universities whose training grants have been funded continuously...

Read more
September 4, 2015, 4:40PM

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed Carnegie Mellon’s Sam Ventura.

He’s not a play-making forward, a hard-hitting defenseman or a lightning quick goaltender, but the 27-year-old junior faculty member in the Statistics Department is hoping to make a big impact nonetheless.

Ventura is among the growing breed of statistical analysts in professional sports, an industry proliferated by Moneyball, the book and subsequent movie about the Oakland Athletics’ reliance on data analytics to build a successful baseball team. Last year, Karim Kassam, a former CMU professor of social and decision sciences, joined the Pittsburgh Steelers as their analytics and research coordinator.

“In any field, if you can objectively back up your decision with data, you’re doing yourself a favor,” said Ventura, who earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and Ph.D. in statistics at CMU.

A Pittsburgh native and lifelong hockey player and enthusiast, Ventura’s appointment as a consultant with the Penguins stems from his senior year at CMU and Andrew Thomas, a professor who taught a class about applying statistical methods to the sporting world.


Read more
August 14, 2015, 12:00AM

The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) has announced that Carnegie Mellon University’s Stephen E. Fienberg is the recipient of the 2015 Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research.

NISS, which is dedicated to strengthening and serving the national statistics community, established the award to honor Sacks as its founding director. It recognizes sustained, high-quality cross-disciplinary research involving the statistical sciences.

Nell Sedransk, acting director of NISS, revealed Fienberg as the winner during a reception at this week’s Joint Statistical Meetings in Seattle, Washington. Sedransk said Fienberg was selected “for a remarkable career devoted to the development and application of statistical methodology to solve problems for the...

Read more
March 20, 2015, 12:00AM

Oh, play me some mountain music, like grandma and grandpa used to play.

Maybe you know that line from Alabama’s number one hit “Mountain Music.” What you may not know is Brian Junker, associate dean of CMU’s Dietrich College, has been granting that request weekly at the Schenley Park Visitor’s Center.
Junker, who has played guitar off and on since he was a teenager, took up the banjo eight years ago after becoming perplexed during a performance by local songwriter Emily Pinkerton.

“I couldn’t figure out how the motions that her hand was making corresponded to the number of notes coming out of the instrument,” he said.

He later learned it’s a banjo-playing style known as clawhammer, in which the hand assumes a claw-like shape and the thumb and middle or index finger strum the strings downward with the back of the fingernail.

Pinkerton let him borrow her banjo for a few weeks to give it a try. He enjoyed playing it so much that he bought one for himself.

Known to bring square dancers and cloggers to their feet for some pretty quick stepping, “old-time” or “mountain” music has a distinct and rhythmic sound that...

Read more