Skip to content The AmpersandMenu Close Explore AcademicsDepartments & ProgramsMajors & MinorsGraduate Degrees and ProgramsStudent ResourcesGetting StartedAcademic PlanningScholarships, Fellowships & AwardsExperiential LearningGraduation & Post-Graduate AdvisingForms & PoliciesOffice of Graduate Studies in Arts & SciencesThe AmpersandAwards & NotablesCampus LifeHold That Thought podcastThe Ampersand Magazine Our EventsCommencement Performances & ShowsOur PeopleFaculty DirectoryStaff DirectoryFaculty & Staff ResourcesAwards & RecognitionCommittees & CouncilsFaculty Activity ReportingTenure & PromotionGraduate Student ResourcesOffice of Graduate Studies in Arts & SciencesDegrees and ProgramsGraduate AdmissionsArts & Sciences Strategic PlanThere are no boundaries to what you can achieve with a degree from Arts & Sciences.Apply TodayHomeAbout Arts & SciencesOur Alumni NetworkAcademic CalendarHow to giveContact Us Arts & Sciences Graduate Studies in A&SDepartment of Statistics and Data Science gains momentum with new hiresBy Chris Woolston5.8.24 | Faculty, Natural Sciences & MathShareDepartment chair Xuming He discusses the new faculty and big ideas that are energizing the department.Less than a year after its inception, WashU’s Department of Statistics and Data Science is already assembling the talent and expertise needed to make it a national leader in statistical research with real-world impact, said department chair Xuming He, the Kotzubei-Beckmann Distinguished Professor. Xuming He “The department will continue to develop foundational research in statistics,” He said. “At the same time, we’re going to take an interdisciplinary approach to explore emerging areas of data science.” The new department launched on July 1, 2023 — He’s first day at WashU. Born out of the Arts & Sciences Strategic Plan, the department furthers the university-wide vision of innovative digital transformation and involves close collaboration with the McKelvey School of Engineering and other schools at WashU. He — a renowned leader in robust statistics, quantile regression, Bayesian inference, and post-selection inference — is building a department that will tackle some of the most complex and pressing issues in science and society, including AI, climate change, sustainability, and public health. A nationwide search for faculty this year yielded a flood of applications and He recently hired five talented scholars whose skills will further the department’s mission. Bo Li, previously the chair of statistics at the University of Illinois, is a leading statistician specializing in the complex data underlying environmental science and public health issues, including the control of HIV and the deadly threat of heat waves. “I have great confidence in Professor He, and I believe in his vision to cultivate a strong and inclusive department,” Li said. “There is a shared vision for the indispensable role of statistics in tackling environmental and health challenges. I am excited to bring my expertise to the table and engage in meaningful interdisciplinary research.” Joe Guinness, previously an associate professor of statistics and data science at Cornell University, studies large data sets in Earth science. “Statistics and data science has unbounded potential at WashU,” said Guinness, who graduated from WashU in 2007. Guinness added that he’s looking forward to collaborating with departments across campus to advance education and research. Ran Chen, previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, works on a wide range of statistical issues, including machine learning and data-driven decision-making with implications for business and health care. Chen said she was drawn to the new department’s forward-looking approach to data science and the many opportunities to work with researchers in other fields, including social sciences and medicine. “I’m excited and privileged to be part of this venture,” she said. “I see great potential for professional growth and impactful contributions.” Hong Hu, previously a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, studies high-dimensional statistics with applications for signal processing and machine learning. While Hu's primary appointment will be in McKelvey's Preston M. Green Department of Electrical & Systems Engineering, he will also be an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics and Data Science. Hu said he was drawn to WashU's excellence in education and research. "As a junior faculty member with a background in electrical engineering and data science, I'm looking forward to contributing at the intersection of statistics, signal processing, and machine learning," he said. Carlos Misael Madrid Padilla recently earned his PhD from the University of Notre Dame, where he is graduating with the 2024 Eli J. and Helen Shaheen Graduate School Award. Padilla studies high-dimensional statistics, a mathematical approach for extremely large and complicated data sets. He has worked on change-point detection and scalable Bayesian computation. “I am genuinely impressed by Professor He's dedication to building a department that champions innovation and collaboration,” Padilla said. “I’m thrilled to be involved in this journey and eager to offer my support.” Top row: Joe Guinness and Hong Hu. Bottom row: Bo Li, Carlos Misael Madrid Padilla, and Ran Chen. The five new hires will join nine existing WashU faculty members who moved to the new department from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The faculty who made the transition all embrace a practical, transdisciplinary approach to statistics, He said. Soumendra Lahiri, the Stanley A. Sawyer Professor in Mathematics and Statistics, is among the current faculty members who joined the new department. “Soumendra really made his name in theoretical statistical fields,” He said. “In recent years, he has also been working on some very interesting problems in data science.” In 2023, Lahiri was among the Arts & Sciences faculty members who received a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to study metadata from police body-worn cameras. The project is part of the Incubator for Transdisciplinary Futures, a signature initiative of the Arts & Sciences Strategic Plan. Lahiri is also the co-principal investigator on two other NSF projects: one to study large-scale flooding in cities and another that will use AI-powered tools to explore the dynamics of black holes. The other faculty members who moved to the new department are Professors José Figueroa-López and Nan Lin; Associate Professors Jimin Ding, Todd Kuffner, and Debashis Mondal; Assistant Professors Robert Lunde and Likai Chen; and Senior Lecturer Abigail Jager. The hard work of building a department continues, and He plans to hire more faculty to further the department’s reach into emerging fields such as AI. “At its essence, AI is based on algorithms,” He said. While universities can’t compete with Google or Apple when it comes to developing or implementing AI products, He believes the new department can make important contributions to AI’s reliability and trustworthiness by addressing a wide range of issues around the underlying data. “For example, statisticians can do their part to improve the ethics and privacy of AI.” He is also committed to expanding the department’s educational reach. Graduate programs in statistics will be moving to the new department starting in fall 2024, a move that will bring new students and new energy to the growing department, He said. The department is expected to more than double the number of students in the graduate program this year. Guinness, the director of undergraduate studies for statistical science majors at Cornell, will help the department expand its undergraduate curriculum, He said. “We’re seeing a lot of demand for data science at the undergraduate level.” Students are showing particular interest in applied statistics in biology and social science, and they’ll need the courses to match, he added. Guinness said he’s up for the challenge: “We need to equip students with the tools to navigate our increasingly computational world while ensuring that they understand the fundamental principles of statistics.” Jump to Top | Back to AllAbout the AuthorChris Woolston is an experienced journalist who has been writing about science, health, and travel for more than 20 years. After working as a staff writer in the Washington University School of Medicine Office of Medical Public Affairs, he went on to a freelance writing career. His work has appeared in Nature, Knowable, The Los Angeles Times, and many other outlets. He lives in his hometown of Billings, Montana. more stories from the ampersand:6.17.24James Bond: Exploring the storytelling behind the spy6.7.24Obituary: Stan H. Braude, professor of practice in Arts & Sciences, 626.3.24Seven faculty members receive inaugural Teaching Innovation Awards5.31.24Spores in the city: Why some plant diseases thrive in urban environmentsBack to AmpersandQuick LinksExplore AcademicsStudent ResourcesThe AmpersandEventsOur PeopleAbout A&SContactAcademic CalendarA&S ComputingUniversity DirectoryUniversity LibrariesInside ArtSciArts & Sciences Strategic PlanEmployment OpportunitiesCopyright 2024 by:Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. LouisFollow Arts & SciencesInstagramFacebookTwitterLinkedInYouTubeLet your curiosity lead the way.Find out how to apply and get started todayApply Now1 Brookings Drive / St. Louis, MO 63130 / wustl.edu

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