Math and Stats

David H. Bailey to give 2017 Conant Lecture

AMS Feed - Thu, 2017-08-10 23:00

Davis H. Bailey, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (retired) and University of California, Davis, will be giving the 2017 Conant Lecture, "Computation and analysis of arbitrary digits of Pi and other mathematical constants," on Friday, September 15, 4:00 pm at Higgins Laboratories, Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The lecture is free and open to the public. Bailey, Jonathan Borwein, Andrew Mattingly, and Glenn Wightwick received the 2017 Levi L. Conant Prize for their article "The Computation of Previously Inaccessible Digits of π2 and Catalan's Constant," Notices of the AMS, August 2013. Prize winners are invited to present a public lecture at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as part of their Levi L. Conant Lecture Series, which was established in 2006. See a downloadable flyer with details about Bailey and his talk and information about the AMS Conant Prize.

Categories: Math and Stats

AMS at SACNAS and AMATYC Conferences

AMS Feed - Wed, 2017-08-09 23:00

Visit the AMS exhibit at these upcoming conferences:
10/19-21: National SACNAS Conference in Salt Lake City, UT
11/9-11: Annual AMATYC Conference in San Diego, CA

Categories: Math and Stats

2018 Who Wants to Be a Mathematician Qualifying Deadline

AMS Feed - Wed, 2017-08-09 23:00

Qualifying for the 2018 Who Wants to Be a Mathematician championship, which will take place at the 2018 Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego, begins September 11. The first round of qualifying ends September 25. More information.

Categories: Math and Stats

Cathleen Synge Morawetz, 1923-2017

AMS Feed - Tue, 2017-08-08 23:00

Cathleen Synge Morawetz, the second woman to serve as president of the AMS (1995-1996) and the first to receive the National Medal of Science (1998) for work in mathematics, died August 7 at the age of 94. Morawetz was professor emerita at New York University's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and worked in partial differential equations, establishing important results in the study of shock waves, scattering theory, transonic flow, and the nonlinear wave equation. Morawetz, whose father John Lighton Synge was also a mathematician, received her PhD from New York University in 1951 under the direction of Kurt Friedrichs. She then held a position as a research associate at MIT but returned to the Courant Institute after one year, later serving as its director from 1984 to 1988, and retiring in 1993.  Morawetz received several prizes and honors, including the 2004 Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the 2006 Birkhoff Prize, election to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, was the Gibbs lecturer in 1981, and was a member of the inaugural class of AMS Fellows in 2012. Among those achievements, she was often the first or only woman to be so honored.

In her response to being awarded the Steele Prize, Morawetz wrote: "I am forever indebted to my mother for instilling in me the idea of ambition (then very unladylike) and to my father for the idea of intellectual achievement (not to mention the introduction to [Richard] Courant)." For more information on Morawetz' work and life, see her biography in the MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive, her page on the AMS Presidents Timeline, and "Happy 91st, Cathleen Synge Morawetz," by Allyn Jackson, from the May 2014 issue of Notices.

Categories: Math and Stats

The legacies and achievements of Marina Ratner and Maryam Mirzakhani

AMS Feed - Mon, 2017-08-07 23:00

"With Snowflakes and Unicorns, Marina Ratner and Maryam Mirzakhani Explored a Universe in Motion," by Amie Wilkinson, published in The New York Times August 7, is on "the legacies and achievements of two great mathematicians [who] will dazzle and intrigue scholars for decades." Wilkinson's essay provides a historical and personal perspective on both women--their backgrounds, mathematics, and impact on current and future mathematics and mathematicians. "I was inspired by both women and their patient assaults on deeply difficult problems. Their work was closely related and is connected to some of the oldest questions in mathematics," writes Wilkinson. "Dr. Ratner and Dr. Mirzakhani studied shapes that are preserved under more sophisticated types of motions, and in higher dimensional spaces." Wilkinson describes their important work, its far-reaching applications, and their legacies--which include inspiring a new generation of young women. "For the inspiration they provide, but above all for the beauty of their mathematics, we celebrate their lives."

See Marina Ratner (1938-2017) and A Tribute to Maryam Mirzakhani on, and obituaries in The New York Times, "Maryam Mirzakhani, Only Woman to Win a Fields Medal, Dies at 40," by Kenneth Chang, July 16, 2017, and "Marina Ratner, Émigré Mathematician Who Found Midlife Acclaim, Dies at 78," by Kenneth Chang, July 25, 2017.

Categories: Math and Stats

AMS Election

AMS Feed - Mon, 2017-07-31 23:00

The 2017 AMS election will run from August 21 through November 3. Visit the AMS election page for an overview of voting procedures and a list of candidates, including those running for president and vice-president. Please vote--the choices that members make in the election directly affect the Society's direction.

Categories: Math and Stats

A Tribute to Maryam Mirzakhani

AMS Feed - Tue, 2017-07-25 23:00

See our tribute to the recently deceased Maryam Mirzakhani, the only woman to win a Fields Medal, who died of cancer July 14 at the age of 40. Included on the page are AMS President Kenneth A. Ribet's reaction to her death, a place where you can share your comments, and links to articles about her work. (Photo: Stanford University.)

Categories: Math and Stats

Donoho Speaks at AMS-MSRI Congressional Briefing

AMS Feed - Mon, 2017-07-24 23:00

David Donoho, Stanford University, recently gave a briefing to Members of Congress and congressional staff entitled "Blackboard to bedside: How high-dimensional geometry is transforming the MRI industry." Donoho's briefing was jointly sponsored by the AMS and the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI).

Categories: Math and Stats

IMO 2017 Results

AMS Feed - Sun, 2017-07-23 23:00

The team from South Korea finished first in the 58th International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. All six team members won gold medals. China finished second, followed by Vietnam, the U.S., and Iran. Three of the U.S. team members--Ankan Bhattacharya, Andrew Gu, and James Lin--won gold medals, and three--Zachary Chroman, Vincent Huang, and Junyao Peng--won silver medals. Ankan also won a gold medal at the 2016 IMO and was the 2016 national Who Wants to Be a Mathematician champion. See results from IMO 2017. Next year's IMO will take place in Cluj-Napoca, Romania July 3-14.

Categories: Math and Stats

MCA 2017

AMS Feed - Sat, 2017-07-22 23:00

July 24-28, 2017Mathematical Congress of the Americas 2017 (MCA2017) will be held in Montréal, Canada.

Categories: Math and Stats

Cédric Villani Elected to French National Assembly

AMS Feed - Wed, 2017-07-19 23:00

Cédric Villani, who won the Fields Medal in 2010, has been elected to the French National Assembly, receiving nearly 70% of the vote in a constituency south of Paris. (Photo: Sandy Huffaker.) Villani heads the Henri Poincaré Institute in Paris, and is the recipient of the Prize of the European Mathematical Society (2008), the Fermat Prize (2009), the Henri Poincaré Prize (2009), the AMS's Joseph L. Doob Prize (2014, for Optimal Transport: Old and New), and was the 2013 AMS Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecturer. See an interview with Villani in Science by Elisabeth Pain.

Categories: Math and Stats

Yamada Appointed to Office of Research and Development at EPA

AMS Feed - Wed, 2017-07-19 23:00

Mathematician, 2011-2012 AMS Congressional Fellow, and longtime science advocate Richard Yamada has been appointed Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development (ORD) at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this new position–the number 2 position in ORD–Yamada is expected to play a key role overhauling the office and selecting new members for its Board of Scientific Counselors, which reviews ORD’s research agenda.  ORD runs three national laboratories, four national centers, and two offices located in 14 facilities across the country and in Washington, D.C.

Prior to joining EPA, Yamada has been on the Mathematics faculty at the University of Michigan, was a research scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and served on the staff of both houses of the legislature including his most recent service as a professional staff member to the Committee on Science, Space and Technology in the House of Representatives. His Congressional work begin during his AMS Congressional Fellowship, described in the Notices in his piece My Year on Capitol Hill: 5 Lessons I Have Learned.

Categories: Math and Stats

Maryam Mirzakhani, 1977-2017

AMS Feed - Mon, 2017-07-17 23:00

Maryam Mirzakhani, the only woman to win a Fields Medal, died on July 14 at the age of 40. Mirzakhani was a professor at Stanford University and a highly original mathematician who made a host of striking contributions to geometry and dynamical systems. Her work bridges several mathematical disciplines---including hyperbolic geometry, complex analysis, topology, and dynamics---and in return deeply influenced them all. (Photo: Stanford University.) She gained widespread recognition for her early results in hyperbolic geometry, particularly on a problem known as the "prime number theorem for simple closed geodesics." The viewpoint developed in that work led to a proof of a conjecture that had been made by string theorist Edward Witten (1990 Fields Medalist). The conjecture was first proved in 1992 by Maxim Kontsevich (1998 Fields Medalist); 15 years later, Mirzakhani provided a new proof that came from a very different and totally unexpected viewpoint. These works led her to the study of dynamical systems associated with spaces of Riemann surfaces, where she and her collaborators made fundamental breakthroughs.

Her more-recent work (with A. Eskin and A. Mohammadi) constitutes one of the most sought-after advances in the area known as "Teichmüller dynamics." She proved a rigidity theorem that is an analogue, in this non-homogeneous context, of the celebrated "Ratner rigidity theorem" in homogeneous dynamics. (Marina Ratner, a Russian-American mathematician, died earlier this month at the age of 78.) Like Ratner's results, Mirzakhani's rigidity theorems, in asserting that the dynamics are much more rigid than one might initially expect, have numerous and far-reaching applications. That such rigidity is true and can be proven, in the highly intricate inhomogeneous setting of Teichmüller dynamics, came as a surprise. Indeed, the latter are so complicated that many assumed it would be impossible to work on them directly. Not Mirzakhani. Possessing strong geometric intuition and fluency in a remarkably diverse range of mathematical techniques and disparate mathematical cultures, she embodied a rare combination of superb technical ability, bold ambition, far-reaching vision, and deep curiosity.

In an obituary by Kenneth Chang in The New York Times, Peter Sarnak reflected on Mirzakhani: "She was in the midst of doing fantastic work. ... Not only did she solve many problems; in solving problems, she developed tools that are now the bread and butter of people working in the field." Mirzakhani was also a tremendous inspiration to women mathematicians around the globe. In an article in Times Higher Education, which appeared on August 21, 2014, just after Mirzakhani received the Fields Medal, British mathematician Caroline Series summed up what many women mathematicians felt at that moment: "The tectonic plates have shifted, and female mathematicians have finally come of age."

Mirzakhani grew up in Iran and came to the U.S. to attend graduate school, earning her PhD from Harvard University in 2004 under the direction of Curtis McMullen (1998 Fields Medalist). She was a professor at Princeton University before moving to Stanford in 2008. In addition to the Fields Medal, Mirzakhani also received the Blumenthal Award (2009), the Satter Prize (2013), and a Clay Research Award (2014). Survivors include her husband, Jan Vondrák, also a mathematics professor at Stanford, and their daughter, Anahita.

For more on Mirzakhani's work, see an article by Curtis McMullen, which contains the laudatio he delivered during the 2014 International Congress of Mathematicians in Seoul, where Mirzakhani received the Fields Medal. More information can be found in the news release the International Mathematical Union issued when Mirzakhani's Fields Medal was announced, a 2014 article in Quanta Magazine by Erica Klarreich, a 2015 Notices article by Anton Zorich (pp. 1345-1349), and more recently: an article in The New Yorker by Siobhan Roberts, an article in Quanta by Moira Chas, a Beyond Reviews post by Ed Dunne that highlights MathSciNet reviews of her work, and a tribute by U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA), a PhD mathematician.

Categories: Math and Stats

IMS Election results

IMS Bulletin - Fri, 2017-07-14 13:15

We are delighted to introduce the newest members of IMS Council. The next President-Elect is Xiao-Li Meng, and the six new members of Council are: Mathias Drton, Peter Hoff, Greg Lawler, Antonietta Mira, Axel Munk and Byeong Park. All of these will serve a three-year term starting in August, apart from Mathias Drton, who will serve a two-year term.

Mathias, Peter, Greg, Antonietta, Axel and Byeong will be joining Andreas Buja, Gerda Claeskens, Nancy Heckman, Kavita Ramanan and Ming Yuan (whose terms end August 2018); and Jean Bertoin, Song Xi Chen, Elizaveta Levina and Simon Tavaré (whose terms run through July 2019). Cun-Hui Zhang, who became Statistical Science Editor in January, still serves on Council (see below); his vacant position as an elected member is filled by Mathias Drton.

In addition to these elected members, IMS Council is made up of the Executive Committee and the Editors, who serve ex officio. The Executive Committee will, from August, comprise:

President: Alison Etheridge

Past President: Jon Wellner

President-elect: Xiao-Li Meng

Treasurer: Zhengjun Zhang

Program Secretary: Judith Rousseau

Executive Secretary: Edsel A. Peña

Richard Davis, outgoing past-president, will be leaving the Executive Committee after three years’ service. Aurore Delaigle will be stepping down after six years as Executive Secretary, replaced by Edsel Peña.

The Editors are Bálint Tóth (Annals of Applied Probability); Maria Eulalia Vares (Annals of Probability); Tilmann Gneiting (Annals of Applied Statistics); Ed George and Tailen Hsing (Annals of Statistics); Cun-Hui Zhang (Statistical Science); and Vlada Limic (IMS Bulletin). T.N. Sriram is Managing Editor for Statistics & Probability. Maria Eulalia Vares will be stepping down as Editor of the Annals of Probability at the end of this year, and Amir Dembo will be taking on this role from next January.

The elected members who are leaving Council this year are Peter Bühlmann, Florentina Bunea, Geoffrey Grimmett, Aad van der Vaart and Naisyin Wang. Thanks to all the outgoing officers, editors and council members for their dedicated service to our institute. Thanks, too, to all the candidates, and all who voted!

Categories: Math and Stats

Members’ News August 2017

IMS Bulletin - Fri, 2017-07-14 13:13
Peter Bühlmann receives honorary doctorate

The Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), in Belgium, has awarded Professor Peter Bühlmann with a Doctor honoris causa degree. Peter Bühlmann received the honorary doctorate for his achievements in the fields of mathematical statistics, machine learning and high-dimensional data analysis. In addition, he has also “contributed to solving pertinent problems in the application of his fundamental research to the fields of biology and bio-medicine (in particular, in genetics and bioinformatics)”.

The ceremony was part of the UCL workshop on Data Sciences held in May 2017 in Louvain-la-Neuve (

Peter Bühlmann is Professor of Mathematics and Statistics, and currently Chair of the Department of Mathematics, at ETH Zürich. He received his doctoral degree in mathematics in 1993 from ETHZ; after spending three years at UC Berkeley, he returned to ETHZ in 1997. His main research interests are in high-dimensional and computational statistics, machine learning, causal inference and applications in the bio-medical field. He has been a highly cited researcher in mathematics in the last few years.

Peter Bühlmann is a Fellow of IMS and ASA, and a recipient of several awards, including the Winton Research Prize. He served as Co-editor of the Annals of Statistics (2010–12), and has guided 29 doctoral students, to date.

Donald Rubin receives honors

Donald B. Rubin, the John L. Loeb Professor of Statistics at Harvard University, has received several awards this year. He won the 2017 Rao Prize for Outstanding Research in Statistics ( the last winner was David Cox in 2015); the 2017 Waksberg Prize for Contributions to Survey Methodology; and the 2017 ISI Karl Pearson Prize, shared with Roderick Little for their book on missing data, fist published in 1987. In January he received an Honorary Degree (his fourth) from the Medical Faculty at Uppsala University, Sweden; and will shortly receive one from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois (the first three are from Bamberg University, Germany, the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Santo Tomas University, Columbia).

SIAM Fellow Emmanuel Candès

Among the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) 2017 SIAM Fellows is Emmanuel Candès, Stanford University. The 28 Fellows were nominated for their exemplary research as well as outstanding service to the community. Emmanuel’s citation reads: For pioneering work in mathematics of information, compressive sensing, computational harmonic analysis, statistics, and scientific computing.


Jeff Wu receives 2017 ENBIS Box Medal Award for Achievements in Statistics

Professor Jeff Wu, Georgia Tech’s Stewart School of Industrial & Systems Engineering (ISyE) Coca-Cola Chair in Engineering Statistics, has received the 2017 Box Medal Award from ENBIS, the European Network for Business and Industrial Statistics.

The Box Medal is named after George Box, the late British–American statistician who is considered one of the greatest statistical minds of our time. Box was extremely influential on Wu’s work during his formative years as a young academic at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where Box was also a professor. In a 2015 interview with Hugh Chapman and Roshan Joseph, Wu said Box was “a great scholar and a great lecturer. His opinions and passion for work were contagious … I respected him a lot.”

The ENBIS press release announcing Wu as this year’s Box Medal recipient stated that “with the medal, the link between two great statisticians is strengthened even further.” The press release also noted that Wu was chosen for his many contributions to the study of statistics, as well as “his ability to clearly explain complex concepts … and for systematically passing on his knowledge.” Wu has supervised 45 PhD students, many of whom are active researchers in the statistical sciences.

Jeff Wu will accept the Box Medal, and deliver a keynote speech, at the ENBIS conference, held from September 9–14, 2017, in Naples, Italy. See

Gordon Slade elected Fellow of the Royal Society

IMS Fellow Professor Gordon Slade, University of British Columbia, has been elected a Fellow of the UK’s Royal Society. Gordon’s research is in the fields of probability theory and mathematical physics, especially statistical mechanics. He is well-known for his work on the mathematical study of critical phenomena and phase transitions. With his collaborators, he developed the “lace expansion” into a powerful and flexible method for the analysis of high-dimensional critical phenomena in many mathematical models of interest in physics, including the self-avoiding walk and percolation. In more recent work, he and his collaborators have developed a rigorous renormalisation group method for the analysis of the critical behaviour of spin systems and the weakly self-avoiding walk. His awards include election as Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2000, the CRM-Fields-PIMS Prize in 2010, and a University of British Columbia Killam Teaching Prize in 2017.

Clifford Spiegelman appointed to Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission

On April 20, Clifford Spiegelman was named the first official statistician of the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission. Spiegelman will aid in producing the Educator Survey, a major project for the commission. The survey will help the commission gain an understanding of what Texas educators know of the Holocaust and what they are teaching about this seminal event. William McWhorter, executive director of the commission, wrote that the survey is critical to meeting the commission’s mission and, with Spiegelman’s assistance, they hope to produce the most effective Educator Survey possible.

Visit the commissions’ website for details:




Categories: Math and Stats

Regina Explicat: Quantitative communication

IMS Bulletin - Fri, 2017-07-14 13:08

Regina Nuzzo, one of our new Contributing Editors, has a PhD in statistics and is also a graduate of the Science Communication program at University of California–Santa Cruz. Her work as a part-time freelancer over the past 12 years has appeared in Nature, New Scientist, Scientific American, Reader’s Digest, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among others. In 2014 she received the American Statistical Association Excellence in Statistical Reporting Award for her Nature feature on p-values.

Her geeky Latin friends tell her that a rough translation of the name of this column, Regina Explicat, is, “The queen disentangles.” She explains why below.

A couple of years ago when I was at a conference at Stanford I spotted a fellow science journalist—Christie Aschwanden, a writer for the digital magazine FiveThirtyEight—pulling aside attendees one by one into the courtyard, where she would then flip on her video camera and fire a single question at them.

The interviewees—all gathered for the inaugural METRICS conference on “meta-science” to improve biomedical research—had different reactions. Some squirmed uncomfortably at the question, some gamely gave their best answer, and others (like me) dodged it entirely. Aschwanden eventually put them together for a short FiveThirtyEight article—one that, to be honest, was not entirely flattering to the field of statistics.

The hard-hitting question posed to the attendees: “What is a p-value?”

Aschwanden apparently interpreted our fumbling discomfort to mean that no one could say what this statistic really is—not even statisticians themselves.“I figured that if anyone could explain p-values in plain English, these folks could,” she wrote. “I was wrong.” And the subtext, perhaps, was that if experts couldn’t communicate it, then journalists and other non-statisticians shouldn’t feel too bad if they didn’t understand it either.

I think she was missing the point.

To be fair, Aschwanden was in a tough spot as a journalist. She’d recently had to print a correction to an article she’d written for FiveThirtyEight on cloud seeding, in which a p-value of 0.28 had been miscommunicated: “An earlier version of this article misstated the chance that cloud seeding produced a 3 percent increase in precipitation. There was a 28 percent probability that the result was at least that extreme if cloud seeding doesn’t actually work, not a 28 percent chance that the research could have happened by chance.”

Aschwanden’s original language, in turn, had been pulled from the official executive summary for the study her article was based on, the Wyoming Weather Modification Pilot Program: “The primary statistical analysis yielded a RRR [root regression ratio] of 1.03 and a p-value of 0.28. These results imply a 3% increase in precipitation with a 28% probability that the result occurred by chance.” (Ah, yes, the flipped conditional probability.)

So you can see why journalists might be frustrated. How can they convey to their readers the implication of p = 0.28 if they don’t know how to communicate it well themselves, and neither do the expert scientists?

This issue is not limited to p-values, of course. We could be talking instead about confidence intervals, odds ratios, nonparametric methods, Bayesian networks, logistic regression. This is about statistics communication—or, more broadly, “quantitative communication.”

And that leads to why I think Aschwanden’s bit of mathematical “gotcha” journalism ignored bigger issues at hand, but at the same time points to interesting opportunities for the statistical community.

First of all, statisticians are already quite good at communication, by and large, even if it’s not yet a formal part of our training. And what good communicators intuitively know is that audience and purpose are everything.

So I suspect the experts Aschwanden interviewed were uncomfortable with her question not because they didn’t know how to explain a p-value well, but simply because the question itself was devoid of context. It would have been fair to ask her, “Who is the audience? Why do they need to know this? Are you asking what this statistic is, or are you asking how it’s used? Do you have time for a concrete example, or is this just a sound bite?”

There’s no one-size-fits-all explanation for statistical ideas.

Yet while we may already be decent communicators, we can do better still. A good start would be discussions about best practices for discussing our work in different contexts, in which we realize that we may get only five minutes in a courtyard instead of a semester in the classroom.

Aschwanden wrote that her favorite p-value explanation invoked a coin-flip experiment. We could ask: Do examples like these strike the right balance of accuracy, simplicity, and brevity for this audience? Or should we focus on what p-values mean for researchers’ behavior, an idea discussed a few years ago on Andrew Gelman’s blog (, rather than the number itself?

In these pages over the next year I plan to explore what good quantitative communication looks like, what we can learn from the scientists who have found ways to engage better with lay audiences, and also what’s unique about our own communications niche.

Despite the above example, this will not in fact be a column about p-values. Nor will this be a column about grammar, or even writing. Communication is much more than that. Hence the column’s name: explicare is to explain, unfold, disentangle, which feels like the perfect physical manifestation of communicating statistics.

I’d love to hear people’s ideas on this topic, so feel free to drop me a line:

Categories: Math and Stats

Call for nominations for the 2018 Doeblin Prize

IMS Bulletin - Fri, 2017-07-14 13:06

The Bernoulli Society for Mathematical Statistics and Probability welcomes nominations for the 2018 Wolfgang Doeblin Prize.

The Wolfgang Doeblin Prize, which was founded in 2011 and is generously sponsored by Springer, is awarded biannually to a single individual who is in the beginning of his or her mathematical career, for outstanding research in the field of probability theory. The awardee will be invited to submit to the journal Probability Theory and Related Fields a paper for publication as the Wolfgang Doeblin Prize Article, and will also be invited to present the Doeblin Prize Lecture at a World Congress of the Bernoulli Society, or at a Conference on Stochastic Processes and their Applications.

More information about the Wolfgang Doeblin prize and past awardees can be viewed at

Each nomination should offer a brief but adequate case of support and should be sent by November 15, 2017, to the chair of the prize committee at the following e-mail address: with subject heading: Doeblin Prize 2018.

Categories: Math and Stats

Stat community responds to proposed US visa changes

IMS Bulletin - Fri, 2017-07-14 13:04

On May 18, thirty professional science societies in the USA, including IMS, ASA, CBMS, INFORMS and SIAM, signed a letter to the US Department of State, responding to the new guidelines for visa applicants. The letter expressed concern that the requirement of supplemental information would have a negative effect on those pursuing academic study and scientific research, stating that, “Academic and scientific exchange fuels the innovations essential to strengthening the US economy and improving the lives of US citizens.”

Kathie Bailey, Director of the Board on International Scientific Organizations at the National Academies, reported an update following the community comment period: “Not all applicants will be asked to complete the supplementary form, but the exact number of applicants who will be asked to complete it is still unknown. The new questions will be voluntary, but the form states that, ‘failure to provide the information may delay or prevent the processing of an individual visa application’.”

The letter from societies can be viewed on the AAAS website at

The National Academies International Visitors Office (IVO) provides direct assistance to scientists, engineers, and students in those fields who are experiencing difficulties or delays with US visa applications. The IVO works directly with the Department of State to seek resolution of those problems. Individuals experiencing difficulties should complete the questionnaire on the IVO’s webpage ( The IVO also works with organizers of large scientific meetings (over 100 foreign attendees), and registers those meetings with the Department of State.

If you are a non-US student with questions about traveling to the US for study, the NAFSA: Association of International Educators has created an excellent FAQ resource available at

Categories: Math and Stats

Obituary: Alastair Scott 1939–2017

IMS Bulletin - Fri, 2017-07-14 13:02

Alastair Scott, one of the finest statisticians New Zealand has produced, died in Auckland, New Zealand on Thursday, May 25. He served the University of Auckland with distinction from 1972 to 2005.

His research was characterised by deep insight and he made pioneering contributions across a wide range of statistical fields. Alastair was acknowledged, in particular, as a world leader in survey sampling theory and the development of methods to efficiently obtain and analyse data from medical studies. His methods are applied in a wide range of areas, notably in public health. Beyond research, he contributed prolifically to the statistical profession in academia, government, and society.

Alastair was a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, the American Statistical Association, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and the Royal Statistical Society, and an honorary life member of the New Zealand Statistical Association. In November last year, Alastair was awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Jones Medal, which recognised his lifetime contribution to the mathematical sciences.

Alastair gained his first degrees at the University of Auckland: BSc in Mathematics in 1961 and MSc in Mathematics in 1962. After a period at the New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, he pursued a PhD in Statistics at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1965. He then worked at the London School of Economics from 1965-1972.

Alastair returned to New Zealand in 1972 to a post in what was then the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Auckland; he and wife Margaret had decided that they wanted to raise their children, Andrew and Julie, in New Zealand. Throughout his career, Alastair was regularly offered posts at prestigious universities overseas, but turned them down. However, he held visiting positions at Bell Labs, the universities of North Carolina, Wisconsin, and California Berkeley in the US, and at the University of Southampton in the UK.

In 1994, the University’s statistics staff, led by Professor George Seber, had a very amicable divorce from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and Alastair became the head of the new Department of Statistics. He helped set the tone for the department that still exists—hard-working, but welcoming, and social. The Department of Statistics is now the largest such school in Australasia.

In 2005, Alastair officially retired. A conference in Auckland that year in his honour attracted the largest concentration of first-rank international statisticians in New Zealand in one place at one time. Alastair kept an office in the department and continued writing and advising, coming into work almost every day.

Alastair Scott was an influential teacher and generous mentor to several generations of statisticians who valued his sage advice coupled with his trademark affability. Alastair had a full life professionally and personally. He was a wonderful teacher, mentor, colleague, and friend. We will all miss him greatly and we extend our sincere condolences to Margaret, Andrew and Julie, and his family, friends, and colleagues all over the world.

Written by Ilze Ziedins, Chris Wild, and Chris Triggs, Department of Statistics, University of Auckland, New Zealand

Categories: Math and Stats

Joseph Hilbe, 1944–2017

IMS Bulletin - Fri, 2017-07-14 13:01

IMS member Joseph Hilbe passed away March 12, 2017, aged 72. Known for his work in astronomy and statistics, Hilbe was also an excellent athlete, and his first doctorate was in Philosophy. His interest in astronomy led to him initiating the International Statistical Institute (ISI) Astrostatistics Interest Group, eventually becoming the International Astrostatistics Association, with Hilbe elected as its founding president. Hilbe was a fellow of the ASA and Royal Statistical Society, an elected member of the ISI, and a full member of the American Astronomical Society. From 1997–2009, he was software reviews editor for The American Statistician.

A full obituary will appear in a future issue.

Categories: Math and Stats


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