Dear Friends of UW Statistics,

Welcome to 2022!  I wish that you are all safe and healthy!

Much has happened since my last letter in summer.  For one, UW has returned to in-person activities. However, things are far from “normal”. While most Autumn quarter instruction was held in person, department operations remain largely hybrid and UW has decided that most Winter quarter instruction will commence online to guard against a COVD-19 outbreak driven by the Omicron variant and the holidays. Nonetheless, we look forward to a new year full of successes.

In spite of the challenges, Autumn quarter was a busy one. One of the keynote events was the visit and public lecture of alumni Amanda Cox in mid November.  If you missed it, you can watch it on YouTube. Amanda spent a whole week with us, graciously sharing her time with undergraduate and graduate students. The department also held the annual Blackwell Seminar.   This year, we were honored to have Dr. Kristian Lum, Sr. Staff Machine Learning Researcher at Twitter presenting the talk "Closer than they appear: A Bayesian Perspective on Individual-Level Heterogeneity in Risk Assessment" Speaker.    

We have also been very active on the diversity, equity and inclusion front. Together with the Departments of Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Biostatistics, we spearheaded the effort to have the University of Washington join the MathAlliance as a partner. Seven members of our faculty serve as mentors for the MathAlliance and we believe that the increased access and visibility that comes with the partnership will help us in our efforts to further diversify our graduate population. In the same spirit, we have continued our efforts to reach out directly to minority serving institutions across the country. This year we were in touch with over 50 institutions. This outreach has greatly benefited from several student-run initiatives that aim to help students from underrepresented backgrounds overcome various barriers to entry. I am particularly proud of the new Pre-Application Review Service (PARS), which served a total of 73 students, the vast majority from underrepresented backgrounds. Furthermore, Ph.D. students from UW, the University of Michigan, and the University of California Berkeley organized a graduate student panel on graduate education in Statistics and Biostatistics.

As I had foreshadowed in my summer letter, during Autumn quarter we launched the Statistics Undergraduate Review Process. We aim to have a proposal for a revamped major and minor ready for campus review by the end Spring 2022. The process is being driven by a committee that involves six faculty members and two Ph.D. students. As part of the revamp process, we have established an Alumni Advisory Board composed of Jim Harmon, Nck Hertle, Danni Lin, Stephanie Wu and Tufang “Coco” Xu. So far the process is moving along nicely, and I am looking forward to providing more details next summer.

To conclude, I wish you all a very fruitful new year.


Abel Rodriguez

Abel Rodriguez
Department Chair of Statistics