History of CMU’s Department of Statistics

As I’m about to begin my studies at CMU’s Department of Statistics, I have been curious about the department’s history. There is a nice writeup in Strength in Numbers: The Rising of Academic Statistics Departments in the U. S.. Luckily, the “Carnegie Mellon University Statistics Department” chapter happens to be the free sample chapter on the publisher’s website.

Some fun facts from the chapter:

I hadn’t known that Frederick Mosteller went here (back when it was Carnegie Tech). I enjoy his Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability, and I’ve also been meaning to read The Pleasures of Statistics: The Autobiography of Frederick Mosteller. One of his early students at Harvard (whose stats department Mosteller founded before CMU had one) was Steve Fienberg, still at CMU.

Although the department was formed in 1966, it didn’t have a permanent college to call home until it joined the humanities college in 1980.
StatLib, the department’s online collection of downloadable datasets, started in 1989 and is still in use today.
CMU’s stats department was one of the first anywhere to focus on Bayesian stats, applications, and statistical computing. All of these are areas of interest for me—good to know I’m in the right place!

Early on, they also agreed to evaluate applied research on whether it benefits the applied area, not necessarily statistics as a field. I saw this still in effect at a thesis defense this week: the focus was on a very practical contribution to improving a neurological-data processing pipeline, even if the statistical theory was not highly novel. I’m glad to know that applied thesis topics are  appreciated here.
The department also chose not to run a drop-in consulting center like many others do. Instead, they form long-term joint research collaborations with other departments’ scholars.
Journal editorship is also valued at the department. Hopefully I can pick the many experienced editors’ brains in tailoring my publication submissions to the right journals.
Finally, there’s a strong focus not only on research but also on teaching, and today CMU has the largest group of undergrad stats majors in the US.

I’m looking forward to working with great colleagues in such an excellent environment!

Comments are closed.