Department Newsletter, Fall 2018

Message from the Chair
Department Spotlights
Department Announcements
Alumni Updates/Class Notes
Donor Recognition
Support the Department
Stay Connected

Message from the Chair

Tapan Nayak, Chair and Professor of Statistics
Tapan Nayak, Chair and Professor of Statistics

Dear Alumni and Friends of the GW Department of Statistics:

This is a great time for statistics. The recognition that statistics is extremely valuable to all aspects life has grown rapidly in recent years—and continues to grow. The department continues to contribute steadily to advancing the field by vigorously maintaining its long tradition of excellent teaching, research and professional service.

The department now has approximately 250 graduate students and 80 undergraduate statistics major. We have a vibrant learning community of faculty and students with excellent talent, motivation, ambition, diligence and creativity. The department is highly appreciative of their contributions to the academic life and output of the department.

The department is proud of numerous accomplishments by its alumni, and extremely grateful to many whose generous donations of time and money have contributed to the success of our students and our academic programs. We warmly invite our alumni and friends to return to campus periodically and engage in our student-organized events, such as Career Advising Panel, Data Fest Competition and seminars. And be sure to read about our GW Student Chapter of the American Statistical Association in this newsletter!

Tapan Nayak

Chair and Professor of Statistics

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Department Spotlights


PhD students Xiaoyu Cai and Fan Wang  established the GW Student Chapter of the American Statistical Association (ASA) in 2015 and served as its co-presidents until summer 2017. Arnold Saunders and Xiaoyu Zhai served as last year’s co-presidents. These student leaders and other officers have developed the chapter wonderfully.  The chapter has a number of clubs that focus on consulting, R programing, sports analysis, data mining and other topics. They organize seminars, data analysis competitions and career preparation events.

In a recent two-hour career panel, five alumni and student speakers—Cheung Li, MS '11, PhD '17;  Guoxi Yan, MS '15; Yuqing Lu, MS '17;  Haijun Wang, MS '18; and current student Wayne Woo—shared tips on writing resumes, preparing for interviews and burnishing critical soft skills such as teamwork and effective communication. “We are privileged to have such fantastic alumni willing to give back to the students following in their footsteps,” noted event organizer Xiaoyan Yin.

Presenters and organizers at the career panel event
Presenters and organizers at the career panel event.


The department invites researchers from other GW departments to present statistical problems they encounter in their research to the Statistical Consulting course for assistance. Student teams often solve these problems with guidance from course instructors. 

For example, students in Professor Judy Wang’s spring 2018 class worked with Dr. Matthew Hindman, professor of media and public affairs, to study latent features of fake Twitter accounts using text mining, network analysis and other techniques. They developed a Shiny dashboard for dynamic analysis and visualization. Professor Hindman noted that the “students were incredibly helpful” and “In less than two months, they helped put together a toolkit tracking online disinformation in real time, applying cutting-edge text mining and network analysis techniques. They dramatically sped up my research agenda.” Another team worked on a research project with Associate Professor of Religion Irene Oh on religion and maternal health.

data sheet showing most frequently used words by fake twitter accounts. Top words include Hillari, Trump, Clinton, vote
Student research on fake Twitter accounts


Professor Judy Wang
Professor Judy Wang
Professor Huixia Judy Wang received two significant awards. She has been named both a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics and an ASA Fellow. These awards recognize fundamental and influential contributions to the theory and methodology of quantile regression, high dimensional inference and extreme value theory and her outstanding service to the ASA and the profession. Professor Wang Joined the department in 2014, after serving on the Statistics Department faculty of North Carolina State University 2006 -2012. 

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Department Announcements


Professor Xiaoke Zhang joined the department in fall 2017. He received his PhD in statistics in 2014 from University of California, Davis. Before joining GW, he served on the faculty of University of Delaware from 2014–2016.

Professor Feifang Hu received the CCAS Dean’s Research Chair award for a three-year period, 2018–2021. Professor Hua Liang received this award a year earlier for the 2017–2020 period.

Professor Michael Larsen left GW to take a faculty position at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont. 


Congratulations to our student award winners:

  • Minna Mirin Kullback Memorial Prize: Jichong Chai, Arnold Saunders, Xiaoyu Cai and Fan Wang
  • Washington Statistical Society Award: Xiaoyu Zhai


The department hosted an Alumni and Friends Reception on July 31, 2018, at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Vancouver, Canada.

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Alumni Updates/Class Notes

Harold Balaban, PhD ’78, retired from the Institute of Defense Analyses several years ago. One of his current interests is poker theory and mathematics.

Barbara Callahan, BA ’67, received an MBA from NYU, spent most of her career at Citibank in New York and is now retired.  She and her husband live on Long Island in the summer and in Palm Beach in the winter.

Zhitao Cheng, MS ’18, moved to New York City and is working at Bank of China as an operational risk analyst.

Mohammed Chowdhury, PhD ’14, is a tenure track assistant professor of statistics and data science in the Department of Statistics and Analytical Sciences at Kennesaw State University, Ga. He is currently supervising two PhD students.

Margaret Cohen, BA ’63, MA ’66, is still at GW!  In 1966, she started the Office of Institutional Research. She officially retired at the end of 2007, but still works part time in the office between world travel trips.

Susan Ellenberg, PhD ’80, is a professor of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. The second edition of her book, Data Monitoring Committees in Clinical Trials: A Practical Perspective, will be out in late 2018.

Chunmei Gao, MS '14, is a project officer at the IMF in Washington D.C.

Thomas Hargrove, Grad Cert ’07, founded a nonprofit group Murder Accountability Project which assembles the nation's most complete record of homicides. The group assists law enforcement in monitoring important trends, including serial murders.

Guangzhao Li, MS ’16, is at GW and in her third year working as a biostatistician in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

James Maar, PhD ’73, has been retired from the NSA for 10 years. His GW statistics PhD well prepared him for his work at NSA and for visiting with top Statisticians at Stanford, Berkeley and the University of Washington where he presented problem statements of intelligence.

Isabela Munch, MS ’08, is currently deputy director for risk and compliance in the Investment Management Division of the United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund.

Michael O'Donnell, MA ’77, retired in 2011 from the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, where he served as a supervisory mathematical statistician for more than 30 years.  He currently teaches statistics as an adjunct at Howard Community College.

Maggie Rousseau, BA ’11, recently started as communications director for Representative Debbie Dingell. She previously worked for Senator Al Franken and Representative Suzanne Bonamici.

Mike Spaeder, MS ’98, is an associate professor of pediatric critical care medicine at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. His research in predictive modeling of catastrophic illness draws on his training in statistics at GW.

Jian Sun, MS '17, is going back to school again. So happy!

Jue Wang, MS '16, is a data scientist at Amazon Alexa based in Boston, Mass.

Junyi Wang, MS '11, is in his fourth year in Novartis Japan as a biostatistician. Junyi will be going on to IMD for her MBA in January 2019.

Yuxiang Wu, MS ’14, is working as a data analyst in a local transportation consulting company in Sterling, Va.

Hyunjae Yu, BS ’17, is attending the Data Science Program at GW.

Biao Zhang, MS ’14, is at the University of New Hampshire. He is at the end of his first year in their statistics PhD program. This summer, he is preparing for his qualifying exams. He also teaches a calculus class for undergraduate students.

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Donor Recognition


The Department of Statistics would like to gratefully acknowledge the following generous donors who made a gift to the department from July 1, 2017 – June 30, 2018.

Milton Chung-Lien Fan, PhD, PhD ’86

Mitchell H. Gail, PhD, MA ’73, PhD ’77

Kyuri Kim, BA ’18

Michael N. Levy, BA ’95, BS ’96

Anne Shepard Lindblad, PhD, PhD ’90

James R. Maar, PhD, PhD ’73

Dr. Lorraine McCall, BA ’88

Frederick J. Scheuren, PhD, MA ’71, PhD ’72

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Support the Department

Gifts to the Department of Statistics allow us to provide support for faculty and student research and travel, graduate student fellowships, and academic enrichment activities including guest speakers, visiting faculty, and symposia. Each gift, no matter how large or small, makes a positive impact on our educational mission and furthers our standing as one of the nation's preeminent liberal arts colleges at one of the world's preeminent universities.

You can make your gift to the department in a number of ways:

  • Securely online.
  • By mailing your check, made out to The George Washington University and with the name of the department in the memo line, to:

The George Washington University
2033 K Street NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC  20052

  • By phone by calling the GW Division of Development and Alumni Relations at 1-800-789-2611.

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Stay Connected

Volunteer with GW in 2018

Volunteer with GW

A new academic year means new opportunities to volunteer! We are looking for alumni who are passionate about GW and looking for rewarding ways to give back. Volunteer in your region, mentor current students, become a social media ambassador, take on leadership role, and more. Learn more about these opportunities and grow your GW network today.

Join GW's Industry Network

Industry-Based Alumni Networks

Join one of GW’s industry networks. Connect with fellow alumni professionals in person and virtually and expand your network. Learn more and join.

2018 Colonials Weekend Graphic

Join us for Colonials Weekend (October 26 – 28, 2018), a celebration of alumni, families, student, and friends. Choose from a variety of events including networking receptions, food festival, lectures and reunions. Register now!

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