Nov 17, 2013

Members’ News: December 2013

Terry Speed receives Australian Prime Minister’s Award

Our columnist Terry Speed, head of the Division of Bioinformatics at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, has been awarded the Australian Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. The prize recognizes Terry’s contribution to cancer research via his work in bioinformatics, where he analyses data from cancerous cells. Terry writes about the attention he received in Terence’s Stuff (and features in a cartoon!)

Kenneth P. Burnham awarded 2013 NISS Jerome Sacks Award

Kenneth P. Burnham was selected as the 2013 Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research. The award, named in honor of Jerry Sacks, founding director of NISS, was established to recognize “sustained, high-quality cross-disciplinary research involving the statistical sciences.” Burnham was cited for “outstanding and influential contributions to statistical ecology with novel methods of inference, data analysis, and computation used throughout the world.”

In a statement to express his gratitude, Burnham wrote, “I am honored, and pleased, to receive the Jerome Sacks award for sustained interdisciplinary research. I am a statistician; however, I also have a degree in biology. For 41 years I have worked at the interface of statistics and wildlife–fisheries–ecology. Most of this time I have been “embedded” in the wildlife discipline working as a team member. This is not consulting; this is being a fully involved member of a team, having a good understanding of the subject to which I apply my statistical expertise: I can speak the applied subject matter language. This is necessary to having a long-term cross disciplinary career, a career that has been very rewarding and fulfilling to me. Whereas, for most of my career I was employed by wildlife organizations, hence not a statistics department, I made sure to keep my identity as a statistician. I have kept close contact with other statisticians (and certainly worked with many), and I read both literatures. I routinely attend statistics conferences and wildlife-ecology conferences; but I make it clear I am a statistician. Over the course of my career this “identity” issue is one I have thought about and worked to maintain. I urge others doing long-term cross disciplinary statistical research and application to not let themselves become isolated from statistics colleagues.

“I have contributed to the theory and application of capture-recapture and distance sampling methods and models, and to model selection. Such theoretical research has lead to working on real and important issues; this applied work has been at times stressful, but in the end, has been very rewarding. For example, I have worked on the analysis of the Northern Spotted Owl demography data since 1989. Other contentious subjects I have been involved in include endangered fish (e.g., salmonids), abundance estimation of marine mammals, waterfowl harvest, and illegal killing of elephants for ivory poaching. I reiterate, in all cases I have been part of a team working on these issues. The Jerome Sacks award is great for the profession, in my opinion; and I am honored and delighted to receive this award. Thank you.”

Burnham is an emeritus professor at Colorado State University (CSU) and an independent consultant. He was a statistician and senior scientist at the United States Geological Survey, Biological Resources Discipline and the Colorado Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at CSU. He is interested in design of studies for sampling biological populations, especially for estimation of population abundance and population dynamics parameters. He also specializes in statistical inference methods for ecological, wildlife, and fisheries studies, and data-based modeling of biological processes, including model selection and assessing model selection uncertainty.

Sally Morton receives 2013 NISS Distinguished Service Award

Professor Sally Morton, Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Pittsburgh, was one of the two recipients of the 2013 National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) Distinguished Service Awards. The awards, to Morton and Thomas Gerig, were presented by Alan Karr, NISS Director, in August at the NISS/SAMSI (Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute) reception at JSM.

NISS established the Distinguished Service Awards to recognize individuals who have given extraordinary service that significantly advances NISS and its mission. As Karr noted, the recipients, “didn’t have to do what they did for NISS, but did it because they believe in NISS and what it does for the statistics community.”

Sally Morton was given the award for her long-term service to the Board of Trustees for NISS, serving on the Executive Committee, the Nominating Committee and the National Presence Committee. She is currently serving on the Affiliates Committee and also on the SAMSI Governing Board. Thomas Gerig, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at North Carolina State University, was recognized for his four years as Assistant Director for the NISS and SAMSI Affiliates Program, and serving NISS as Treasurer for several years.

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