Vegan ribz jazz festival (by Akira Horiguchi)

“Akira’s vegan adventures” is a blog series that chronicles experiences at vegan-friendly or vegan-exclusive food vendors. If the vegan scene in Columbus is popping, imagine how the general food scene is.

My friend Karen found this event on Facebook and asked if I wanted to go. This seemed like a perfect way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. To fit in with the expected hipster crowd there, neither Karen or I drove there; she biked and I took the bus (free if you’re an OSU student).

I walked through the back door of Savor Pint in Clintonville (one of Columbus’s many neighborhoods), and a wall of sizzling smells hit me. Various food vendors stood proud, each executing their own vision of what vegan BBQ should be.

Wanting to try a little bit of everything, I first bit into some seitan ribz and was amazed at the flavorful bbq sauce and the seitan’s chewy texture. I then had some mac and cheeze, where the cheeze sauce was on point. Karen and I tried some of each other’s food — it was all delicious.

By the time we finished catching up and eating round 1, we went back to the vendors and ordered some more food. My last item were these fish sliders (no alternative spellings here). They were fried to order and, with the tartar sauce, tasted like some of the best fried fish I’ve ever had.

By then I had to leave to catch a flight to Denver for JSM, but I’ll definitely be back the next time this event rolls around.


Graduate Student Summer Experiences

In this post, a few fifth year graduate students in statistics share their experiences at workshops & conferences over the summer and early fall, enjoy!

Akira Horiguchi (5th Year Stat Ph.D. Student):


This summer I attended a two-week workshop hosted by SAMSI for graduate students looking to work on real national laboratory problems and be guided by actual scientists at these national labs.
The workshop was intense, to say the least. Imagine spending 9am-9pm every day for ten days straight in the same room with the same people working on the same problem. We learned a lot from each other and from our advisors. In particular, I learned about the pitfalls of a popular-R-package-that-shall-not-be-named and how to delegate work on a team with a large variance in skill level. I’m proud of how much we accomplished in such a short span of time.
It’s also difficult to not feel closer to your group, both students and advisors, after such an experience. By Day 10 we all felt like we had known each other for years. There’s a saying: “Who you know IS what you know.” At JSM a few days later, I unintentionally ran into my advisors several times and was introduced to some of their coworkers at Los Alamos National Lab. The ties we make at workshops like these help us progress through our careers, whether it’s through insider knowledge about an organization or opportunity or through actual job connections.
For more info and even a 5-minute video, see the link below. The workshop felt like a ten-week summer internship (of which I’ve done many) compressed into two weeks. For the reasons above, I recommend this workshop to any of our graduate students.

Matthew Wascher (5th Year Stat Ph.D. Student):

AMS Mathematical Research Communities: Stochastic Spatial Models
The professional highlight of my summer was a week-long research program sponsored by the AMS and focused on stochastic spatial models. The aim of the program was to work on open problems in groups with other graduates students and recently graduated PhDs with some guidance from faculty mentors. Topics covered included first passage percolation, chase escape processes, and a variety of interacting particle systems. My group of 6 focused on epidemics on networks and was mentored primarily by noted probabilist Rick Durrett of Duke.
In addition to about a standard workday of time working on problems, the conference also included professional development and networking opportunities. The program took place at Whispering Pines in Rhode Island and included a trip to Newport and a guided tour of a local observatory. In addition, there were panel discussions from recently hired faculty and representatives from the AMS and mathjobs (a website where many math and stats faculty jobs are posted) about the process of going on the academic market. It was also an invaluable experience to meet and learn about the research interests of many young probabilists who may one day be my colleagues or collaborators.
The program also includes opportunities for support for follow-up collaborations. I have already made plans to meet with two of my group members to continue work on interesting problems. In addition, I will have the opportunity to present my research on epidemics on networks during a special session of the AMS Joint Mathematics Meeting in 2020 (the math equivalent of JSM.) Overall the program was an enjoyable and valuable experience and I am grateful to my adviser, David Sivakoff, for suggesting that I apply. I would encourage anyone interested in research to look for an apply to these types of programs.
For more information of the AMS MRC: Stochastic Spatial Models session, see the following link
Nate Onnen (5th Year Stat Ph.D. Student):

STATMOS Workshop 2019

On September 13th– September 14th 2019, I attended a workshop hosted by STATMOS (Statistical Methods for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences). The goal of this workshop was to “bring young researchers into the field of Spatial Statistics and develop collaborations”. During the two days of the workshop, we were lucky to have lectures given by esteemed professors and researchers in the field of spatial statistics: Christopher Wikle from the University of Missouri, Doug Nychka from the Colorado School of Mines, and Will Kleiber from the University of Colorado Boulder. They gave an overview of the state of spatio-temporal statistics today, with topics ranging from fitting basic spatio-temporal models, through using spectral analysis to evaluate the role of parameters in complex multivariate spatial structures. In the afternoons, we got to get our hands dirty with some real world data; we worked in small groups and got to see how other minds approach the same problems.

I personally enjoyed the location that we were in as well. I always find it refreshing to get out of Columbus every now and again to experience a new place. This workshop was held in Iowa City, Iowa, which is the home to the University of Iowa. This is a true college town, which featured a bunch of great bars and restaurants that I got to experience in my time there. Furthermore, I really enjoyed getting to meet some of my peers in the field. We all came from different institutions and were in different places in our research, which gave me a lot more perspective about the graduate experience as a whole.

In all, this was not a large conference, but I think that the impact that it had on my studies was quite enormous. I would encourage all graduate students to keep your eyes peeled for small conferences or workshops in your specific research fields. There is often money involved, and you might just get yourself a free trip. The experience of these conferences is often invaluable as well!

Christopher Wikle, PhD

Douglas Nychka, PhD

Will Kleiber, PhD

Curators Distinguished Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Statistics at the University of Missouri. Professor of Statistics at the Colorado School of Mines and Emeritus Scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research Associate Professor of Statistics at the University of Colorado

The hotel I got to stay at (free of charge!)

A neon sign from St. Burch’s Tavern: a great restaurant I got to eat at in Iowa City (thanks to that per diem!):

STAT Student Life in CBUS: Harry Potter Trivia Night (by Akira Horiguchi)


At last year’s Harry Potter trivia, we placed sixth out of roughly 20 teams. Many of the questions were simple enough, but some were so specific that even 50 read-throughs of the Harry Potter series (books 1-7) were not sufficient preparation.

This year, we sought trivia revenge as the rechristened team “Snitch, Please”.

The first half was smooth-sailing, but we hit some bumpy waters when we hit the half-time question (name 5 of the 7 departments in the Ministry of Magic). We tied for third place going into this question, but only managed to correctly get 3 departments. We dropped a few places as a result.

The second half went better than expected. After clutch answers from Caitlin and Akira, we climbed back to third place until the final question was announced and all answers were submitted.

Then came the moment of truth.

The announcer asked “Snitch, Please” and another team to answer a tiebreaker question. What did this mean? Were we tied for third place? Were we, dare we even consider it, tied for first?

We tried to push these thoughts aside when the tiebreaker question was announced, and focused on answering the question (how many chapters were in the Prisoner of Azkaban?).

The two team submitted their answers. We guessed 33. The other team guessed 32. There turned out to be 22 chapters in book three, which meant the other team won the tiebreaker.

It was then announced that the tiebreaker was indeed for first place, meaning team “Snitch, Please” placed second over 20+ teams.

Though we missed first place by a tiebreaker, we were happy to have placed in the top three and to have improved from last year.

But most of all, we were glad to live in a city (and a bar — shout out to Claddagh’s Irish Pub in German Village) that offers such niche entertainment and community.

Until next year,

“Snitch, Please”

STAT Student Life in CBUS: Rugby (by Akira Horiguchi)

Hello. My name is Akira, and I am a rugby addict.

I wasn’t always like this, you know. I just wanted to try something new, see what it was like.

Two years ago, I went to my first rugby practice. They called themselves the Columbus Coyotes.

It was all so different from anything I had done before. The raw energy. The inclusivity. The adrenaline of taking down a 300lb guy with your bare hands.

Never having played a contact sport before, I was in way over my head. But I loved it. I kept coming back for more.

Now, two years later, I’m a regular member of the team, serve on the executive board, and became certified to coach under USA Rugby.

Now, I’m in for life.

STAT Student Life in CBUS: Soccer

Starting from this particular piece, we will exhibit students’ extracurricular life in Columbus here via the departmental student blog. If you wish to make a contribution and show your life outside the academic settings to others, please don’t hesitate to contact me ( or Zaynab (

Look forward to emails from many of you!

We initiate from contributions from Achal and Min Ho. Many thanks to both of you for sharing!

Achal’s comes first: 

My name is Achal Awasthi, and I am in the MAS program in the department. I play amateur soccer for a club called AUFC that plays in the Columbus Premier Soccer League. We play each Sunday at Easton Soccer Fields, Columbus. It’s the most professional amateur soccer league in the state of Ohio.


Below is a contribution from Min Ho Cho: 

Hi everyone! I am Min Ho Cho, a third-year Ph.D. student in Statistics.

Today, I wish to introduce my favorite sport, soccer. Because I have been playing soccer since I was very young, I cannot even imagine my life without this sport. I have also continued to play soccer in Columbus, Ohio as soon as I arrived here in summer 2015. I play every Saturday morning usually in the Lincoln field or some parks near campus, but sometimes in the Adventure Recreation Center (ARC) when it rains or snows. I am a defensive midfielder on my team, Korean Student Soccer Club (KSSC) at OSU.

On November 4th Saturday, we joined the competition called 2017 Korean Buckeye Tournament. Among many Korean teams of big universities near OSU such as UM, MSU, Purdue U, IU, and CWRU, our team got the 4th place. Even though we did not win the champion, every member did our best and played so hard. Especially when we won a come-from-behind victory in only a few minutes left in the last game, everyone including coaches and managers ran into the field and became one team! It was such a drama and I will never forget the moment.

Besides soccer, I also like to play baseball, basketball and other sports. Last year, some faculty members and students used to play pickup soccer and basketball in the ARC. If there is a chance to do again, I would love to join you! Thank you all and have a good time to study and enjoy our healthy life here at OSU!

Student Profiles: 2017-2018 Student Co-Presidents

Zaynab Diallo (right) and Chenxi Zhou (left)

Zaynab Diallo 

Hello everyone,

My name is Zaynab Diallo, and I am from Dakar, Senegal. I am a second year Ph.D. student in Statistics, and this year I have the honor to serve as one of the co-Presidents for 2017-2018 academic year. Before coming to The Ohio State University, I lived in Iowa for 5 years and graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S in Mathematics and Statistics.

People often ask me why Statistics of all the majors in the world? Just last week, I requested my STAT 1350 students to write a statistics related question on a piece of paper and bring it to recitation as part of their midterm preparation. The goal was to get them to think about the material and figure out how they would formulate a question from a concept they do not understand. One student decided to ask me instead why I choose Statistics (my fault for not being specific enough on the nature of the questions). Even though I didn’t respond to the question for the interest of time, it made me laugh and also brought back memories.

I fell in love with Statistics after I took a course in Mathematical Statistics at Iowa State University during my junior year while I was hunting for math-related majors. I think at that particular point of time, I wanted something more tangible than Math. I also wanted a major that was less broad and that would lend me a good job. Statistics will get me the latter (eventually), but I was so wrong about the breadth.

As far as the research area is concerned, I am still at the exploration stage. Two courses that I really enjoyed were Applied Regression (STAT 6950) and Applied Bayesian Analysis (STAT 6570) because there was a final project involved in both of them, and they allowed me to apply what I was learning in theory.

One of the things I love the most about being in this program is being a TA and working in the tutor room. The interactions with the students keep me motivated. Even though recitations feel like a monologue sometimes, I am witnessing students’ growth every day. My hope is to teach one day, so being a TA in the department is a very good opportunity. One thing that I like less is grading. 🙁

Outside of the department, I like going to the movies and watching Senegalese dramas on YouTube. I also hope to start reading novels again and take Taekwondo classes by the end of the year.

I know I have been all over the place throughout this post, but I want to end with this:

This year I have taken one step out of my comfort zone to become one of the co-Presidents alongside Chenxi. I am always open to talk to any student on how to enhance their graduate school experience in the department. My office is Room 404 in the Math Building (MA) and my email is

Thank you all for your attention. 🙂


Chenxi Zhou

Hi everyone, my name is Chenxi Zhou, and I am a third year Ph.D. student in statistics. Originally I came from Zhengzhou, Henan Province in China. I came to the United States in 2011 for my undergraduate studies at OSU and majored in both mathematics and economics in the honors program.

In terms of research, I am broadly interested in statistical learning, high-dimensional statistics, and optimization in statistics. Currently, I am working and reading with Dr. Vincent Vu on some interesting problems. Also, I am attending the Statistical Learning and Data Mining Reading Group and serving as the student coordinator. If you are also in this reading group, with probability equal to 1, you will see me there and receive emails from me.

As a graduate student, one responsibility is teaching. I love teaching and communicating with other people. I am teaching two sections of STAT 4202 recitation this semester.

When I am not doing statistics, I am keen on swimming, jogging and muscle building, one corollary of which is that you can see me at RPAC very frequently. Besides that, I also enjoy trying food of different countries, and Columbus is such a big city that you can find all kinds of food you can think of. I especially love Chinese Szechuan food which is famous for being very spicy. I am also a big fan of Japanese food (ramen and sashimi in particular), Korean barbeque and Indian and Thai curry. If you want restaurant recommendations of these food, feel free to contact me!

Now my office is Cockins Hall 305E, at the opposite side of our computing lab. If you have any question, please do not hesitate to stop by my office or email me at Wish everyone a great semester!


Outside of the Classroom: Community Service

Recently, several graduate students in the department have expressed interest in giving back to the community through volunteer work. Last Saturday, we kicked off the first department-wide service event at LifeCare Alliance.

LifeCare Alliance is an organization that serves older members of the Columbus community, and also operates the Meals-on-Wheels program in Columbus. Staff and volunteers at their distribution center pack and deliver meals to people’s homes, seven days a week. On Saturday, the theme of our work was apples: we were in the prep kitchen packing apples and applesauce into bags for individual households. By the end of the afternoon, everyone was a pro at counting to ten and stacking boxes. We also cleaned out delivery bags and prepared them for the next day’s deliveries.

We plan to continue to have regular opportunities for both students and faculty in our department to get involved, both with this organization and others. Check your email to learn about future events, and let the co-presidents know if you have ideas of new organizations we could reach out to and potentially work with in the future.

Student Profile: Vincent Geels

Hometown: Dayton, OH

Age: 28

Degree Program: MS in Statistics
Bachelors Degree: BA in History
Alma Mater: Grinnell College

The funny thing about my being in this program is that, if you had told me 7 years ago I would look forward to doing any kind of quantitative work in my future, I would have laughed in your face. I avoided mathematics like the plague as an undergraduate, and it wasn’t until several years after I earned my BA that I developed an interest in math, first through a free Coursera course on calculus, and from there through courses at a community college in Philadelphia and at Temple University. I now consider it a great privilege to be able to devote most of my waking hours to thinking and learning–very slowly, I’m talking slug’s pace here–about statistics.

Beyond my classes, I’m also a TA for STAT1350, which is super rewarding on a number of different levels. I get to try and convey core statistical ideas to undergraduate students in a meaningful way, and communicate with them on a level that hopefully gets them thinking about why these ideas are important, why we might be motivated to think about the kinds of questions raised in the study of statistics, and how the use of statistics helps shape our understanding of the world more than they may think.

Away from campus, I’m a big Philadelphia Flyers fan, because my main hobby is being disappointed and/or let down on a regular and consistent basis (Ha ha get it? It’s been a rough couple of years 😭). I also like biking around, making very bad electronic music, and hanging out with my cat, Ned. My girlfriend and I have had him for the past 6 years and I still have no clue whether or not he actually realizes I exist. Love that lil guy.

Student Profile: Deborah Kunkel

Hi! I am a 5th year student in the Statistics PhD program.  I grew up in Urbana, IL.  Before coming to Ohio State I got a B.A. in Business with a Spanish concentration from the University of Dallas.  After graduation, I stayed in Dallas for a bit and served on an AmeriCorps team for a summer and then worked as an office manager at an ESL school.  I started school here in 2012 and might finish this December, or the following spring.

My adviser is Mario Peruggia and we are working on choosing priors for Bayesian mixture models.  Mixtures are really useful, but not very well-behaved, so choosing priors can be tricky.  In the course of writing my thesis, I plan to apply some of our ideas to a model for human trafficking data. I’ve also done some research on missing data methodology and modeling response times with a professor of psychology.  It’s been very cool to get to work on such a variety of projects during my short time here.

I am currently a TA for the online section of STAT 1450.  We have more students this semester than ever before, and some are even outside of the US this semester.  I’ve worked with the online course for awhile now, and it’s been really interesting to see how students learn in this setting.  We touch base briefly each week with them through office hours, and I’m usually impressed by how much they have learned independently since I “saw” them last.  Earlier in my time at OSU, I also lectured for 1430 and TAed for 1350.

When I’m not studying in Cockins Hall, some of my favorite things to do in Columbus include:

  • Plays at the OSU theater department
  • “Wake and Shake,” an early morning dance party at Wild Goose Creative
  • Free magic shows at P3 magic theater
  • Volunteer events through Columbus Gives Back
  • Getting coffee at Stauf’s in Grandview
  • Red White and Boom (fireworks) on the 4th of July

I also love to throw themed parties, attend weddings, and watch Gilmore Girls on Netflix.  I travel to North Carolina and Georgia often to see my family.   (I have two older sisters and am expecting my third niece in March! ) Next on my list of places to visit is New Orleans.

Outside of the Classroom: Trivia Night

If there’s one thing graduate students love, it is asserting their dominance in the intellectual arena. Thankfully, Columbus offers a variety of trivia competitions to satiate this need. Different styles of trivia include, but are not limited to, standard bar trivia (timed discussion with point wagering), buzzer style (think Jeopardy), as well as specialty theme nights at various establishments throughout the city. Often, there can even be financial incentive in addition to all-important bragging rights!

In a tribute to Cockins Hall namesake Edith Cockins, Team Hurricane Edith came in 3rd place out of 10 at Trivia Night this week, earning a $10 Hampton’s on King gift card in the process. Statistics graduate students Justin Strait, Corey Smith, Deborah Kunkel, Matt Wascher, Andy McCarthy, and Nate Onnen, as well as program alumnus Jason Benedict answered questions ranging in topic from pop culture and celebrities to state nicknames and world geography.

Stats graduate students play trivia on a crisp, fall evening

Out of the 18 questions in the regular round, the team answered 16 correctly. If you can answer either of the following two questions (answers listed below), the team could have used you on Sunday:

  1. What famous actress was engaged to Brad Pitt, then later had a relationship with Ben Affleck?
  2. What is the only element on the periodic table besides Mercury that is a liquid at STP (Standard Temperature and Pressure)?

The team’s diverse mix of interests and backgrounds creates a good base of knowledge from which to answer questions. Jason has a bachelor’s degree in biology, and along with veterinarian girlfriend Jenn (photo credit) and dog Brodie, provides most of the scientific knowledge. Nate’s love of television and movies consistently provides a boost, while Deborah is responsible for the geography questions. Team captain Corey also answers a wide array of pop culture questions (as well as the first ice hockey question in trivia history), and Matt’s history knowledge was worth a solid chunk of points. Andy stays in his proverbial trivia lane, answering only sports questions.

Former Stats Department president Justin fills in almost all the gaps, including the most impressive answer of the night: What famous French boulevard cuts through the center of Paris? The team quickly discarded its first instinct, the Boulevard of Broken Dreams (shout out, Green Day), and Justin came through with The Avenue des ChampsÉlysées. The team discusses all questions as a group, but rarely uses the entire allotted three minutes to submit the answer card.

Answers to Trivia Questions:

Continue reading