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!):