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:

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Student Profiles: 2016-17 Co-Presidents

Andy McCarthy

Middletown, OH

Degree Program: Master’s of Applied Statistics (M.A.S.)
Bachelor’s Degree:
B.S. in Aerospace Engineering
Alma Mater:
University of Notre Dame

Favorite Drink: Including alcoholic beverages, my favorite drink is chocolate milk, and nothing else is even close. You can drink it with breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it’s a great recovery drink, there are no negatives.

Favorite Movie: I like a lot of action movies, such as the Jason Bourne series, but if I was headed to a deserted island with one movie for the rest of my life, I’m taking Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman. Rudy would definitely make the final round of cuts, but doesn’t quite overtake the magic of Hoosiers for me.

First Job: Cashier and “cook” at The Beach Waterpark in Mason, OH. I was in charge of frying french fries, placing trays of burgers in the oven, and scrubbing grease off the floors. I learned nothing about cooking, as evidenced by the chicken, pasta, and peanut butter toast diet that has carried me through graduate school thus far.

Favorite Stats Class: I’d have to say STAT 6450, the applied regression class. It seems like in the real world, every problem is solved using some kind of regression analysis. The theory is not that complicated, and it’s extremely powerful.

Outside of class, I spend a lot of time exercising. I have a hard time concentrating if I don’t spend an hour or so every day doing something physical, whether that be running, lifting, or playing pickup basketball, etc. In that same vein, the television that I watch tends to be live sports, for the most part. I watch a large volume of NFL and college football in the fall, NBA and college basketball in the winter, playoff MLB baseball in October, and whatever else is on.

After graduation, which I anticipate will be this coming May, I haven’t yet decided what area of statistics interests me the most. A role in sports analytics would be an interesting path for me, but combining my engineering background with statistics could also be a viable option. This past summer, I worked for a consulting company called the Perduco Group, where my project involved modeling the intentional and unintentional effects of precision-guided munitions with a professor of Operations Research at the Air Force Institute of Technology.

I’m excited about my second and final year in Columbus, and want to do everything I can as Co-President to make sure we’re doing a good job of giving students opportunities to get involved in the department. If you have any suggestions, feel free to e-mail me at


Nate Onnen


Hometown: Loveland, OH
Age: 23

Degree Program: PhD in Statistics
Bachelors Degree: B.S. in Mathematics
Alma Mater: Union College

Favorite Drink: My favorite drink by far is Coca-Cola. I would have to say that it is probably my greatest vice. This year, I tried giving it up for the Lenten season, as I had heard many of my friends did it and gave up pop forever. However, after those 40 days were up, I broke my fast by pounding about 3 Cokes at Easter dinner.

Favorite Movie: I like to think of myself to be a huge “pop-culture” buff, so many might expect my favorite movie to fall somewhere in the top 20 movies of all time lists, but my fave flick is something much more mainstream: School of Rock. I would not recommend watching it with me; I have been known to quote entire scenes at a time.

First Job: The first job that I ever had was as a rides operator at Kings Island amusement park. I worked in Kiddie Land (Planet Snoopy for those in the know, 16-time Golden Ticket award for best children’s amusement park, but I digress). By far one of the most fun jobs I have ever had, as I got to spend time in the sun, having short 30-second conversations with folks, and making people smile.

Favorite Statistics Class: It has been a small sample size (yes I made that joke) but I really enjoyed STAT 6570. I had never seen Bayesian Analysis, but that way of thinking, combined with the heavy programming involved in the course was really exciting and interesting.

When I’m not in the classroom, I’d love to say I was working out as much as my compadre, but I HAVE seen more movies than him so I’ve got that going for me. I’m a retired collegiate XC and Track and Field runner, and took that retirement a little bit too seriously last year, but I am currently training for the Columbus Half Marathon which will take place next month. As previously mentioned, I love absorbing pop culture (esp. Survivor, Season 3 starts on Wednesday!), but I also have been know to play silly songs on the guitar from time to time.

My plan for the next couple of years are to continue my studies here at OSU. I am unsure what kind of statistics, or what kind of work I will be doing in the future, but I have always kept an open mind, and I know that the right opportunity will rear its head, and I will be more than ready to tackle it!

Last year was an amazing first year in this Statistics Department, and I am looking forward to many more. This department is like a family (we spend far too much time together to use any other phrase) and as a co-President, I hope to create many opportunities to strengthen this bond that we all share. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at

Student Profiles – November 2015

Sophie and I are happy to share our first two student profiles…this is a close look at two of our graduate students within the department.  If you would like to write and submit one for a future blog update, let one of us know and we’d be glad to include it!

Akira Horiguchi

Hi, my name is Akira and I’m a first year PhD student in statistics.

It has only been a month and I’ve learned so much from my classes. From 6910, my R skills have improved tremendously. In 6801, sigma algebras finally make sense. In Math4545, Professor deLaubenfels introduces some juicy tidbits, but has the unfortunate habit of ending class on a cliffhanger. He has done this twice now. Because of this class, I’ve been thinking of a few things in my free time: (1) the sum of all positive integers equals -1/12; (2) the Dirichlet function is not Riemann integrable but is integrable in a different sense; (3) there is a function that is discontinuous on the rationals, continuous on the irrationals, and is Riemann integrable on [0,1].

Outside of class I’ve been cooking to avoid eating out so much. To contrast Sophie’s and Justin’s nature pics, here’s what I’ve been making.

Non-math/stats books are enjoyable too. Haruki Murakami (named one of the TIME’s 100 most influential people in April 2015!) is always a fun ride. His books are like murder mysteries without the murder, so if you’re looking for a book recommendation, please ask!
Min Ho Cho

Hi everyone! I am Min Ho Cho (or just call me MINO), a first year PhD student in Statistics. I came from Cheong-ju, which is not a big city, but located in the center of South Korea. I originally studied IT (Information Technology) and Business for my BS in University of Newcastle, Australia (2011), and Statistics for my MS in Sungkyunkwan University, Korea (2015). In 2012 and 2013, I also worked at the Air Force Academy in Korea as a soldier and research assistant. The military service is mandatory for Korean men as you know, however, it was a great experience.


Although I have interests in some specific research areas in Statistics for sure, I mainly focus on coursework like theory and applied statistics in this semester as a first year student. In addition, I am taking ESL courses to improve my English. For around 4 months since I arrived here, I have been very satisfied with life in Columbus, especially in the OSU Stat due to nice weather and kind people. Now I am grading homework and exams for STAT 3450 and 3470, and working as a tutor for a few hours in CH 134 on Thursday and Friday.


For my hobby, I am crazy about SPORTS, particularly playing soccer and baseball. When I was in Australia and Korea, I usually played as a defensive midfielder for soccer and a short stop or third base for baseball. I like Chelsea in the English Premier League though I was wearing the Man City jersey in the picture. I also enjoyed marathon (but not full course, just half) and cycling in summer and snowboarding in winter. These days, I started a new sport, squash, so I play every Tuesday and Thursday in the evening in the RPAC. Besides sports, other activities are all welcome!

My office is 420 in Cockins hall. I hope you guys have a wonderful time here and feel free to talk to me!

Statistics and Biostatistics Graduate Student Poster Session

Happy Thursday everyone,

Last Thursday (09/24/2015), instead of a regular guest talk in the cozy Cockins Hall 240, we all enjoyed a poster session by our graduate students. We had a great time learning about all the exciting projects that our students are working on. Here are some pictures of the day:









You can find more pictures on our department Facebook For an updated schedule of our departmental seminars, you can go to Below is the list of student participants and their projects:

Brittney Bailey Analysis of Individually Randomized Group Treatment Trials with Binary Outcomes
Andrew Bean Transformations and Bayesian Density Estimation
Mark Burch Statistical Estimation and Inference for Network-Based Stochastic Epidemic Models
Po-Hsu Chen Sequential Pareto Optimization of Physical Systems Using Calibrated Computer Simulators
Jeff Gory Bayesian Inference of Selection Using the Wright-Fisher Diffusion
Yanan Jia Bilinear Mixed Effects Models for Affiliation Networks: Segregation of Adolescents in Their Extracurricular Activities
Liubo Lu Trend-Filtered Projection for PCA
Rong Lu Allele-Specific RNA Expression Modeling Using Finite Mixture
Yi Lu Bayesian Registration of Functions
Michael Matthews Partially Sequential Median Ranked Set Sample Test Procedure
Anna Mohr Comparing Networks of Different Sizes
Amy Stark The Relationship Among Toxicity, Response, and Survival Profiles Ultimately Influence Calling a Beneficial Drug Favorable Under Standard Phase I, II, and III Clincal Trial Designs
Yuan Tian Distribution of Gene Tree Histories Under the Coalescent Model with Gene Flow
Jojo Wang Empirical Bayes Model Averaging Under Model Misfit
Weiyi Xie Metric-Based Boxplots for Functional Data in the Presence of Time-Warping Variability

Thank you everyone for coming!

Sophie & Justin

T-shirts available

Happy Friday everyone,

Below are some t-shirt designs and sizes that we are having in stock. If you want to get any of these t-shirts, you can email either me or Justin, and we can get them for you.

Grey – short sleeved front and back: These t-shirts are $5 each and are available in M, L, XL and XXL.

IMG_1827 IMG_1828

Black – long sleeved front and back: These t-shirts are $8 each and are available in M, L, XL and XXL.


White – short sleeved front (there is no design on the back side): These t-shirts are $8 each and are available in M and L.


Red – long sleeved front (there is no design on the back side): These t-shirts are $10 each and are available in XS, S, M and L.


Also, thank you everyone for coming to the pizza party to welcome new students. Hope you guys enjoy this coming long weekend.

Sophie & Justin

Student Profiles – Co-Presidents Edition

Throughout the year, we want to feature some graduate students on here via student profiles!    If you are interested in doing this, please let one of us know; otherwise, we will randomly select some people to be featured.  We will go ahead and do the first one, just to give a sense of what we’re going for here.


Sophie Nguyen

Hi everyone, I am Huong (Sophie) Nguyen, a fourth year PhD student in Statistics. I am originally from Ha Noi, Vietnam. Before OSU, I got my BS in Accounting and Business Management – Finance concentration from Truman State University and my MS in Statistics from University of Wyoming.

I have just started to work on my own research after finishing all the required courses. Currently, I am reading with Dr. Craigmile and Dr. Pratola on spatial statistics and design of computer experiments. If you are attending either Spatial and Environmental Statistics or Design of Physical and Computer Experiments reading groups this semester, you will see me there.

In terms of teaching and working, I was a teaching assistant for STAT 1350 and now I am a consultant with the Statistical Consulting Service (SCS). Both positions give me the opportunity to cooperate with people outside of statistics and thus, learn to communicate statistical findings using non-technical language.

Outside of class, I love cooking and can get quite creative with my recipes with which I have a few successes and a few misses. I am also very into sports (badminton and basketball) and outdoor activities (mostly hiking and rock climbing). I have played badminton since I was ten years old and was trained for several years. When I was in Wyoming, I started to do a lot of hiking and some rock climbing and have come to love both. Here are some amazing trails in Wyoming.

rr1   snow3

My office is 305E in Cockins Hall which is at the other end of the hall from our computer lab. Feel free to stop by my office or email me if you have any question.

Justin Strait

Hey everyone – my name is Justin Strait and I’m a third year PhD student within the department.  I was born in South Korea but grew up a “military brat” (as we’re so affectionately called).  I’ve lived in 9 different states/countries throughout my life, including England, but claim Colorado Springs, CO as my hometown as that’s where I have lived the longest so far.  I went to the University of Utah for my undergrad, getting a dual BS in Mathematics and Atmospheric Science.  Unfortunately, my weather knowledge is actually fairly poor, so I would not recommend asking me questions about why you can’t feel your toes in January.  When I’m not doing statistics, I love sports (and follow college football and tennis almost obsessively), enjoy skiing (but have never gone to any of the hills in Ohio) and being outdoors…and that’s about it.  I’m going to try to one-up Sophie’s Wyoming pics with some pics of Colorado:



In terms of statistics, right now my research interests are: statistics (?).  I’m at that point where coursework is starting to wrap up somewhat in favor of research, and so I’m currently trying to figure out what I am interested in.  I’m excited to start working/reading this semester with Dr. Kurtek on some topics in statistical shape analysis, as well as participate in the Spatial and Environmental Statistics reading group.  In terms of teaching, I’ve been a TA for STAT 1350 every semester since I started here at OSU (5 in total), including 2 semesters as lecturer…I think the class has done leaps and bounds for my ability to explain things to non-technical crowds.  My office is now MA 456 (through the door that’s in the stairwell between the third and fourth floor of Cockins), but I’m typically camped out in the 3rd floor computer lab, so feel free to talk to me if you have any questions.  Best wishes to everyone this semester!