Washington Statistical Society
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October 2013


WSS Hosts Short Course
Introduction To R


October 15, 2013, 9:00am — 4:30pm
Bureau of Labor Statistics Conference Center, Washington DC

This course introduces R to those who are interested in using R for their statistical analysis and have little or no prior experience using R. R is open-source software that is widely used in the statistical community. It provides a flexible platform for both analysts who prefer performing analysis with pre-packaged functions and those who wish to develop their own routines. Because of its open-source nature and flexibility, many R&D and academic researchers have been developing R packages and functions for state of the art statistical methods. R is also highly customizable for producing visual presentations.

The course will cover four introductory subjects: R basic operations, data manipulation, univariate statistics and simple graphics. The goal of the course is to provide sufficient fundamental knowledge to start using R and enable users to further advance their knowledge of R from various sources as desired.

The format of the course will include lecture and hands-on opportunities. Participants are encouraged to bring their own laptops with R installed (http://www.r-project.org/).

Who Should Attend: This course is designed for those who are interested in using R for their statistical analysis with little or no prior experience using R.

About the Instructor: Cha-Chi Fan is a Mathematical Statistician from the US Energy Information Administration. Her work has focused on dynamic system modeling and simulation, uncertainty and risk assessments, and spatial methods.

Course Schedule:

9:00-10:30 R Basic Operations
10:30-10:45 Break
10:45-12:15 Data Manipulation
12:15-1:15 Lunch (provided)
1:15-2:45 Univariate Statistics
2:45-3:00 Break
3:00-4:30 Simple Graphics
Registration Fee Online (by October 8th) At the Door
Full-time students (limited to 8) $40 $50
WSS members $150 $170
All other registrants $200 $220

Register for this course online at URL: https://www.123signup.com/register?id=dqffn

Course Contact: Brian Meekins, meekins.brian@bls.gov

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Tim Allen

WSS Member In The Spotlight
Meet WSS Student Representative Tim Allen

1. Where do you work and what do you do?
I'm a Deputy Division Director at FEMA. Our Division takes care of HR, Contracts, Finance, and IT needs for the Recovery Directorate of FEMA. Before FEMA I was a programmer for Oracle and later a GIS guy.

2. Where do you go to school and what do you study?
I'm in UDC's MS in Applied Statistics program. My thesis will involve using Bayesian statistics to help make decisions in disaster recovery operations. I got my Bachelor's in Computer Science in 1986 from the Naval Academy; on graduation day I became a Marine Corps officer.

3. Finish this sentence: "I joined WSS to..."
...because there was an opportunity to become the Student Representative! I think it's a valuable resource for networking and learning for students. The WSS has given me the opportunity to meet enthusiastic students as well as working statisticians, and to see the broad range of statistical work here in DC. If I've learned one thing from my time in WSS, it's that statisticians are nice people.

4. What was your first job?
My parents were artists. My dad built his own kiln and spun pots on a wheel. When I was eight, he paid me eight cents a pot to clean the clay off of the wheel.

5. What skills are most important for the next generation of statistics professionals?
This may sound cliché, but I think soft skills such as creativity, problem solving, and communicating well with clients will make the difference for the next generation. In my past life as a computer programmer and database administrator I was in another highly specialized, technical field... and over the years I've seen that those abilities have come to be considered a commodity. But listening well, working in a team, and turning understanding of the needs of clients into solid solutions can set a technician apart and make him or her a valuable resource.

6. What field other than your own would you like to study?
Physics. It's fascinating. I wish I had paid a lot more attention to this in undergrad.

7. What is the last book you read?
Introduction to Mathematical Statistics by Hogg, McKean & Craig. It's the most important text in our program at UDC, so I carry it with me all the time. It starts great conversations; people can't help but tell me how much they hated statistics when they had to take it in college.

8. What is your favorite vacation spot?
For the last few years, my wife and son and I have spent summer vacation windsurfing in a tiny beach town in Spain called Sant Feliu de Guixols. My wife was born near there in Barcelona. It's quiet, sunny, and has a fascinating history. We'll probably retire there.

9. How do you like to spend your free time?
I like to run a lot; I've run a few ultramarathons. But mainly I spend time with my wife, Sonia, and my 11 year old son, Daniel.

10. What is your greatest accomplishment?
I'd probably say raising my son, but that's more of a privilege than an accomplishment. Other than that, after the Marine Corps, I spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Seychelles. It was an eye-opening experience that has touched every aspect of my life since.

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Be Informed And Get Involved!
Latest News on International Year of Statistics

You Are Invited to Participate in the "Unconference"

The Unconference, which will focus on the future of statistics from the perspective of junior statisticians, will be held October 30 from noon to 1 p.m. EST on Google Hangouts and simultaneously live-streamed on YouTube.

The event will feature several of the most exciting and innovative statistical thinkers discussing their views on the future of the field, especially those issues that affect junior statisticians the most: education, new methods, software development, collaborations with natural sciences/social sciences, and the relationship between statistics and industry.

Confirmed presenters are:

  • Daniela Witten, assistant professor, Department of Biostatistics, University of Washington
  • Hongkai Ji, assistant professor, Department of Biostatistics, Johns Hopkins University
  • Joe Blitzstein, Professor of the Practice, Department of Statistics, Harvard University
  • Sinan Aral, associate professor, MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Hadley Wickham, chief scientist, RStudio
  • Hilary Mason, chief data scientist, Accel Partners

You can sign up for the Unconference here. During the lead-up to the conference, organizers ask that you submit your thoughts on the future of statistics via Twitter using the hashtag #futureofstats. They will compile all comments and make these available along with the talks.

A recorded version of the Unconference will be available for viewing on YouTube after the event. Be sure to share the news of the Unconference with your friends and coworkers! All other news are available in the latest International Year of Statistics newsletter, at http://www.statistics2013.org/files/2013/09/September-23-2013.pdf.

Past newsletters can be reviewed at http://www.statistics2013.org/participant-newsletter-archive/.

– Donsig Jang
WSS Liaison for the International Year of Statistics

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Be Informed And Get Involved!
Washington Statistical Society's Spotlight on Members Program

The WSS Board of Directors has established a program to highlight members who have made or are making notable contributions to the work of their organization or their professional field of expertise. We know that WSS members are doing interesting work in the fields of statistics, survey methodology, and the social sciences. Through this program, we hope to spotlight the accomplishments of our fellow WSS members.

This is our first request for nominations, to be featured in an upcoming issue of WSS News. We are interested in featuring members at all levels of the employment spectrum including recent graduates, mid-career employees, and those seasoned veterans.

Please feel free to nominate more than one person or a team working together. You may also nominate yourself as well. The nominees must be members of the WSS and not currently affiliated with the Board.

Please provide us with the following information about your nominee or nominees.

  1. Your name, email address, and telephone number
  2. Name or names of nominee(s)
  3. Organizational affiliation
  4. Job title
  5. Their contact information including email address and telephone number
  6. A brief narrative describing the reasons for your nomination
  7. A photo of the nominee, although not required, would be great be greatly appreciated

Please submit your nominations or direct any questions to, John Finamore (jfinamore@nsf.gov), member of the WSS Board.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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Student Column

The International Student

As the WSS Student Representative, I get to meet and talk with Statistics students from different universities across the DC area. I am impressed by the large number of international students who choose to study Statistics in the United States. I often wonder what their experience is like. I talked with Arlan Henry, a Grad Student at UDC from Antiga, and two students who I'll call Sam and Mary as they prefered anonymity. The former students were Dr Valbona Bejleri (Albania, PhD Stats AU '05; WSS Grad Student of the Year 2004), Program Head of Statistics at UDC, and Dr Eloi Kpamegan (Benin, PhD Stats AU '97), who is the Director of Clinical and Nonclinical Biostatisticians at Novavax in Rockville. Applications and Visas. Sam and Mary applied for school while they still lived in their home countries. Acceptance letter in hand, they applied for an I-20: the Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. Mary told me, "The I-20 is everything: it's really what lets me be here". The I-20 is good for the expected duration of the academic program, and permits the student to apply for an F-1 visa.

To get the F-1 visa, Sam and Mary had to pass a Visa Interview. I asked if the interview was difficult; Mary told me it was not so bad, but she had to demonstrate that she had the means to support herself financially. This is important; since 9/11, the United States doesn't automatically allow F-1 visa holders to work off-campus. Dr Bejleri was able to work as an on-campus math and statistics tutor while she was in school.

F-1 Visas are good for one year. They can usually be renewed by mail as long as they have not expired. Once they expire, the student has to pass another Visa Interview to receive another visa. This becomes an issue if the student has to leave the United States: they can't return without a valid visa.

Money and Work. Being an international student can be expensive. Arlan explained that his tuition is several times that of an in-state student. He also pays significantly more for health insurance. Even though he finds inexpensive ways of staying in touch with family, he has to work on-campus to pay expenses. But work for international students can be tricky. The F-1 Visa permits on-campus work; Mary explained to me that "even if the job is working at a Starbucks within the university, it's considered on-campus". But to work off-campus, the student must apply for a Curricular Practical Training work permit.

Friendship. I asked the students how they formed friendships. Sam and Arlan felt they had about the same experience as students from the US: they formed friendships with their classmates, regardless of nationality. Dr Kpamegan echoed this: "My friends were the others in my program. You like math, they like math; you get along with each other." He still maintains friendships with his fellow students. I asked if learning English had been an issue; Sam had found that his school English had to improve a lot when he got here. But eventually his English improved greatly. It didn't seem to be a big impediment to forming friendships. One unpleasant experience that Dr Bejleri had was that some people saw her as a foreigner first before understanding her other characteristics.

Advice. I asked Sam and Mary if they had any advice for international students. Both said, "keep your grades up!" For graduate students, the I-20 is valid only as long as the student is Full-Time and carrying a GPA of at least 3.0. So international students are highly motivated to keep up with their work.

Answer to Probs & Stats Brain Teaser #1

Last month's problem: Imagine you have two one-liter glasses. You can put any level of water you want into the first glass. Then you can put water into the second glass, up to the level of the first glass. Pour the contents of the second glass into the first glass. What is the probability that the first glass will overflow?

Thanks to Dr Valbona Bejleri of UDC; I adapted this from a Math Stats problem she assigned.

Answer: See the pdf version of this WSS Newsletter.

Probs & Stats Brain Teaser #2:

Here's a problem from Hogg, McKean, and Craig 2005 from our Math Stats class: Bowl I contains 6 red chips and 4 blue chips. Five of these 10 chips are selected at random and without replacement and put in bowl II, which was originally empty. One chip is then drawn at random from bowl II. Given that this chip is blue, find the conditional probability that 2 red chips and 3 blue chips are transferred from bowl I to bowl II.

– Tim Allen, WSS Student Representative

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Note From The WSS NEWS Editor

Items for publication in the November, 2013 issue of the WSS NEWS will be accepted until the 15th day of the preceding month.

Email items to wss.editor@gmail.com.

Please submit all materials in MS WORD or plain text.

Please do not submit your items in pdf or include them in the body of an email.

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Click here to see the WSS Board Listing (pdf)
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