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UCI graduate Andrew Holbrook, Ph.D. ’18, was recently selected as a finalist for the Savage Award in Theory and Methods for his dissertation and its contribution to Bayesian statistics. “This is by far one of the most prestigious awards in our field,” says Associate Professor of Statistics Babak Shahbaba, Holbrook’s Ph.D. adviser. “Regardless of the final outcome, this is a great accomplishment [and] a testament to his hard work and dedication.”

The Savage Award, which honors Leonard “Jimmie” Savage, is awarded each year to two outstanding doctoral dissertations in Bayesian econometrics and statistics — one for “theory and methods” and the other for “applied methodology.” Each award includes a monetary prize.

This year’s finalists will present their research during a special section in July at the Joint Statistical Meetings (JSM 2019) in Denver, Colorado, where the winner will be announced. Holbrook will present his work, “Geometric Bayes,” which explores the overlap between Bayesian statistical analysis and differential geometry. “The central question was whether this pure mathematical discipline could be useful, in previously unconsidered ways, to real-world statistics,” says Holbrook. “In particular, I developed ‘geometric Bayesian’ methods to analyze dynamic and high-dimensional brain data we obtained in collaborations with our colleagues in neuroscience.”

Holbrook, also the 2018 Carl Cotman Young Investigator Award Recipient and now a postdoc fellow at UCLA, was surprised to receive this honor. “I re-read the email a number of times,” he admits. Once he was able to assure himself that the email wasn’t sent in error, he was “extremely” happy. “Writing a dissertation is like riding a roller coaster,” he says. “Self-doubt is an inherent part of it. This honor is a great affirmation.”

— Shani Murray