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Graduate Student Spotlight: Statistics Ph.D. Student Tianyu Pan Wins Two Competitive Awards

TianyuPanTianyu Pan, a statistics Ph.D. student in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS), recently won two competitive awards. Pan was one of 16 students worldwide to receive the 2021 Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) Hannan Graduate Student Travel Award and one of five U.S. recipients of the 2021 IBM Student Research Award from the New England Statistical Society.

The first award provides funds for travel to any IMS-sponsored or co-sponsored meeting, while the second award offers recipients the opportunity to present their work at the New England Statistics Symposium.

“The lecture preparation was time-consuming, including designing illustrative examples, organizing sections, unrolling technical details into intuitive opinions, etc. My standard of presentation is if my granny can understand the logic behind my work, it is then perfect,” says Pan, who is researching mixture models and clustering analysis in nonparametric Bayesian research. “I am glad to see what I [presented] received such positive feedback.”

“Tianyu’s research work is mainly about using statistics to study heterogeneity in different spatial locations,” explains Associate Professor of Statistics Weining Shen, Pan’s adviser. “For example, in economic studies, there is an interest in quantifying the association between the household income and other economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) and unemployment rate over different time periods and locations. In environmental studies, people study the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change over different regions. Tianyu’s contribution is to propose a class of new Bayesian methods for analyzing those types of data, to provide efficient computational solutions, and to study their theoretical properties.” Pan’s work is based on a collaboration with Dr. Guanyu Hu, an expert on Bayesian computation and spatial statistics from the University of Missouri – Columbia.

Pan is grateful for both Shen’s help and for that of his master’s adviser, Hal Stern, Chancellor’s Professor of Statistics and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor. “[Stern] offered me a precious opportunity to get started as a researcher and guided me to handle problems like a researcher. Without this experience, there is no chance for me to get admitted as a Ph.D. student, let alone get these two awards,” says Pan. “My current adviser, Weining Shen, is more like a collaborator from my perspective. We can deconstruct the problems together we face in projects, and he would enlighten me when I get stuck and help me leap over the barrier.”

After earning a Ph.D., Pan hopes to land a position as a data scientist or academic.

— Shani Murray