Skip to main content

Two faculty members from UCI’s Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) were recently named fellows of the American Statistical Association (ASA): Veronica Berrocal and Babak Shahbaba.

Veronica Berrocal

Associate Professor Berrocal received the honor for “research in spatial and spatio-temporal statistics and applications to atmospheric and environmental sciences and environmental epidemiology; and for substantial service to the profession.” She works to develop statistical models that can describe the interdependence and correlation among observations, and explores how that dependence varies in space and time. These models help answer questions such as: “What are the estimated levels of air pollution at locations without monitors?” or “How does poverty in certain neighborhoods change over time?”

“I am very thankful to Brisa Sanchez at Drexel University who submitted the nomination, Michele Guindani who helped gather the letters of support, and the letter writers who supported my nomination,” says Berrocal. “I am grateful to the ASA Committee on Fellows for bestowing such an honor to me and providing me with additional motivation to continue on this path.” Berrocal says she shares this recognition with all the people who have been fundamental for her growth as a statistician. “My Ph.D. and postdoc advisers, Adrian Raftery and Alan Gelfand, respectively, who introduced me to spatial and environmental statistics and taught me how to carry out statistical research, have been wonderful mentors throughout the years. I also want to acknowledge my colleagues at the University of Michigan, UCI and other institutions who set great examples for me with their impactful research and their excellence in mentoring, teaching and service.”

Professor Shahbaba was named an ASA fellow for “outstanding contributions to Bayesian statistics, scalable computation and a wide range of domain science applications; and for exceptional professional service and leadership on promoting data science.” His research focuses on Bayesian nonparametric methods and hierarchical Bayesian models and their applications in large-scale biological sciences. He has also worked to develop more efficient computational methods to facilitate the application of Bayesian statistics to data-intensive scientific problems, and he serves as director of UCI’s Data Science Initiative.

“It is a great honor to be recognized by your peers. I’m especially thankful to Annie Qu, who submitted the nomination, and Wes Johnson, Peter Mueller and Gary Rosner, who supported my nomination,” says Shahbaba. “I owe this to my students and collaborators who worked with me over the past 12 years as I was building my academic career. I also owe it to my wonderful academic advisers, Radford Neal, Rob Tibshirani and Sylvia Plevritis, who helped me to get started in this field.”

For nearly 100 years, the ASA has been recognizing outstanding contributions from its members with the fellow designation. Berrocal and Shahbaba join the following colleagues from the Department of Statistics in receiving this honor: Professors Annie Qu, Michele Guindani, Daniel Gillen, Hal Stern and Bin Nan, and emeriti faculty Jessica Utts and Wesley Johnson.

— Shani Murray