SAMSI Connection Spring 2017








In this issue:
SAMSI Closes Year-Long Research Programs for 2016-2017 – page 1
SAMSI Around the Globe – page 1
10 Minutes with: Hyungsuk Tak, SAMSI Postdoctoral Fellow – page 3
SAMSI Postdoctoral Fellow Plans for Future – page 3
SAMSI Spotlight
Undergrad Workshop Helps Student See Bright Future in Applied Math and Statistics – page 4
SAMSI Upcoming Events – page 6

SAMSI Connection Spring 2017

Transition Workshop brings SAMSI’s ASTRO Program to Close

SAMSI recently hosted an ASTRO Transition Workshop from May 8-10, 2017. The workshop was the final event of SAMSI’s Program on Statistical, Mathematical and Computational Methods for Astronomy (ASTRO) and was attended by numerous astrophysicists, astronomers and astrostatisticians from across the country.

Nearly 40 participants attended the workshop in order to discuss their findings compiled from multiple working groups formed throughout the past academic year. The organizing committee for the program listened to spokespersons from each group as they presented their findings. The group also discussed continuing future collaborations between these working groups once the program was over.

SAMSI’s ASTRO program liaison and Deputy Director, Sujit Ghosh, noted that the ASTRO program has been successful in creating a cohesive bond between the statistical and mathematical sciences and the disciplinary sciences, like astronomy and astrophysics. According to Ghosh, this coupling is helping to systematically streamline the analysis of huge data sets that are produced from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), gravitational wave (GW) research and exoplanet discoveries.

A panel, consisting of ASTRO program leaders, collected feedback from the numerous researchers in attendance. A significant issue that researchers brought up was the challenge of publishing research articles in domain sciences (i.e. core stat or astrophysics journals) versus the disciplinary sciences. This issue was viewed as a significant obstacle when using these research papers as a reference for tenure-based decisions. The panel of program leaders could not determine the best way to address this situation. Instead they agreed that this topic should be readdressed during future interdisciplinary engagements, like transition workshops.

“This [ICTS-SAMSI] workshop helped form several collaborations to enable what will likely prove to be a fruitful collaboration among people from diverse backgrounds that can propel the progress of science”

Overall, the ASTRO Program focused on ways to create solid partnerships between researchers in applied mathematics, astronomy, astrophysics and statistics (professionals who do not ordinarily work together in the field). In fact, the concept of astrostatistics emerged from numerous collaborations, like this one, between researchers during past SAMSI programs. The partnerships created by this program are important because they could potentially advance research in astronomy. In addition, three mid-program workshops (one on Exoplanets in the Fall of 2016 and two on Synoptic Surveys and GW Astronomy and Astrophysical Population Emulation in the Spring of 2017) were organized by the researchers to support the program during the past year.

SAMSI also expanded its international collaboration capability by organizing a joint workshop with the International Center for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) in

Bengaluru, India. This workshop enabled scientists to share their ideas and work together across two continents in order to explore the grand challenges in gravitational waves time domain astronomy.

“SAMSI workshops and working groups have helped me understand how my thesis work fits into the larger scientific picture and how to gain a better understanding of what our science priorities are as a community of observational astronomers,” said Jackeline Moreno, a graduate student at Drexel University, who was a member of one of the working groups. Moreno said she was impressed with how the joint workshop brought together experts from around the world and from different research backgrounds to come together and share techniques and insights for analyzing time series data.

Kaustabh Vaghmare, a data scientist from the Inter -University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune, India, who also attended the ICTS-SAMSI workshop, agreed. Vaghmare began by saying that time domain astronomy has improved a great deal in the last decade, due in large part, to advances in robotic telescopes, image processing and database technologies. These advances, according to Vaghmare, have given astronomers the ability to organize several systematic surveys of the sky. In addition to those advances though, Vaghmare sited the importance of the human aspect as a valuable way of sharing information. “This [ICTS-SAMSI] workshop helped form several collaborations to enable what will likely prove to be a fruitful collaboration among people from diverse backgrounds that can propel the progress of science,” he said.

Joint workshops, like the ICTS-SAMSI workshop, help SAMSI to emphasize the value of collaborating with other institutions or across fields of study. The results of these collaborations creates more dynamic ways to solve traditional problems using the tools of applied mathematics and statistics as a guide.

The program offered academic courses on Analytical Methods and Applications to Astrophysics and Astronomy in the fall of 2016 and Time Series Methods for Astronomy this past spring. The program also provided numerous opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to participate and see what future opportunities are available to them in the field of astronomy from a mathematician’s point of view.

As the ASTRO Program transitions, SAMSI sets its sights on the two new 2017-2018 programs: Program on Mathematical and Statistical Methods for Climate and the Earth System (CLIM) and the Program on Quasi-Monte Carlo and High Dimensional Sampling Methods for Applied Mathematics (QMC). Both programs open this August and will end in May 2018.

Transition Workshop Completes Optimization Program for 2016-2017

The Optimization Transition Workshop was hosted by SAMSI from May 1-3, 2017 to effectively close the Program on Optimization for the 2016-2017 research year.

The workshop was attended by nearly 40 participants who discussed findings in research conducted from the program’s 13 different working groups formed last fall. Scholars and researchers from multiple fields of applied math and statistical science not only  explored progress made by their groups throughout this past year, but they also discussed effective ways to collaborate after the program was over in hopes of continuing to tackle some of the complex issues the field of optimization presents.

The program featured six different workshops:

The program also hosted multiple opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students: an undergraduate workshop earlier this year; and a two-part course hosted in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017.

Overall, the program was attended by some 500 participants throughout this past research year. The program offered an opportunity for colleagues to share their knowledge and to network with up and coming researchers in the field. Programs like this one help SAMSI to provide researchers in statistics, applied mathematics and data science fields a forum to meet, discuss and collaborate on a wide range of topics.

SAMSI is one of eight math institutes funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) whose purpose is to advance research in the mathematical sciences, increase awareness of mathematical sciences and disciplines and directly engage prospective intellectual talent in that effort.

To see what was presented, click on this link: Optimization Transition Workshop. In order to find more information on the workshops for this program for this past year, click here: Program on Optimization.



SAMSI Connection Winter 2017









In this issue:
SAMSI Reflects on 2016 Academic Year; Prepares for 2017 – page 1
SAMSI Current Events
Virginia Tech Grad Student Uses Inverse Problems Workshop to Influence Personal Research – page 2
ASTRO Spring Course Prepares Students to Analyze Astronomical Big Data – page 3
SAMSI Postdoctoral Fellow Plans for Future – page 3
Optimization Program Hosts Undergraduate Workshop – page 4
SAMSI Upcoming Events
Upcoming Workshops for OPT and ASTRO programs from March-May 2017 – page 4
ANNOUNCEMENT: Special Guest Seminar – Nicholas Higham Lecture (Apr. 26, 2017) – page 4
UPCOMING Printable Academic Program Posters for 2017-2018 – page 4

SAMSI Connection Winter 2017

SAMSI Educates Undergrads on Mathematics and Optimization

SAMSI hosted an Undergraduate Workshop as part of its Education and Outreach initiative in their Program on Optimization from Feb. 27-28, 2017.

Nearly 40 undergraduate students from universities across the country were treated to lectures on optimization methods used in large-scale statistical analysis and were also introduced to statistical inverse problems. In addition, students received hands on familiarization with software packages that help to determine these complex calculations.

Though the workshop only lasted two days, students stayed busy! They received an overview on who SAMSI is and how they are helping to support and promote those considering the fields of mathematics and statistics. Students also met and networked with SAMSI Postdoctoral Fellows. Post docs mentored the young group on what they should focus on in their academics to get ready for the job market in the fields of applied mathematics and statistics.

On the last day, students took a field trip to SAS, a major internationally known software company, headquartered in N.C.

During their visit, the students received talks from computer scientists, analytical mathematicians and optimization specialists on how SAS develops software in line with client user and business objectives.

To see what was discussed, visit: OPT E&O Undergraduate webpage.

SAMSI Ends 2016 Successfully; Prepares for Upcoming 2017/18 Campaign

As 2017 begins, another year of successful SAMSI workshops has closed. Since the beginning of the 2016 academic year, in late August, SAMSI has hosted at least seven workshops that supported the goals of both the Program on Optimization (OPT) and Program on Statistical, Mathematical and Computational Methods for Astronomy (ASTRO).

Since the 2016 academic year began, the OPT Program offered a two-part course in Numerical Optimization and Applications. These courses, given in fall and spring semesters, teach students how to use various statistical and applied mathematical techniques to solve complex optimization problems. In addition to these courses, OPT has hosted four workshops, most recently, the Workshop on the Interface of Statistics Optimization (WISO).

WISO took place on the campus of Duke University, one of many SAMSI partners. The workshop lasted for three days and featured twelve lectures from some of the most esteemed minds in field of optimization. The scholars spoke to an audience of more than 100 participants from all over the world. An exciting element of LIVE STREAMING was added to this workshop which gave the event the capability to reach a wider audience. For those who were not part of the LIVE audience, SAMSI archived all the lectures on the WISO video webpage for future viewing.

The ASTRO program has helped to bridge the gap between astrostatisticians and astronomers so that, collectively, they can work together to potentially discover the unknown in our universe.

Since the academic year began, ASTRO has also hosted four workshops and two research related courses. The fall course, Analytical Methods and Applications to Astrophysics and Astronomy, was led by James Long of Texas A&M. Long and other visiting academic fellows at SAMSI worked together to provide instruction on the current methods used to capture astronomical data and how this data is being analyzed and interpolated.  The spring course, Time Series Methods of Astronomy, is being led by Eric Feigelson of Penn State University and a team of others. The course focus is how big data sets are being used to accurately categorize and identify astronomical bodies such as “exoplanets” and distant stars in the universe.

In all, SAMSI has hosted approximately 530 academic scholars, undergraduate and graduate, Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows since the 2016 academic year began in late August.

SAMSI is also committed to bringing this same level of excellence to the 2017-2018 programs, Mathematical and Statistical Methods for Climate and Earth Systems (CLIM) and Quasi-Monte Carlo and High-Dimensional Sampling Methods for Applied Mathematics (QMC).

CLIM will bring together esteemed academic scholars in the various fields of the study of climate to explore current climate models, while also discussing how modern environmental issues will impact earth systems and the human population in the future. CLIM begins in August 2017 and runs through May 2018.

Finally the QMC program will tackle complex mathematical techniques that are used in advanced technology such as machine learning, computer graphics and PDE solving systems. The program analyzes further how complex mathematical    sampling algorithms are used in these systems.

As 2017 begins, SAMSI takes pride in what was accomplished last year and looks forward to bringing their participants new and challenging programs emphasizing ways in which applied mathematics and statistics impact our world. Going forward, SAMSI will continue to offer the best programs to the best professionals in the field. For attendees and colleagues, that is what the SAMSI experience is all about.

ASTRO Spring Course Prepares Students for Analyzing Astronomical Big Data

Astronomers continue to search the stars in order to archive large amounts of data in hopes of learning the mechanics and wonders of the universe. SAMSI is hosting a Spring Course, “Time Series Methods for Astronomy,” as part of their Program on Statistical, Mathematical and Computational Methods for Astronomy (ASTRO).

The course started in January and runs through April 26th of this year. This is the first time a team of astronomy scholars, is teaching this course. The course is designed by Eric Feigelson, a Distinguished Senior Scholar and Professor from Penn State University’s Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Feigelson is accompanied by several SAMSI Astronomy Visiting Scholars from other academic institutions, who made up the remainder of the class instruction.

The class is taught in four phases:

  • Phase I introduces students to a background of astronomical materials, including the introduction to the public domain ‘R’ Statistical Software environment.
  • Phase II reviews classical time series analysis in the time and frequency domain for data analysis.
  • Phase III consists of various expert SAMSI researchers: Ashish Mahabal [Caltech]; Eric Ford [Penn State]; Bekki Dawson [Penn State] and many more, who will be teaching advanced techniques for astronomical time series analysis.
  • Phase IV has students present course projects for class discussion.

Those taking the course will come away with an understanding of how to capture and interpolate data from sometimes problematic astronomical samples. The skills taught during the course are some of the most state-of-the-art techniques in the field. These techniques allow for astrophysicists and astrostatisticians to work together in order to potentially chart the galaxy. Due to the large amount information captured and in some cases, data samples containing uneven dispersion rates, special consideration must be taken in order to ensure all information is measured correctly. Therefore, researchers must know how to interpret the sample information provided and extrapolate accurate data.

For ongoing updates on the course, visit the Time Series Methods for Astronomy page on the SAMSI website. All presentations will be videotaped and posted on the Time Series Methods for Astronomy Video page. For questions please email

Pioneer in Forensic Statistical Research and SAMSI Colleague Passes Away

stephen-fienberg-memorial-pictureWe at SAMSI were very sad to hear of the death of Steve Fienberg, whose enormously influential career in statistics included numerous contributions to SAMSI, among them, chairing the search committee that led to my appointment as Director.

Some of Steve Fienberg’s more prominent research centered on using statistical analysis to assist those in the law enforcement and the justice system with more accurate data to better assist in the field of forensic science. He was as co-chairman of the Commission on Forensic Science under the American Judicature Society. His work focused on developing statistical research to find the most accurate data possible in order to identify suspects of interest during criminal investigations. As a result there is now a whole subfield of “Forensic Statistics” that inspired the 2015-16 SAMSI Program on Statistics and Applied Mathematics in Forensic Science. Steve attended the Opening Workshop of that program and gave a superb overview lecture. Before that, he had been a leading contributor to the SAMSI programs on Computational Methods in Social Sciences (2013-14) and Complex Networks (2009-10).

Steve Fienberg was born in Canada but spent the bulk of his career in the US, obtaining his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1968 and joining Carnegie Mellon as a faculty member in 1980, where he spent the rest of his career. Apart from his contributions to forensic science, he made significant contributions to categorical data analysis and Bayesian statistics, and was a world leader in the application of statistical methods to social sciences. His numerous honors included election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (1999).

I personally interacted with Steve at many points of my career but especially after I became Director of SAMSI. His advice was always well thought out and helpful.

We extend our condolences to his family. He will be sadly missed by all his professional colleagues.

Richard L. Smith

Director, SAMSI

SAMSI Connection Fall 2016








In this issue:
ASTRO News: Program Opens with Big Bang – page 1
OPT News: Optimization Opening Workshop Highlights Significance in Industry – page 2
IMSM 2016 Prepares Graduate Students for ’Real World’ Research- page 3
SAMSI Blog Post: Teamwork & Collegiality Key to Success of SAMSI-SAVI Workshop – page 3
SAMSI Deputy Director Speaks at UNC-G Helen Barton Lecture Series – page 4
Welcome to SAMSI: 2016-2017 Postdoctoral Fellows – page 5
Photo Montage: The SAMSI Experience – page 5
2015-2016 Academic Visitors for SAMSI Research Programs – page 6
SAMSI Releases NEW Programs for 2017-2018 – page 6
Upcoming Workshops in OPT and ASTRO – page 7
SAMSI Spotlight: SAMSI Undergraduate Workshop Inspires Student Growth  – page 8
SAMSI Directorate, Staff and Contact Information  – page 8
Work and Research Opportunities at SAMSI – page 9
SAMSI 90-Day Calendar of Events – page 10

Newsletter Fall 2016

SAMSI Brings Together Researchers in Optimization for Opening Workshop

20160830_091323Many problems in mathematics, statistics, science, engineering, and everyday life revolve around the choice of a best selection to achieve a specified goal: finding the fastest way to the airport, or the best rice cooker for under $100. From a mathematical point of view, optimization often amounts to finding the maximal value of a function.

This vibrant SAMSI program has produced an unprecedented number of 13 research working groups, which are concerned with fundamental methodology and computational methods for optimization, and applications of optimization to radio therapy; decision analysis; energy and the environment;  and electronic structure models in physics, chemistry and materials science; among many others.

It is the mission of the 2016-17 SAMSI Optimization program to capitalize on and advance this synergy. The program aims to guide the interaction between mathematics and statistics, so as to produce benefits for each area individually, but also combined.

More than 90 students and postdocs attended the Summer School in August 2016, which featured a lively mix of tutorials and hands-on interactive labs, where participants were introduced to state-of-the-art software. The Opening Workshop two weeks later signaled the official start of the research program. The number of participants, more than 130, was limited only by the seating capacity of the lecture room. There was a large variety of presentations, with speakers from academia, of course, but also industry (the oil and gas company ExxonMobil, and the online advertising company MaxPoint Interactive Inc.) and the National Labs (Argonne, Sandia-Livermore, and Sandia-Albuquerque). A special two-hour session gave participants a glimpse at the challenging research problems faced by the National Labs.

Much like attendees from the Summer School, feedback from the participants was overwhelmingly positive.20160829_174219

A number of mid-program events are in the works. The Workshop on the Interface of Statistics and Optimization (WISO) in February 2017 is planned as a high-profile event. It will be lived-streamed for a national and international audience and will feature the pioneers in this area, by giving their work prominent visibility to a broad audience.

Overall, the researchers in attendance got a chance to see how their specialized research could contribute to these industries. The Optimization Program runs from August through the end of May in 2017. For those interested in learning more about this program and its various working groups, visit: