Much Ado about the Null Set

What happens when a Mathematician and a Shakespeare scholar develop a course together?  Apparently, one possibility is Mathematics and What it Means to be Human, a course developed and taught by Dr. Manil Suri and Dr. Michele Osherow at UMBC.  The Chronicle of Higher Education is publishing a series (installment 1 is here) describing how this course came into being, complete with the syllabus.  They also discuss the class in this video.

I enjoyed reading about Dr. Manil’s desire to proselytize a love of math to Humanities majors, and Dr. Osherow’s struggle to overcome her mathphobia.  I’m looking forward to the next installments which will hopefully detail the students’ reactions to this grand experiment.

Thanks Dr. Ben Capistrant for bringing the Chronicle article to my attention!

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Projects Galore (Part 1) Ego-Networks of Women with Advanced Cancer

I am working on many projects with Dr. Melissa Clark.  Here is one project that is coming along nicely:

We have access to data on women who have advanced cancer.  Each woman (the ego) was asked about the important people in her life (her alters). We are investigating the associations between the characteristics of the alters, and the ego’s advanced care planning decisions.

I don’t want to get too detailed since we are in the process of writing this up, but I think this paper could have a lot of implications for finding ways to encourage people to make these advanced care planning decisions.

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Your Random Number Generator Dresses You Funny

I recently lead an intense course for incoming undergraduates who are going to concentrate in the sciences. I started the class by talking about sets, then moved into counting problems, followed by calculating probabilities, independence/dependence, unions & intersections, probability distributions, and finally hypothesis testing. It was a bit of a whirlwind! I had a lot of goals for myself for this class, which I won’t list out here at this time, but one of the goals was to balance the really serious public health examples (having TB and HIV, time to death, etc) with some light-heartedness.

For example, in the final exam I tried to include a little math/stats humor:

Blake needs to do each of these things today:

  • Renew subscription to Statistician’s Fashions Quarterly
  • Finish writing the love-song titled You are the Only [n choose 0] For Me
  • Apply to compete on America’s Next Top Statistical Model

Assuming that Blake could only do one activity at a time, how many different ways could Blake order these activities?

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I just got the news that a paper I have been working on with Sari Reisner, David Wypij, Bryn Austin, Heather Corliss, Margie Rosario, and Allegra Gordon got accepted for publication!  They are a wonderful and talented group of people, and I am very lucky that I have had the chance to work with each of them.  There were many many rounds of edits and revisions, and it feels great to have this come to fruition.  Hurray!

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Adventures in Bathroom Solitaire

What are the odds?  I get asked this by my non-Stats friends from time to time.  They usually don’t expect me to actually go to my thinking place (my thinking place deserves its own blog post) and calculate the odds.  Not so with my friend Sarah, who has been steadfast in her curiosity.   I started working on her problem yesterday.

Sarah loves to play a game called “Bathroom Solitaire” (also called One-Handed Solitaire) which is a bit of a family tradition for her.  Both Sarah and her mother have been playing this game for decades.   Bathroom solitaire owes its whimsical name to the fact that you can play it while holding all the cards in one hand, thus inspiring a fair amount of multi-tasking.

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Extracurricular activity

I recently read in Inside Science that physicists had applied network analytic tools to discover whether three classic myths: Beowulf, the Iliad, and Tain Bo Cuailnge, were based in real life events (Here is the original article).    In a project that probably fell to some undergrad RA, the characters from each of the three stories were entered in a database, and links, coded as either hostile or friendly, were assigned between the characters who had relationships.

According to their coding of the data, Beowulf had 74 characters, the Iliad had 716 characters, and Tain Bo Cuailnge had 404 characters. Once the network was constructed for each myth, they calculated different network statistics, like the mean number of people that each person had links with and whether those with many links tended to be connected with others who had many links (called degree assortativity).  If networks are highly assortative (meaning that people are more likely to be linked with others who have a similar number of links) it is thought that these networks are more true to real life.  They came to the conclusion that the Iliad is the most realistic social network.

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Teaching Statistics with Social Justice

I am in the process of developing an introduction to Probability and Statistics course for incoming undergraduates that will take place this August. I have begun looking for real world data (i.e. messy data sets) that will be relevant to the students. While casting about for data sets, I found the article Critical Values and Transforming Data: Teaching Statistics with Social Justice by Dr. Lawrence Lesser in the Journal of Statistics Education.

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About that Header Image

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First Blog Post

I have decided to start this website as a space to bring together my different interests, mainly focusing on Biostatistics.  I hope to use this website to record my ideas on journal articles that I have read, share cool statistics applications, and hopefully engage with others who share my interests.

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