STORies Newsletter - 2020

October 5, 2020
Newsletter

Dear Friends,
Welcome to the inaugural annual issue of STORies. STORies aim to share, celebrate and record STOR happenings in the year’s past, and to provide outlook for the near future. And what the academic year 2019/2020 it was! The STOR department made advancements in several areas before the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and has since been adapting to the current but hopefully temporary environment.

Important changes occurred to the graduate studies in the department. The three previous Ph.D. programs, OR, Statistics and INSTORE, were unified into a single but flexible Ph.D. program.

We have been pushing enthusiastically into the Data Science/Analytics domain. This is reflected especially in our changing undergraduate curriculum. For example, an introductory service course on data science was developed and is being taught this academic year for the first time. The department has also been engaged in various campus wide initiatives on data science, some in close collaboration with our School of Information and Library Sciences, and Department of Computer Science. These efforts will continue in the new academic year 2020/2021.

<img src="https://casdev4.oasis.unc.edu/statistics/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2021/05/pipiras_vladas.jpg" alt="Vladas Pipiras" style="float: right; margin: 19px 0px 19px 19px; width: 189px;"

Important changes occurred to the graduate studies in the department. The three previous Ph.D. programs, OR, Statistics and INSTORE, were unified into a single but flexible Ph.D. program. An incoming Ph.D. student will now be given the basics of all the research areas in the department - Applied and Theoretical Statistics, Probability, Stochastic Modeling, and Optimization - before focusing on more specialized topics. We also worked hard to get graduate students more involved and have a greater say in departmental affairs, for example, in running the department colloquium and having more regular interactions with faculty.

In other major developments, the department was involved heavily in hiring, with two tenure track and one fixed term faculty joining the department this new year. Their short bios and pictures are included in these STORies. The department also attracted an excellent and diverse incoming class of Ph.D. students introduced below as well. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented most of our admitted international graduate students from joining the department, so the incoming class consists mostly of US students. Again, the class is the first to follow a revamped graduate curriculum.

Looking ahead at the new academic year 2020/2021, the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly continue creating challenges, with the department operating mostly remotely in the fall and with little certainty yet about the spring. This period, however, also presents opportunities for the department to pause and perhaps look more inwards for further change and improvement. Besides continuing the initiatives outlined above, other departmental priorities will be on engaging better with donors, alumni and industry partners, working on activities related to social justice, mostly led by graduate students, and expanding our online presence.

Please continue supporting the department in any way you can!

Vladas Pipiras
Department Chair

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