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Alumni INFORMS award

April 28, 2023

2023 INFORMS Franz Edelman award

April 28, 2023


Our Ph.D. alumnus Minghui Liu (who graduated in 2015 and was advised by Gabor Pataki) was part of the winning team for the 2023 INFORMS Franz Edelman award for their work on “Optimizing Walmart’s Outbound Supply Chain from Strategy to Execution – A Grocery Case Study”.

Neurodegenerative disease discovery

April 28, 2023

Neurodegenerative disease discovery

April 28, 2023

Alzheimer's discovery

New research uncovers link between neurogenerative disease and subcortical shape changes in the brain

A recent research led by Prof. Zhengwu Zhang from the Department of Statistics and Operations Research (STOR) at UNC-Chapel Hill uncovered how neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s can accelerate atrophy in subcortical brain regions in individuals aged 60-75, compared to the normal aging process.

Through a series of brain scans, size changes were visible in the lateral ventricle, which contains and helps circulate cerebrospinal fluid, and the hippocampus, which supports limbic system processing of emotion, memory and behavior.

These findings were published recently as a discussion paper in the Journal of American Statistics Association (JASA), one of the most prestigious statistical journals which only publishes a few discussion papers each year. In the paper, the research team introduced a new method called longitudinal elastic shape analysis (LESA) for examining changes in specific brain regions over time. This comprehensive framework consists of five key components: subcortical surface extraction, elastic shape analysis, principal components analysis (PCA) of shapes, continuous shape trajectory fitting, and shape-trajectory-on-scalar regression.

The study was a joint effort between the College of Arts and Gillings School of Global Public at UNC Chapel Hill and the Florida State University. The co-authors of the study include Zhengwu Zhang, PhD, assistant professor in STOR at UNC; Yuexuan Wu, a doctoral student in the Department of Statistics at FSU; Di Xiong, a visiting doctoral student in biostatistics at UNC; Anuj Srivastava, PhD, a professor of statistics at FSU; and two biostatistics professors, Joseph G. Ibrahim, PhD and Hongtu Zhu, PhD.

The team applied this innovative framework to study brain MRI scans of 2,275 individuals, analyzing a total of 9,628 shape surfaces. They found that the atrophy of subcortical regions begins early in life, around the age of 30, and accelerates after 60 years old. Furthermore, findings show that Alzheimer’s disease further speeds up this shrinkage in comparison to normal aging for those between 60 to 70 years old.

The LESA framework enables researchers to accurately identify shape changes on the subcortical surfaces. They discovered that atrophy of the hippocampus associated with Alzheimer’s disease primarily occurs in the back of the organ, which is where crucial parts, known as subfields CA1, CA1, CA2 and CA4, are located. In addition, both Alzheimer’s disease and genetic risk factors, specifically the presence of two genetic alleles called ApoE4, contribute to more severe atrophy of subcortical regions, such as hippocampus and lateral ventricle, during the aging process.

New IMS Fellow

April 25, 2023

Kai Zhang named IMS Fellow

April 25, 2023

New IMS Fellow

Professor Kai Zhang has been elected as 2023 Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) Fellow. The designation of IMS Fellow has been a significant honor for over 85 years. IMS Fellowship honors the outstanding research and professional contributions of its members, contributions that help keep IMS in a leading role in the field of statistics and probability. Each Fellow has demonstrated distinction in research in statistics or probability or has demonstrated leadership that has profoundly influenced the field.

All of the new IMS Fellows will be honored at the IMS Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Toronto.

Hotelling Lectures 2023

April 18, 2023

Amir Dembo to deliver Hotelling Lectures

April 18, 2023

Hotelling Lectures

The Hotelling Lectures are an annual event in the Department of Statistics & Operations Research at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, honoring the memory of Professor Harold Hotelling our first chairman. This year we are honored to have Professor Amir Dembo from Stanford University to deliver our two Hotelling lectures which are open to the public.

Amir Dembo obtained his PhD in Electrical Engineering from Technion, Israel. Since 1990, he has been on the faculty of Stanford University and since 2012 as the Marjorie Mhoon Fair Professor in Quantitative Science. His areas of specialization are probability theory and stochastic processes, information theory, large deviations, and their applications in in communication, control, and biomolecular sequence analysis. Together with Ofer Zeitouni, he has authored a book on the theory of large deviations which is now a classical reference in the field. He has served as editor of Probability Theory and Related Fields and of the Annals of Probability. He is a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and in 2022 was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Non-linear Large Deviations and Applications
Monday, April 24, 2023 (3:30-4:30pm 209 Manning Hall)
Reception following the lecture 4:30-5:30pm in the 3rd Floor lounge of Hanes Hall

I will overview the emerging theory of nonlinear large deviations, in particular for establishing the naive mean field approximation for certain Gibbs measures and its relation to the representation of such measures as mixtures of not too many product measures. Among the applications we explore, are the abundance of certain patterns in sparse random graphs, having many arithmetic progressions in a random set, and the universality of the Potts model on graphs of growing average degrees.

Sparse Random Graphs with Unusually Large Subgraph Counts
Wednesday, April 26, 2023 (3:30-4:30pm 120 Hanes Hall)
Reception prior to the lecture 3:00-3:30pm in the 3rd Floor lounge of Hanes Hall

In this talk, based on joint works with Nicholas Cook, Huy Tuan Pham and Sohom Bhattacharya, I will discuss recent developments in the study of the upper tails for counts of several fixed subgraphs in a large sparse random graph (such as Erdős–Rényi or uniformly d-regular). These results allow in turn to determine the typical structure of samples from an associated class of Gibbs measures, known as Exponential Random Graph Models, which are widely used in the analysis of social networks.

Nizenson NSF graduate fellowship

April 18, 2023

Nizenson awarded NSF graduate fellowship

April 18, 2023

NSF fellowship

Our student Michael Nizenson was awarded an NSF graduate fellowship.

The National Science Foundation’s highly competitive program supports those pursuing research-based graduate degrees. Thirty-three students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have received prestigious awards from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) for their research in STEM-related fields.

Read more in the Graduate School Magazine.

UNC Science Expo 2023

April 5, 2023

STOR at the UNC Science Expo

April 5, 2023

STOR in Science Expo

Last Saturday, April 1st, UNC held its annual Science Expo.

The STOR booth was a success! Prof. Mariana Olvera-Cravioto led the organization with support from Profs. Andrew Nobel and Zoe Huang, and the help of several graduate students:

  • Panos Andreou
  • Elyse Borgert
  • Prabhanka Deka
  • Hank Flury
  • Alexander Murph
    • Dawn Sanderson
    • Andrew Walker

    and undergraduate STAN majors:

    • Carly Barello
    • Albert Bright
    • Keelin Caffrey
    • Irvin Carreon
    • Sanjana Chaudhary
    • Sam Kunesch
    • Shreya Kusumanchi
    • Emily Kuykendall
    • Haley Sears
    • Grace Sun
    • Yanchen Xie
    • Valen Zhang

    We prepared a variety of fun games including:

    Monty Hall game
    Monty Hall game
    Mind reader
    Mind reader

    Galton board
    Galton board
    Network formation game
    Network formation game

    RTG Women Luncheon Spring 2023

    April 5, 2023

    RTG Women Luncheon: Ingrid Daubechies

    April 5, 2023

    RTG Women Luncheon

    Each semester the RTG program will host a luncheon for women trainees with a faculty role model, from within or outside UNC, to share and discuss unique challenges, experiences, and opportunities for women in STEM.

    This semester the luncheon will be held on April 20th from 12:30pm to 2:00pm at Carolina Union (Rooms 3206AB). We will have Prof. Ingrid Daubechies from Duke University as the faculty role model joining the lunch. Daubechies is recognized for her study of the mathematical methods that enhance image-compression technology and she is dubbed the “Godmother of the Digital Image”.

    Her research involves the use of automatic methods from both mathematics, technology, and biology to extract information from samples such as bones and teeth. She developed sophisticated image processing techniques used to help establish the authenticity and age of some of the world’s most famous works of art, including paintings by Vincent van Gogh and Rembrandt.

    Daubechies is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Academy of Sciences, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her accomplishments have garnered her the Wolf Prize, MacArthur Fellowship, NAS Mathematics Prize, Steele Prize, Nemmers Prize, among others. She is on the board of directors of Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE), a program that helps women entering graduate studies in the mathematical sciences. She was the first woman to be president of the International Mathematical Union (2011–2014).

    Sports Analysis Intelligence Laboratory

    March 27, 2023

    Sports Analysis Intelligence Laboratory

    March 27, 2023


    The department is excited about the launch of the UNC Sports Analysis Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL).

    History of SAIL

    The idea for the Sports Analysis and Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL) was conceived in Fall 2022. Conor Kerr, advised by Dr. Mario Giacomazzo of the STOR Department, had been working on sports analytics projects with UNC Men’s and Women’s Basketball for two years. As the work demand increased, the need to expand increased. From December 2022 to January 2023, the first SAIL applications were received, and 52 well-deserving undergraduates applied to be an Undergraduate Sports Analyst (USA). With the help of Andrew Ackerman, a PhD student in the STOR department, we selected 5 students to be the first team of USAs.

    Purpose of SAIL

    We firmly believe that sports analytics can be useful in helping athletes and coaches improve performance and gain competitive advantages. We aim to support our university’s athletic programs through application-based research in sports analytics. SAIL’s diverse data science skills can be useful in extracting innovative insights from the data you regularly collect or the data to which you have access. Through private consulting, we ensure that any discoveries from your data, remain between the SAIL team and yours.

    Contact Dr. Mario Giacomazzo ( or Conor Kerr ( if interested.

    Members of SAIL

    Conor Kerr (Founder)

    Abigail Mabe

    Jacob Thoma

    Max Sleek

    Andy Ackerman (Graduate Advisor)

    Lewis Dubrowski

    Sarah Wooster

    Walter Smith Obituary

    March 24, 2023

    Walter Smith Obituary

    March 24, 2023

    W. Smith Obituary

    Published by The News & Observer in March 19, 2023.

    Walter Laws Smith

    November 12, 1926 – March 6, 2023

    Chapel Hill, North Carolina – Walter “Wally” Laws Smith died March 6, 2023 at Carolina Meadows in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He was 96 years old. Walter was preceded in death by his wife of 69 years, Mary Ramsden Smith. Walter is survived by his daughter Caroline Smith of Albuquerque, New Mexico, by his son Simon Smith of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and by his sisters Betty Haggerty and Julia Grahame in England.

    Walter was born in London, England in 1926 to parents Thomas and Dorothy Smith. In 1947, he graduated with an honors degree in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge where he was a member of Pembroke College. From 1947 to 1950, he served as a lieutenant in the Instructor Branch of the Britannic Royal Navy. He was stationed first at Fort Halstead in Kent and later at HMS Sea Eagle in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. It was during his time at Fort Halstead that he developed an interest in statistics.

    In September of 1950, he married Mary Ramsden Redman, whom he had met in 1944 while attending school in Maidstone, Kent. After leaving the navy in 1950, he returned to Cambridge for graduate school, and in 1953 he was awarded a PhD in Mathematical Statistics for his thesis “Stochastic Sequences of Events”. During his time as a graduate student, in addition to his studies, he developed a keen interest in magic; in the summers he and Mary performed in touring magic shows with the student Pentacle Club. Walter achieved Associateship of the Inner Magic Circle in 1952, an elite status awarded to a limited number of magicians.

    In 1954, Walter and Mary moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Walter became an assistant professor of statistics at the university. Between 1955 and 1958, he also taught at the University of Florida at Gainesville, at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, at the University of California at Berkeley, and at the University of Cambridge. Eventually, in 1958 he and Mary decided to live permanently in Chapel Hill. From then on, he remained a faculty member of UNC’s Statistics department until his retirement in 1994, serving as department chairman from 1981-1986. His field of expertise was probability theory, specifically queues, the subject of the book he co-authored in 1961.

    In 1960, Walter was awarded Cambridge University’s prestigious Adams Prize for his submission “Contributions to Renewal Theory”. In 1974, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for his sabbatical leave in Cambridge, where he was a Sir Winston Churchill Overseas Fellow at Churchill College. He was known as an outstanding lecturer and a witty raconteur. In addition to being invited as a plenary speaker at major statistical conferences across the world, he was also sought out to give after-dinner speeches to entertain attendees.

    In the 1960s and 70s, Walter was active in local amateur drama. His major roles included Bottom in two different Playmakers productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Ko-Ko (The Lord High Executioner of Titipu) in The Mikado in productions with the Playmakers and later with the Durham Savoyards, John Wellington Wells in The Sorcerer and Major-General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, both with the Durham Savoyards, Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady for Duke Hoof ‘n Horn, Dylan Thomas in Dylan with Duke Summer Theater, and Socrates in Maxwell Anderson’s Barefoot in Athens.

    From the early to mid 1980s, Walter was very interested in using the new home computers to type mathematical documents. He created the technical word processing software packages QWERTY and DAISY, which led to the development of his son’s technical word processor EXP.

    In his retirement, Walter enjoyed reading, painting oil pictures, playing the piano, listening to his enormous collection of classical music, tinkering with his computers, and making annual trips to England and France. In December 2009, Walter and Mary moved into the Carolina Meadows retirement community in Chapel Hill, where he became an active member of the film club. His final lectures were given as part of Carolina Meadows University on the topic of the Dreyfus Affair.

    It was Walter’s wish that he be cremated and that there be no memorial service or funeral. For anyone who wishes to remember him with a donation, two charities he supported are the Chatham Outreach Alliance food pantry in Pittsboro ( and the Carolina Meadows Foundation

    Bahadur lecture

    March 24, 2023

    Bahadur lecture at IISA 2023 meeting

    March 24, 2023

    Bahadur lecture

    Prof. Budhiraja will be giving the plenary Bahadur lecture at the forthcoming 2023 IISA meeting at the Colorado School of Mines in Golder, CO.
    You can check the event website here:

    Ragu Raj Bahadur

    Ragu Raj Bahadur was born on April 30, 1924 in Delhi, India. After completing his undergraduate education in the University of Delhi, he secured his Ph.D. in statistics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 1950, under the guidance of Herbert Robbins. In the 1950s he served as a Professor at ISI, Calcutta, and from 1961 onwards, he was a Professor of Statistics at the University of Chicago, where he retired in 1992 and passed away as a Professor Emeritus on July 7, 1997, at the young age of 73.

    Bahadur was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, the International Statistical Institute, the Indian National Sciences Academy and the Indian Academy of Sciences. He was an excellent lecturer and the 1974 Wald Lecturer of the IMS and served as the President of the IMS in 1974-75.

    Bahadur made several foundational and seminal contributions to statistics. His papers are extremely well written and transparent. His paper on `On Fisher’s bound for asymptotic variances’ provides an elegant proof of the fact that in the absence of regularity conditions the Fisher information bound for the asymptotic variance of CAN estimate of a parameter may be violated on a set of parameter values having Lebesgue measure zero. In connection with his work on Bahadur efficiency he developed in depth large deviation analysis of the log-likelihood ratio statistic. One of his most cited paper is the paper bearing the title “A note on quantiles in large samples” in Ann. Math. Statist. 37, 577–580, 1966, where he obtained an almost sure first order approximation for the sample quantile. This work was later refined by Jayant Ghosh and Jack Kiefer. It is now known as the Bahadur-Ghosh-Kiefer representation. Bahadur’s work with T.W. Anderson on solving binary classification problems with applications to statistical classification and engineering is known as the Anderson-Bahadur algorithm.

    Steve Stigler, the Ernest De Witt Burton Distinguished Service Professor of Statistics at the University of Chicago, says that “Raj was one of the architects of the modern theory of mathematical statistics. His work, which was characterized by a singular depth and elegance, changed the way statisticians think about statistical information at a fundamental level. People from all over the world made pilgrimages to see him.” To honor his legacy, the IISA has instituted Bahadur Lecture Series since 2017.

    Past Bahadur Lecturers were:

    • Soumendra Lahiri (2022, Bengaluru)
    • Arup Bose (2019, Mumbai)
    • Alexander Belloni (2018, Gainesville)
    • Jay Sethuraman (2017, Hyderabad)

    (By Hira Lal Koul)