News and Events from 2014-2015

Feedback on Candidates for Visitor in Mathematics Welcomed

Students - check your emails for opportunities to give the Department feedback on candidates for our visiting positions in mathematics. 

DataFest Information Session

DataFest 2015 (the coolest annual data competition in the Valley) is fast approaching (March 27-29) and we will be hosting an info session as well as several workshops in the next several weeks to get everyone geared up! Here’s a link to some details about DataFest.
On Thursday, March 5th from 7-7:30PM in SMUDD 207, we will host an info session (with delicious cookies!). Come find out what DataFest is all about and if you are interested, formally sign up for DataFest. Past participants will be present to share their experiences and to answer your questions. Immediately following, from 7:30-8:30PM, the Statistics Fellows will host the first of our workshop series—this first one is on Working with Data in R. Come with laptops if you would like to follow along with the live demonstration. 
Can’t make it to the info session but still want to take part in DataFest? Send an email to Prof. Wang ( or Prof. Wagaman (

Workshops in Statistics and R

Brought to you by the Statistics Fellows

** Working with Data in R **

Thursday, March 5th - 7:30-8:30 pm in SM 207
(preceded by DataFest Information Session 7-7:30)
Hosted by Lana, Thomas, and Christina

 ** Visual Packages in R **

Tuesday, March 10th - 7-8 pm in SM 207
(including ggplot2 and Shiny)
Hosted by Johannes, Megan, and Muling

 ** Tidy R Basics **

Thursday, March 12th - 4-5 pm in SM 207
Hosted by Alex and Jon

 ** Accessing Bigger Datasets Using Databases in R **

Tuesday, March 24th - 7-9 pm in SM 207
Hosted by Professor Horton
(Please RSVP to by Monday, March 23rd to receive workshop materials)

Sports Analytics Forum - Rescheduled

On Sunday, March 29 from 1 PM – 4 PM, Amherst College will be hosting a Sports Analytics Forum in the Cole Assembly Room on campus. The day will consist of several guest speakers who work and/or do research in the field of Sports Analytics, in addition to a handful of research presentations by students. This event is free and open to the public. If you would like an in-depth look into the day, please visit: Sports Analytics Forum Details. Brought to you by Amherst LEADS.

Monday, February 16, 2015: Taylor Arnold, AT&T Laboratories

Oh the Places You'll Go:  The Surprising Complexity of Statistics' Most Basic Model

Abstract: A Bernoulli distribution describes a process which has only two outcomes. Despite the simplicity, it is used in a wide array of applications including a simple coin toss, the outcome of a sporting event, weather models, and the winner of an election. A careful analysis of the Bernoulli distribution also raises a number of theoretical questions leading to topics such as Bayesian inference, minimaxity and estimator theory. Fortunately, the relatively uncomplicated nature of the Bernoulli model allows such questions to be studied without the advanced mathematical machinery required for a more general treatment. This talk will explore these practical and theoretical considerations, with a focus towards the `big questions' which continue to guide modern statistical research. Two real datasets, from baseball and medicine, will be used throughout to guide the discussion.

4:30 pm in Seeley Mudd 206 with refreshments in Seeley Mudd 208 at 4:00

Love of Math and Stats Week

In recognition of the approach of Valentine's Day, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics presents to you the first  LOVE OF MATH AND STATS WEEK.  We have a series of events this coming week to give you a chance to meet fellow math/stats majors, to hear about what other people are studying, and, of course, to eat some pizza.

Here is the lineup:

Monday, February 9, 2015 - Pizza Party

4:30pm: Pizza Party in Seeley Mudd 206 (featuring a mystery competition with prizes!)

 (PLEASE RSVP to Anne Torrey ( by THIS FRIDAY (Feb. 6th) if you want to come and tell her your favorite Antonio's flavor). 

 Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - Colloquium Talk

Cristina Ballantine, College of the Holy Cross

 Rolle's Theorem for Polynomials over Finite Fields

 Abstract:  Rolle's Theorem from calculus says that a differentiable function f that takes the same value at two different points must have a horizontal tangent line between them.  As a consequence, between any two zeros of f there must be a zero of its derivative function f'.

Is Rolle's Theorem still true if f is a polynomial and the coefficients of f live in a world different from the real numbers?  We will investigate what happens if this new world is a finite field ( a finite set in which you can still perform operations similar to addition, subtraction, multiplication and division).

 No background beyond linear algebra is needed for this talk.

4:30 pm in Seeley Mudd 207 with refreshments in Seeley Mudd 208 at 4:00 pm.

Note: The room for the talk has been updated to SM 207. Due to multiple talks scheduled at once, we will update if the room changes.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 - Games Night

7pm: Games Night in Seeley Mudd 208

Bring along your favorite board and card games! Refreshments will be provided.

Thursday, February 12, 2015 - Thesis Writer Talks

 4:30 pm: Thesis Writers Talks in Seeley Mudd 207

 We have a few of this year's honors students giving short talks on the topics of their thesis. Come and support your friends and hear about some of the interesting math being done by this year's seniors.

Friday, February 13, 2015 - Movie Night

 7pm: Math/Stats Movie Night in the Pruyne (Fayerweather) Lecture Hall

 To help choose the movie(s), please fill out the following survey before Wednesday next week: (link removed)

 Remember that your suggestions must have *something* to do with math or stats!

 Recent Lunch for Women in STEM

Twenty women math, statistics, and science majors enjoyed a catered lunch with a panel of three alumni on Friday, October 24, discussing graduate school and pathways into different careers. The alumni panel included:

Hannah Suh (class of 2001, now an actuary at New York Life Insurance Company)

Ilse van Meerbeek (class of 2007, now an engineering grad student at Cornell)

Melissa Moulton (class of 2009, now an oceanography grad student at MIT/Woods Hole)

The alumni offered great advice to the students, encouraging them to explore their options and chat with people working in different careers to discover which opportunities might be a good fit. All three recommended trying new directions and not to worry about immediately fixing on a path directly out of college. Their own paths after graduation provided them with a wide variety of experiences, before they each found the right fit for a career.

Funding for the event was provided by the Dean of Faculty’s office and the Clare Boothe Luce Foundation.

 Panel Discussion on Graduate study in Biostatistics on October 21st

A panel discussion with faculty and current students from the Department of Biostatistics at Brown University

Come hear about opportunities for graduate study in biostats (both MA and PhD) from Prof. Christopher Schmid and two current students at the Center for Statistical Sciences.

Tuesday, October 21st
4:30pm in Seeley Mudd 206
Free and open to the public

Please contact Nicholas Horton ( with questions or for more information.

Thursday, October 2

Hamed Ibrahim ‘09

Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mathematical Methods in Hydrology

The object of this talk is to describe the use of mathematics in hydrology, the study of water on earth and in the atmosphere. We will use observation to establish basic physical principles for our analytical treatment of how water moves. Next we derive the equation for the motion of water underground and show that in the case where there are no bubbles in the water (incompressible) the motion of water underground is similar to the motion of heat and electricity. Then we come to the surface and consider motion in the oceans and atmosphere, where water and air often mix and move together, and so here we allow for bubbles in the water (compressible). We derive equations that are used to approximate motion in the oceans and atmosphere. Lastly, we discuss exchange of water between the oceans and the atmosphere (precipitation and evaporation) and conclude with the role of computer models in hydrologic investigations. No prior background beyond calculus one and basic knowledge of matrices is needed for this talk.

 4:30 pm in Seeley Mudd 206 with refreshments in Seeley Mudd 208 at 4

Amherst Students Attend REU Mini-Conference at Yale, July 25, 2014

 A group of nine Amherst College Mathematics and Statistics students attended the day-long conference at Yale.   There were brief talks by students, a panel on applying to graduate school, and a poster session. 

Eight of our students presented posters based on their summer research projects:

Melody Owen and Shelly Tang, work with Tanya Leise

Ilya Kiselev, work with Tanya Leise

Megan Robertson and Barnali Dash of Mount Holyoke, work with Amy Wagaman and Martha Hoopes of Mount Holyoke

Itai Brand-Thomas, Nevon Song and Jenny Xu, work with Amy Wagaman and Sheila Jaswal of Chemistry

Daniel Law, work with Jennie D'Ambroise

Cole Hawkins and faculty members David Cox and Tanya Leise also attended the conference, and everyone had a good time.  One of the conference organizers was Amanda Folsom, who will be joining our department in September. Some photos of the students and faculty in attendance can be found below (first: courtesy of Jifeng Shen, second: courtesy of Tanya Leise).



Recent Graduate Featured in Biostatistics Program

Recent Amherst graduate Esther Fevrier '13 (double major in Mathematics and Black Studies) is the featured participant in the 2014 Harvard Department of Biostatistics Summer Program in Quantitative Sciences. For more details about the program and to read the feature on Esther, click here.

Want to Teach at a Liberal Arts School Like Amherst?

Amherst mathematics and computer science alum, William Gryc '01, wrote a recent article about applying for tenure-track positions at liberal arts schools based on his own experience for a recent issue of MAA Focus (August/September 2014). You can read the article here (page 22).


Math and Stats Alumni panel   

This coming Saturday (November 14) in Seeley Mudd 206 we are pleased to welcome back six of our math major alumni to make presentations about their career paths and how math and stats have been useful to them in that. They will also give you advice on how to make the most of your time at Amherst.

We have the following presenters:

Anna Mullen '09: investment analyst

Benjamin Dickman '08: postdoctoral scholar in math education

Mary Beth Broadbent '10: marketing analyst

Caleb Hayes-Deats '06: assistant US attorney

Anna Haring '10: physical therapist

Jesse Carroll '07: actuarial analyst

They will each give a 10-15 minute presentation with time for questions. The event will start at 2pm with three presentations from 2-3pm, a break for refreshments and informal questions, then three more talks from 3-4pm.

Statistical Analysis of Big Genetics and Genomics Data

CVC colloquium: Monday, November 16, 2015 4:30pm, SMUDD 206, refreshments 4pm in SMUDD 208

Xihong Lin, Department of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Abstract: The human genome project in conjunction with the rapid advance of high throughput technology has transformed the landscape of health science research. The genetic and genomic era provides an unprecedented promise of understanding genetic underpinnings of complex diseases or traits, studying gene-environment interactions, predicting disease risk, and improving prevention and intervention, and advancing precision medicine. A large number of genome-wide association studies conducted in the last ten years have identified over 1,000 common genetic variants that are associated with many complex diseases and traits. Massive targeted, whole exome and whole genome sequencing data as well as different types of -omics data have become rapidly available in the last few years. These massive genetic and genomic data present many exciting opportunities as well as challenges in data analysis and result interpretation. They also call for more interdisciplinary knowledge and research, e.g., in statistics, machine learning, data curation, molecular biology, genetic epidemiology and clinical science. In this talk, I will discuss analysis strategies for some of these challenges, including rare variant analysis of whole-genome sequencing association studies; analysis of multiple phenotypes (pleiotropy), and integrative analysis of different types of genetic and genomic data.

Ongoing - Math and Stats Table every Monday, noon - 1:30, Valentine Terrace Room B MOST weeks    

Past News and Events can be found in the Archive.

Causal Inference: Identifying Subgroups by their Response to Treatment

Statistics Colloquium: Thursday, October 22 7:30pm, SMUDD 206

Sarah Anoke, Department of Biostatistics, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Abstract: Causal inference is a field of statistics focused on measuring a particular type of relationship between two variables. Referring to these two variables as the `treatment’ and the `outcome’, we consider the value that an individual’s outcome would take if the treatment was present, and the value that the individual’s outcome would take if the treatment was absent. The difference in these two potential outcomes is the treatment effect. Every individual has their own individual treatment effect (ITE). But because only one of these two potential outcomes is observable, ITEs cannot be estimated from observed data. To overcome this problem, the average outcome among a group of individuals unexposed to treatment is subtracted from the average outcome among a group of individuals exposed to treatment, yielding an average treatment effect (ATE). It is of interest to identify subgroups for which the subgroup-specific ATE is very different from the overall ATE. Knowing the overall ATE is arguably misleading; we would prefer to know that the drug has no effect within women but a dramatic effect within men. How then, can the data tell us which subgroups respond particularly well or poorly to treatment, without advance knowledge of these subgroups?

Statistical Tools and Challenges for Monitoring Migratory Birds

Statistics Colloquium: Friday, October 30th 2:00pmpm, Amherst College Frost Library 211

Emily Silverman, Statistician, Division of Migratory Bird Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Abstract: Federal management of migratory birds began 100 years ago, when the United States signed the 1916 Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds with Great Britain (for Canada).  These protections were codified in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) of 1918, which now covers over 800 species of birds, and stands as one of the earliest U.S. environmental laws.  The evolution of management approaches since the MBTA has led to the development of monitoring programs and quantitative methods in wildlife science. I will present the history of bird monitoring and statistical methods for population assessment and will discuss new approaches, challenges, and how a solid understanding of statistical concepts is essential for informed management.  Drawing on examples from my own work, I will highlight the interdisciplinary skills needed to operate effectively as a scientist and statistician in a resource management agency.  As our ability to collect information about the natural world expands in an increasingly digital world, the need for innovative, technically-adept wildlife scientists is expanding.