Meet Valen Johnson

Valen E. Johnson was named Dean of Science and holder of the Richard H. Harrison III/External Advisory Council Endowed Dean's Chair in Science at Texas A&M University (effective May 1, 2019) on April 8, 2019. He has served since July 1, 2018, as Interim Dean of Science.

Johnson joined the Texas A&M faculty in September 2012 and was named head of Texas A&M Statistics in March 2014. A renowned expert in Bayesian statistics and using probability distributions to represent uncertainties with regard to unknown quantities, he was appointed as a University Distinguished Professor in 2016. Prior to coming to Texas A&M, Johnson spent eight years as a professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he was acting division head of quantitative sciences and department chair of biostatistics.

Johnson received his bachelor of science in mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1981, then served four years as a U.S. Army intelligence officer before obtaining his master of arts in applied mathematics from the University of Texas in 1985. After earning his Ph.D. in statistics from The University of Chicago in 1989, he began his independent academic career at Duke University, serving 12 years as a professor of statistics. Following a yearlong stint as a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory from 2001 to 2002, he spent two years as a professor of biostatistics at the University of Michigan prior to joining MD Anderson in 2004.

During the past three decades, Johnson has analyzed comparative intelligences among non-human primates, probed grade inflation at American universities, examined the validity of student evaluations of teaching, and developed more effective tests for evaluating cancer drugs. He has developed models to estimate the effectiveness and reliability of early stage rockets, the Space Shuttle and the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In addition, he has used his statistical expertise to reinterpret the meaning of statistical significance and p-values, providing new insights into the sources of non-reproducibility of scientific research.

Johnson was named a University Distinguished Professor in 2016 for his seminal research focused on problems related to Bayesian hypothesis testing, Bayesian variable selection in ultra-high dimensional spaces, and latent variable models for ordinal and rank data analyses. His current methodological research interests focus on problems related to Bayesian variable selection, cluster analysis and the reproducibility of science.

Johnson is an elected fellow of the American Statistical Association (1999) and a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. He is also an elected member of the International Statistical Institute. He holds two patents and has published two books, Ordinal Data Models and Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education.

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