Dr. Valen E. Johnson has been appointed as head of the Department of Statistics at Texas A&M University, effective March 1, announced H. Joseph Newton, dean of the College of Science.

Johnson, a renowned expert in Bayesian statistics and using probability distributions to represent uncertainties with regard to unknown quantities, replaces Dr. Simon J. Sheather, who had served since 2005 as department head and has since returned to full-time teaching and research duties as director of the department's online statistics and analytics programs.

Johnson joined the Texas A&M Statistics faculty in September 2012 after eight years as a professor of biostatistics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In addition to previous administrative experience as acting division head of quantitative sciences and department chair of biostatistics at MD Anderson, he boasts a diverse career replete with myriad examples illustrating the power of statistics as a flexible tool with wide-ranging potential impact and world-changing application.

During the past three decades, Johnson has used his statistical expertise to estimate the reliability of space shuttles and other early stage rockets and to gauge the effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. In addition, he has analyzed comparative intelligences among non-human primates, probed grade inflation at American universities and developed more effective tests for evaluating cancer drugs -- versatile scholarship and perspective that Newton says will serve both Johnson and his department well.

"We are indeed fortunate to have such an eminent scholar as Val Johnson, with his wide variety of knowledge and experience, to lead the statistics department in continuing its outstanding efforts in all aspects of teaching, research and service," Newton added.

Johnson earned his bachelor of science in mathematics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1981, then served four years as a U.S. Army Intelligence Officer before receiving his masters 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 spent 12 years as a professor of statistics at Duke University, resulting in his 2003 book, Grade Inflation: A Crisis in College Education, that represents a first-of-its-kind, educational-assessment-related effort to address a problem which still persists nationwide today.

After Duke, Johnson completed a yearlong sabbatical as a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory (2001-02), then spent two years as a professor of biostatistics at the University of Michigan prior to joining MD Anderson as a professor of biostatistics in 2004.

As head of Texas A&M Statistics, Johnson hopes to continue the department's upward trajectory as one of nation's premier statistics programs. He is confident that, with quality faculty hires, effective junior faculty mentoring, and the continued success and support of the online learning and analytics programs, the department can become one of the top 10 public programs nationwide by 2020.

"My ultimate goal is to establish the department as an internationally recognized center for statistical education and research," Johnson said.

Johnson's applied research interests include educational assessment, ordinal data and rank data analysis, clinical trial design, image analysis, and reliability analysis, while his current methodological interests focus on Bayesian hypothesis testing and its connections to classical testing procedures, Bayesian variable selection, Markov chain Monte Carlo model diagnostics, and latent variable modeling.

To learn more about Johnson and his teaching, research and service, visit http://www.stat.tamu.edu/~vjohnson/.

For additional information about Texas A&M Statistics, go to http://www.stat.tamu.edu.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Valen E. Johnson, (979) 845-3141 or vjohnson@stat.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Valen E. Johnson

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