Dr. Valen E. Johnson, professor of statistics and head of the Department of Statistics at Texas A&M University, has been appointed as a University Distinguished Professor.

Johnson, a renowned expert in Bayesian statistics and using probability distributions to represent uncertainties with regard to unknown quantities, earns recognition along with two additional Texas A&M faculty as the latest recipients of the coveted title: Dr. Akhil Datta-Gupta, Regents Professor and holder of L.F. Peterson '36 Endowed Chair in Petroleum Engineering in the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, College of Engineering; and Dr. Cheryl Lyn Walker, Robert A. Welch Professor and director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology.

The 2016 university distinguished professor honorees join a select group of more than 85 current faculty members who hold the prestigious title -- 33 of whom are affiliated with the College of Science. The title, which is bestowed in perpetuity, denotes a faculty member who is pre-eminent in his or her field, has made at least one seminal contribution to the discipline, and whose work is central in any narrative of the field and is widely recognized to have changed the direction of scholarship in the field.

"University Distinguished Professors represent the highest level of achievement for our faculty," said Dr. Karan L. Watson, provost and executive vice president. "They are recognized as pre-eminent scholars in their fields, and their accomplishments are exemplified by seminal contributions to their respective disciplines. They demonstrate to the world the high quality of scholarship underway at Texas A&M University."

The group will be honored at an April 27 reception hosted by Texas A&M President Michael K. Young and the Texas A&M Foundation to celebrate all faculty who are distinguished professors.

Johnson, who joined the Texas A&M faculty in September 2012, has served as head of Texas A&M Statistics since March 2014. He is the fourth statistics professor to be appointed as a university distinguished professor, joining the late Dr. Emanuel Parzen (1978), Dr. Raymond J. Carroll (1997), Dr. Clifford H. Spiegelman (2009) and Dr. Bani K. Mallick (2011) in so representing his profession.

"Dr. Johnson is a preeminent scholar who has made seminal contributions to his field and has provided insight into a number of areas of profound societal significance," said Dr. Meigan Aronson, Dean of the College of Science. "His commitment to seeking out the most important problems where statistical analysis intersects with novel data sets greatly enriches our university. We are proud that his accomplishments have been recognized in this way, and we greatly value his leadership within the College of Science."

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 and then his Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Chicago in 1989. Before coming to Texas A&M, Johnson held academic positions at Duke University (1989-2001), the University of Michigan (2002-2004) and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (2004-2012). He also spent a yearlong sabbatical as a technical staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory (2001-2002).

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 reliability of space shuttles and other early stage rockets and to gauge the effectiveness of 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's current methodological research interests focus 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.

"Dr. Johnson's research work on Bayesian hypothesis testing is clearly groundbreaking, providing unique insights not seen before," said Bani Mallick, inaugural holder of the Susan M. Arseven '75 Chair in Data Science and Computational Statistics and both a fellow distinguished professor and expert in Bayesian statistics. "His body of work not only represents fundamental and transformative basic research, it also extends to practical realities for actual applications. I consider him a world leader in Bayesian statistics."

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

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

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

See the complete list of distinguished professors at Texas A&M.


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

  • Johnson's work with the American Statistical Association on p-values made international headlines last month in a host of worldwide outlets, including FiveThirtyEight, which also published his related limerick: "That's out of date, Our studies don't replicate, P point oh oh five, then null is rubbish!"

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