(Credit: Dark Energy Survey Collaboration.)


Dr. Jianhua Huang, professor of statistics and acting associate dean of graduate studies in the College of Science, has been appointed as the inaugural holder of the Arseven/Mitchell Chair in Astronomical Statistics at Texas A&M University.

Huang, who also serves as graduate director in the Department of Statistics, has proven expertise in a variety of areas, including statistical machine learning, computational statistics and statistical methods for big data sets. In recent years, his interests have focused on developing novel statistical methods for solving data-enabled science and engineering research problems in collaboration with scientists and engineers, including multiple Texas A&M astronomers.

The $1 million Arseven/Mitchell Chair was established in 2012 through the Texas A&M Foundation with matching $500,000 gifts from 1974 Texas A&M statistics graduate Dr. Ersen Arseven and the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to benefit the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy as well as the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Statistics. The appointment will alternate between the two departments every five years. In addition to supporting the teaching, research, service and professional development activities of the holder, the chair is intended to accelerate the development of astronomical statistics capabilities at Texas A&M.

"Jianhua is an outstanding researcher with an international reputation for conducting cutting-edge research in statistical methodology and applying resulting methodology to complex engineering and scientific problems," said Dr. Valen E. Johnson, professor and head of Texas A&M Statistics. "His recent application of statistics to astronomy has been particularly noteworthy, and it was on the basis of these contributions that he was selected as the first recipient of the Arseven/Mitchell Chair in Astronomical Statistics.

"I anticipate that he will use proceeds from this prestigious endowed chair to fund graduate students and postdoctoral researchers to assist him and his collaborators in further advancing the field of astronomical statistics. He is a superb choice for this award, and I would like to again thank Ersen Arseven and the Mitchell family for providing funds for this endowed chair."

In recent years, Huang has worked with Texas A&M astronomer Dr. Lucas Macri to explore Mira variables as distance indicators and applied it to the M33 Synoptic Stellar Survey -- research that has led to three joint publications in astronomical journals thus far. He also has collaborated with Texas A&M astronomer Dr. Lifan Wang on several projects, including developing a novel data model of supernova light curves as well as fast and sophisticated statistical algorithms to extract weak signals from noisy spectra obtained using the Large sky Area Multi-Object fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST) survey in China.

In addition to working with Texas A&M faculty, Huang is influencing the next generation of statistical scientists, sending two of his Ph.D. students in the past two years to the La Serena School for Data Science focused on big astronomical data. One of his Ph.D. students has graduated with a thesis on astrostatistics, while two others currently are working on projects on astrostatistics.

Huang received his Ph.D. in statistics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1997 and spent seven years at the University of Pennsylvania prior to joining the Texas A&M Statistics faculty in 2005. As the inaugural holder of the Arseven/Mitchell Chair, he will be honored with a by-invitation-only reception set for Thursday, October 26, at the Texas A&M University Club.

"It is a great honor to be named to the Arseven/Mitchell Astrostatistics Chair," Huang said. "With the free availability of large volumes of astronomical data and the challenges of handling them, astronomy has gradually become one of my major areas of interdisciplinary research. In the past three years, I have been involved in several joint projects with our astronomers and encouraged several of my students to enter the astrostatistics field. This chair will boost those collaborations and help establish new ones while supporting research projects between Statistics and Astronomy, invited astrostatistics seminar speakers, and potential development of a new data science course at the interface of the two disciplines."

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

For more information about Texas A&M astronomy and the Mitchell Institute, go to http://astronomy.tamu.edu.

For more on giving opportunities to benefit faculty and academic programs, visit the Texas A&M Foundation's website.


Contact: Shana K. Hutchins, (979) 862-1237 or shutchins@science.tamu.edu or Dr. Jianhua Huang, (979) 845-5650 or jianhua@stat.tamu.edu

Hutchins Shana

  • Dr. Jianhua Huang

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