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Statistician Receives $5 Million To Train Atmospheric Researchers

A North Carolina State University statistician has been tapped to create a national network of statisticians with interdisciplinary expertise in atmospheric and oceanic science, in order to better quantify and interpret climactic and environmental data.

Dr. Montserrat Fuentes, professor and head of the Department of Statistics at NC State, will lead the five-year, $5 million project. The National Science Foundation is funding the project, which will provide interdisciplinary training for mathematicians and statisticians who are interested in atmospheric and oceanic science. Students will have the opportunity to receive specialized training at one of 12 participating institutions across the U.S.

The three lead institutions, or hubs, of the project are NC State, the University of Chicago and the University of Washington. The other nine participants, or nodes, are: Duke University, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Climatic Data Center, Ohio State University, Purdue University, San Diego State University, UNC-Wilmington, the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences, and the Statistical and Mathematical Sciences Institute.

“Students will be able to train at NC State or at any one of the other nodes,” says Fuentes. “While there, they can work on research with a local  mentor, but no matter where they train they will all end up with the same interdisciplinary expertise at the end.”

The topics covered by the students will include spatio-temporal modeling, which are statistical models that allow scientists to include all of the variables necessary to describe a changing world and to accurately assess climate projections.

“Statisticians specialize in quantifying uncertainty,” says Fuentes, “and as the complexity of the models we are being asked to create increases, it is becoming necessary for statisticians to have some background in those scientific fields. Interdisciplinary training is the future of statistics.”

The Department of Statistics is part of NC State’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.