This Is What Science Looks Like at NC State: Montse Fuentes

Montse Fuentes (in red) and fellow researchers.

Editor’s note: This post was written by Montse Fuentes, Department Head and Professor of Statistics at NC State. The post is an entry in an ongoing series that we hope will highlight the diversity of researchers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The series is inspired by the This Is What A Scientist Looks Like site.

My name is Montse Fuentes, and I am originally from Spain. Currently I’m the department head and a full professor of statistics here at NC State. I received bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and music (piano performance) from the University of Valladolid (Spain), and my doctorate in statistics from the University of Chicago. I am also the principal investigator and director of the Research Network for Statistical Methods for Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (STATMOS), an initiative funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Photo courtesy of Montse Fuentes.
Photo courtesy of Montse Fuentes.

My research focuses on developing new statistical methods that can aid scientists working on atmospheric issues. My research group works on projects sponsored by the NSF, the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to understand the impact of pollution on human health and to improve our skills to forecast extreme weather events. My work on statistical models that predict air pollution levels and assess health risks associated with pollution won an EPA award in 2012, and I’ve also worked on statistical models used for weather prediction and hurricane forecasting.

Music and math have always been important parts of my life. The fact that the same parts of the brain are activated when listening to or playing Mozart (my favorite composer) as when engaged in spatial-temporal reasoning, explains why some of my research ideas and statistical inspiration occur while playing the piano. So, if you want to be good at math maybe you should learn how to play the piano!

But my main passion in life is for my wonderful children – my talented dancer, Veronica (12), and my two hockey players Ethan (9) and Jaden (5). I treasure every second I spend with them and with my supportive husband, Tom. NC State provides a great environment to balance family and work, making it possible to enjoy having an amazing family and a successful career in academia, and I am very grateful for that.

In fact, I am now pursuing a second Ph.D. in Industrial Organization Psychology at NC State, working under the supervision of Bart Craig on leadership and work-life integration.

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