Earlier this year Neil Cox and colleagues celebrated 40 years of Neil’s valuable service to science in AgResearch and its predecessors.
Neil is pictured here with his AgResearch statistical colleagues at Ruakura in a 2004 photo. Congratulations, and Well Done, Neil! Recently Neil
re-located south to our Invermay campus near Mosgiel.
Clockwise from top left: John Waller, Vanessa Cave, Barbara Dow, Martin Upsdell,
Catherine Cameron, Harold Henderson, Neil Cox.
Chikako van Koten was fortunately in Japan when the Feb 22 Christchurch earthquake struck, and she found her house with no damage when she came home on the 24th.
She also managed to miss the big earthquake in Japan on March 11th, and after one nervous night of waiting she found out by email that all of her family,
relatives and friends in Japan are O.K. She said one lesson learned from this experience is that the Internet and email seem more reliable
than telephone in the case of a big disaster like this, in order to communicate with the loved ones overseas. She still could not make
voice contact even on Monday the 14th, three days after the earthquake!
Verina Yuan left our team at Invermay to do other things. She had been there for 2 years. At last report she is working for the IRD.
Dongwen Luo was the sole AgR representative at the IBC in Brazil in December, and presented a poster regarding an aspect of
"Linear Mixed Effects Models for Large-scale Datasets".
Our biggest piece of news is by far our saddest. Roger Littlejohn passed away on March 6th, and
you can read a tribute to him elsewhere in this edition. His absence leaves a large gap in our group,
and he will be greatly missed. He was a fine person as well as a fine statistician. Our sympathies go out to his wife
and children for their enormous loss.
Auckland University of Technology
In February 2010, Professor Jeff Hunter was appointed to a part-time position as Head of Research in the Mathematical Sciences. In July he accepted secondment
to a full-time position as Head of Mathematical Sciences, in order to assist the School to undertake a major change in its staffing structure, where his
background proved to be of considerable assistance.
At the end of last year, five staff in the Mathematical Sciences in the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences (Neil Binnie, Helen Petersen, Peter Watson,
Rowena West, Stuart Young) took early retirement. This brought about the appointment of five new permanent lecturers from the beginning of 2011
(Drs Hyuck Chung, Robin Hankin, Jeong (Kate) Lee, Guanghua (Andy) Lian and Jiamou Liu). We are delighted to have them join us to strengthen the
degree offerings and research activity within the School.
Robin Hankin, Jiamou Liu, Jeong (Kate) Lee, Hyuck Chung, Guanghua (Andy) Lian.
Dr Hyuck Chung - Lecturer in Applied Mathematics. Hyuck was appointed last year on a fixed term contract, following post doctoral experiences at the
University of Otago, University of Auckland and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. His PhD is from the Department of Mathematics at the
University of Auckland.
Dr Robin Hankin - Lecturer in Statistics. Robin joined the School from the Department of Land Economy at the University of Cambridge where he was a
Senior Research Associate. He has had teaching experience at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton and a five year period at the University of
Auckland in the School of Environmental Science. His PhD is from the Engineering Department at the University of Cambridge.
Dr Jeong (Kate) Lee - Lecturer in Statistics. Kate joined the School from the University of New South Wales in Sydney where she has been a Research
Associate following the completion of her PhD at Queensland University of Technology under the supervision of Professor Kerri Mengersen. Kate also
has a MSc with First Class Honours in Applied Mathematics from the University of Auckland.
Dr Guanghua (Andy) Lian - Lecturer in Applied Mathematics. Andy completed his PhD in Mathematical Finance from the University of Wollongong early
last year and has recently been a post doctoral research Fellow at the University of Adelaide. Andy also has an MA in Business Management from
Huazhong University of Science and Technology at Wuhan, China and a BSc in Applied Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science from Sichuan University,
Chengdu, China. In addition he is completing studies as a Chartered Financial Analyst having qualified for a Certificate of Quantitative Finance.
Dr Jiamou Liu - Lecturer in Computer Science. Jiamou joined the School from University of Leipzig, Germany, where he has been a research fellow.
Jiamou completed his PhD from the University of Auckland in the field of Theoretical Computer Science. During his PhD he also studied in
Cornell University, USA and worked in Microsoft Research Asia, Beijing, China.
In addition to the above permanent appointments, a number of fixed term full-time appointments were made to Joy Fouchee, Martine MacGregor-Reid and
Dr Alana van der Merwe to be involved primarily in the pre-degree certificate programmes. This enabled us to reduce the number of part-time
casual appointments and will ensure that from the beginning of Semester 2 all academic staff teaching into degree programmes will be research
active and returnable in the PBRF exercise.
Assoc Prof Paul Cowpertwait attended the ANZIAM Conference in January 2011, and presented a paper on the empirical analysis of a
continuous-storm-type spatiotemporal stochastic rainfall model fitted to data from the Roma region, Italy.
This work has recently appeared as a featured "spotlight" article in Water Resources Research. Paul is currently engaged in a large
overseas research contract that aims to develop spatially representative rainfall and extreme events for a decision support system in Europe.
David Welch (Pennsylvania State University),
"Estimating parameters of a contact network for epidemic data"
Robin Hankin (AUT University),
"Getting something from nothing: the emulator"
Department of Conservation
We were saddened by news of Roger Littlejohn’s untimely death. Ian travelled with Jennifer Brown and David Baird to attend the celebration of Roger’s
life in Mosgiel. Ian and Roger studied together at Victoria Uni in the mid 1970s and worked together a lot in NZSA activities, particularly in relation
to our journal. Roger will leave a big gap in our association.
Ian was much more affected by the 22 February earthquake than previously. This one caught Ian in the middle of town - in fact in the city library.
It quickly became obvious that damage in the central city was much more severe than in September. A rapid trip back to the evacuation area at the back of
DOC’s offices in Kilmore St involved passing through some of the destruction in the northern CBD, crossing cracks in Victoria Square, avoiding cars
negotiating scattered bricks and severely broken road surfaces on Kilmore St, and finally picking a way over a pile of bricks, remnants of what had
been the neighbouring Caledonian Hall. Fortunately, none of the few staff in the building at lunchtime were injured or missing, much more fortunate than
those in the Pyne Gould building less than 500 meters away. However, at this stage it looks as though we will never be in that building
again, and it remains to be seen if we will be able to rescue much if anything beyond the computers and servers that have been retrieved by special teams.
A quick trip home revealed less and less damage when travelling west, and no injury and repairable damage at home. Ian is currently working mainly from home.
Ian’s office after February 22 Earthquake.
Earthquake aftermath has disrupted planning somewhat but we are preparing for a busy season of training at DOC, but without our main venue in Christchurch.
Main emphasis is on five sessions of a 3-day course on designing observational studies which has created wide interest in DOC and beyond plus a session each
on GLMs and mixed models. In addition we will be involved in training local DOC staff to lead sessions on data handling
in Excel, based on material originally
prepared for us by Neil Cox at AgResearch. Current registrations for that number 333 - more than 1 in 6 DOC staff!
We are also fitting in some overseas travel. Rohan is attending a modelling workshop in New Caledonia in April, and has been invited to present an R workshop at
an International Statistics Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka at the end of the year. Ian is a keynote speaker at the International Conference on Health Statistics
in the Pacific Islands in Fiji in July, with presentations on a couple of pet subjects -- data handling, and data visualisation, following his interests in
teaching statistics to non-statisticians . The conference is the first major project of the newly formed Friends of Australasia group in the American Statistical
Association, and more details are available here.
And to finish with our most important and positive news - Rohan has now completed his PhD with Murray Jorgensen at Waikato. His thesis introduces a new
method to compute the Robust statistics for the model parameters and their influence functions, under the title "Using Finite Mixtures to Robustify Statistical
Ian Westbrooke and Maheswaran Rohan
Massey University, Albany Campus
Marti Anderson's bit ...
It has been an eventful few months for the statistics group at Massey Albany.
Oliver Hannaford has successfully completed confirmation for his PhD, entitled "The effects of environmental heterogeneity on the evolutionary mechanisms
and ecological patterns of biodiversity".
Meanwhile, John Xie has now successfully completed his PhD thesis and is now off to greener (or at least soggier) pastures in Brisbane,
Australia. His sparkle and enthusiasm will be sorely missed! We are also drying our eyes after learning the news that Marie Fitch
will be leaving our group to take up a new position at University of Auckland. She is looking forward to new challenges working with our esteemed
colleagues "over the bridge", so renowned for their expertise in Teaching Statistics, which is certainly one of her passions. But oh how we will miss her!
In other personnel news, Marti Anderson has moved from the Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences (IIMS) over to the NZ Institute for Advanced Study
(Gaven Martin’s group) here at Massey Albany, which will provide excellent new research opportunities, while still allowing her to keep close ties
with the stats group.
The up-shot of all these movements is that two new academic positions have been advertised for Statisticians with the Albany group.
In other news, the summer has been filled with diving expeditions, as Adam Smith’s PhD research, using the RV Poisson (our 4.3m rigid inflatable)
develops in full swing.
Adam is combining hands-on marine field work with Bayesian statistics to give us better models of the effects of marine reserves on fish communities.
How much fun can one lot of statisticians have counting fish? We are pushing the boundaries on this one, along with colleagues David Raubenheimer
(in the Institute of Natural Sciences) and Russell Millar (University of Auckland). Colleague Dr Mat Pawley is trying to beat us by having fun counting
shellfish on beaches, having landed a new Ministry of Fisheries contract for the privilege. We think we saw him taking a surfboard along the last time he
We recently hosted Dr Tim Langlois, a former PhD student of Marti’s, who is now working as a postdoc with the Oceans Institute at the University of
Western Australia. Tim came out for a dive with us and also gave us a couple of interesting seminars, outlining his current research on bio-geographical
gradients in fish diversity along the Western Australia coastline.
Several international workshops in multivariate analysis, to be given by Marti Anderson, are in the cards for 2011 - in Portugal, the UK, New York,
and Brisbane, which continues to provide a source of joy and new collaborative activities.
Prof Anderson blatting around.
Marie Fitch's bit ...
Beatrix Jones is currently on sabbatical, but just over the bridge (at UoA), which means we are fortunately able to continue to prevail upon her for her
inputs into our research meetings (for research purposes only, mind!) This February Beatrix also took time out from a family trip to her hometown of
East Lansing, Michigan, to give a talk entitled "Challenges in Gaussian Graphical Models" to the statistics department at Michigan State University.
The talk went well, despite an audience well sprinkled with the parents of high school classmates!
Howard Edwards and Beatrix Jones (with a small amount of input from Marie) have been awarded an Ako Aotearoa grant to create a Data and
Story library of datasets suitable for use in business Statistics courses. Before he left John Xie was employed to begin gathering data.
Contributions of suitable datasets are welcome and can be emailed to email@example.com. The resulting collection will be freely available online.
In February Barry McDonald attended MISG (Mathematics and Statistics in Industry study Group) at RMIT in Melbourne. He, along with (ex NZ) Professor Bill
Whiten from UQ, was moderator for a problem submitted by Transpower on wind farms.
Massey University, Manawatu Campus
Alasdair Noble left us for Plant and Food Research at Lincoln in February, arriving just in time to experience the February 22 Christchurch earthquake.
Alasdair has made a huge contribution to the Stats group over the years and will be sorely missed – especially by those taking over his teaching.
Ganesalingam has reduced his time to 50% by taking up a Teaching Fellowship. This has left us even more under-staffed, though we did manage to get
the other 50% of Debbie Leader who has now moved to a full-time appointment.
Three of our postgrads: Penny Bilton, Tian Mao and Bill Grant: recently completed the Master of Applied Statistics. Penny achieved First Class Honours, won a
Massey University Vice-Chancellor’s Doctoral Scholarship and has now started a PhD with Steve Haslett. We had a particularly good crop of Honours students
last year: Rebecca Green, Kate Holland, Emily Kawabata and Kate Richards: all of whom obtained First Class Honours.
Rebecca won a Massey Doctoral Scholarship and has started a PhD with Mark Bebbington, Kate H has been given a Fullbright to study Public Health in Arizona,
and Kate R is due to start a PhD with Martin Hazelton. Emily is weighing up her options but will probably be starting a PhD with somebody soon.
PhD student Tilman Davies recently returned from an extensive European excursion, made possible by funding as part of his Top Achiever’s Doctoral Scholarship.
Much time was spent working with Prof Jesper Møller, a world leader in research
concerning spatial point processes, at Aalborg University in Denmark.
Visits were also made to departments at the University of Warwick and Lancaster University in the UK, the University of Jyvskyla in Finland, and the
University of Gottingen in Germany. As a result, several exciting collaborations with a number of these institutions are currently underway.
Tilman Davies out for dinner with the Finns.
Martin Hazelton presented at the 2010 Wellington Workshop on Probability and Mathematical Statistics in November. He attended and gave a talk at the 2010
Australian Statistics conference in Fremantle (Western Australia) in December, and presented a satellite workshop on R in conjunction with A/Prof Berwin Turlach.
Doug Stirling attended the ENBIS conference in Antwerp in September and OZCOTS in Fremantle in December. A lecturer in Germany is currently translating CAST into
German and a translation into Serbian is also underway. Doug has been busy making changes to CAST’s structure so that it will
be easier in the future to produce customised and translated e-books.
Jonathan Godfrey’s flight to Christchurch in February was diverted to Auckland because of the earthquake. Nothing particularly unusual about this
except that he was on his way back from Sendai in Japan. We wonder what Ken Ring would make of this.
Plant and Food Research
At the start of February, Alasdair Noble joined us as our team leader, based at our Lincoln site. Alasdair probably needs no introduction, since he has been
involved with NZSA (particularly the Education committee) for a number of years; but for those who don’t know him, Alasdair has qualifications in engineering
and education and, until the mid-1990s, taught mathematics, physics and science to Head of Department level at several secondary schools. He then completed
M. Applied Statistics and PhD degrees at Massey University in Palmerston North, and joined the staff of the Institute of Fundamental Science where he was a
Senior Lecturer in Statistics with a strong element of consulting for research projects.
We would like to thank Peter Alspach, who did an excellent job as our acting team leader. I imagine he is distinctly relieved there won’t be any pressure to
continue in the role.
Alasdair’s start in the job has been somewhat disrupted by the February earthquake. Fortunately all our team in Lincoln got through unscathed.
We are very pleased to congratulate Andrew Wallace on his recent award for 40 years service with Plant and Food and its precursors. Andrew started work
at the State Services Commission in Wellington, and in 1967 did a Diploma in Science (Statistics) course at Otago Uni. This was the inaugural year of this
diploma course, and at the time it was the only post-graduate course in NZ. He then moved to DSIR at Lincoln, and has worked with scientists there ever since.
Esther attended the IBC conference in Brazil in December 2010. IBC is the international conference for statisticians working in biological fields,
and this year attracted over 800 delegates from around the world. Esther writes: "Many talks at the conference covered the recent huge developments in
research around statistical genetics and genomics in a wide range of agricultural, medical and ecological applications. There were several talks that were
relevant to my PhD research, including work handling crop models, and applications of Bayesian methods. I also got some great ideas for analyses
In other news, Sammie Yilin Jia was married on the 22nd of March. Congratulations Sammie and Michelle!
Finally, the team had a two day meeting on April 14-15. We discussed our team strategy within the organisation, and heard some interesting talks
around sensory testing from Nihal, Mark and Duncan. Additionally, Peter shared recent work with blueberry breeding with which he has been involved.
The meeting was a great opportunity to catch up with team members, particularly at the dinner on Thursday night at the very busy Speights Alehouse!
Plant and Food Research Biometrics Team with Science Group Leader Brent Clothier. From top right in serpentine fashion:
Brent, Marcus, Esther, Peter, Andrew M, Mark, Nihal, Andrew W, Duncan, Patrick, Sammie, Ruth and Alasdair.
Rod Ball reports on IBC 2010 held in Florianopolis, Brazil:
There were 989 contributed abstracts, and 62 invited abstracts, covering a range of statistical application and methodology areas, including experimental design,
genomics, bioinformatics, high dimensional data and Bayesian methods. With up to 5 concurrent sessions, it was not possible to attend even all the genomics or
genetics interest sessions.
The organisers kept us busy with buses arriving to take us from the hotels to the conference venue as early as 7am. This made it difficult to get over jet lag
especially after lunch in the darkened lecture rooms.
There were some interesting conference tours: Esther, Said, Mario and I were on Tour 8 (the only one not full) because we didn’t book in advance.
This turned out to be the best (we think) - a boat cruise to the fortaleza (island forts) in the Florianopolis bay, which is very large, with lunch at a beach
restaurant on another island. Some of the people had swims at the beach and from the boat later when it stopped in the middle of the bay!
There was a large number of creditable contributions from the local region including talks and posters, particularly applied work. They are however,
short of qualified statisticians to teach in universities in Brazil, and are even hiring engineers to teach statistics, according to one Brazilian professor I met.
University of Auckland
Our thoughts go out to colleagues affected by the Canterbury earthquake.
Here in Auckland things have been relatively quiet over the summer. We have
welcomed our new Professor of Biostatistics, Thomas Lumley, who joined us from
the University of Washington last year. We’re also pleased to welcome our
very-own NZSA newsletter editor, Esther Meenken, who is studying part-time
towards her PhD while she continues her work at Plant & Food Research.
Congratulations to Ross Ihaka, who won the Catalyst Lifetime Achievement in Open Source Award at the NZ Open Source Awards 2010,
for his development of R. This is just the latest in Ross’s long list of awards for his achievements - however it may be the first
and last time that he shares an award platform with the IRD, who were also open-source winners!
Maxine Pfannkuch won a $200K grant from the NZ Council for Educational Research’s Teaching and Learning Research Initiative,
entitled ‘Bootstrapping statistical inferential reasoning’, in partnership with Sharleen Forbes of VUW and John Harraway of U Otago.
The project aims to deliver a better understanding to first-year and Year 13 students of how inference works, using bootstrapping and
randomisation methods as a central foundation. The approach will be trialled on a small group of students first, and we are all very
interested to hear how it progresses.
Special congratulations to Nancy Wong of our admin staff, whose cheerful face is the first point of contact for visitors to our department.
Nancy’s never-ending efficiency, innovation, and cheerfulness was recognised by a university General Staff Excellence Award for 2010.
A handful of awards are given each year, and typically go to teams developing large-scale software systems for the university,
so it was a real delight to see Nancy recognised on the same platform. Nancy, Alexandra and Karen in the office go to huge
lengths to make our lives run smoothly, and awards like this are a great way to show how much we appreciate them!
And at last, for the first time in 7 years, someone in the department has succeeded in producing a baby girl!
Congratulations to Nick Shears on the birth of Calla Ann, and to PhD students Sam McKechnie and Jonathan Briggs
on the births of daughter Madeleine and son Theo, respectively.
Our total is now 25 boys and 6 girls born since 2000. Watch out boys, we now have enough for an all-girl five-a-side AND one referee....
University of Waikato
There have been big changes in the Waikato staff since our last input into the NZSA newsletter.
Both Murray Jorgensen and Bill Bolstad have retired from full time work and are currently working part time.
We now have a full time tutor, Carolyn Munro, to run our first year tutorials. Carolyn started early 2010.
We welcome Chaitanya Joshi who starts
work with us in July 2011.
We recently hosted Stephen Senn from Glasgow University, who gave a seminar "Control in clinical trials – lessons from 2 very different case studies".
Judi McWhirter, Lyn Hunt and Steven Miller went to the Australian Statistical Conference/OzCots conference in Perth in December 2010, where
both Lyn and Steven presented papers.
Judi stayed on in Perth after the conference with the intention to explore Western Australia and travel across the continent.
But her plans were interrupted as she was hospitalized due to a pulmonary embolism, originally thought to be caused by the
flight from Auckland to Perth. Fortunately, she has recovered now.
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