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The passing of the baton, a changing of the guard, a new dawn in some ways in the leadership team in the College of Science. The College of Science comes together to celebrating the extraordinary service of our departing department chairs and welcome our new department heads. We are grateful for your many years of service to our faculty, to the College and to OSU. The legacy you leave behind has impacted generations of physicists, mathematicians and microbiologists.

“The job of a department chair is keeping an eye on the big picture, looking at the department as a whole and developing the department’s relationship with the College,” said Dean of Science Sastry Pantula. “But the chair is also a manager, keeping the day-to-day operations running smoothly; a researcher; teacher; consultant; a skilled navigator; tireless mentor; an accountant; and HR director. The hours are long, the days endless, the pay never enough, the thanks sometimes belated and the preparation all “on the job.”

“But I hope that the satisfaction comes from conducting a successful faculty search or re-imagining the department curriculum, mentoring a young colleague in their early years, serving others and watching others around you thrive,” adds Pantula. “I cannot thank you enough for the outstanding jobs you have done and for your many years of service to the College.”

The College has benefitted from the leadership and stewardship of our department chairs:

  • Theo Dreher, Chair of the Department of Microbiology, 2004-2014. Theo has been on OSU faculty for 28 years.
  • Tom Dick, Chair of the Department of Mathematics, 2011-2014. Tom has also been at OSU for 28 years.
  • Henri Jansen, Chair of the Department of Physics, 1998-2014. Henri arrived at OSU 30 years ago.

We welcomed three new extraordinary new department heads. With four of our seven department heads in the College now women, we are demonstrating our deep commitment to diversity in science.

  • Jerri Bartholomew, Head of the Department of Microbiology
  • Heidi Schellman, Head of the Department of Physics
  • Enrique Thomann, Interim Head of the Department of Mathematics

Thank you and welcome!

Departing chairs_dinner

Scientists can dance. Come out and support our science faculty and students who are competing in OSU’s annual Dancing with the FacultyAhern
fundraiser . Doors open at 6:30 pm Friday, February 20, and the dancing gets started at 7 pm in the Memorial Union Lounge, which is the area with the couches just upstairs from the front entrance. Watch some of your favorite science faculty take to the floor, performing impressive dance routines.

Representing the College of Science are three professors from the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics: Kevin Ahern, Andy Karplus and Phil McFadden.

Although this fundraising event is free, audience members are encouraged to “vote” for the winners at 50 cents/vote with an unlimited number of votes). All proceeds going to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, which raises much-needed funds and awareness from more than 4 million people in over 20 countries to save lives from cancer.

Dancing with the Faculty is jointly hosted between several student groups and organizations in the Colleges of Engineering and Science,. Of course the highlight is the spectacular dancing talents of students and faculty across both college as well as special performance performances from the OSU Elite Dance Team and PowerChord, OSU’s premier co-ed acappella group.

Join the Facebook event!

Performers include:

  • Kevin Ahern, Biochemistry & Biophysics, College of Science, dancing with the lady scientists from Sigma Delta Omega
  • Andy Karplus, Biochemistry & Biophysics, College of Science, dancing with Elizabeth Allan-Cole, an undergraduate research assistant
  • Phil McFadden, Biochemistry & Biophysics, College of Science, dancing with Sydney Quinton-Cox in the Sydney Quinton-Cox, a bioengineering major
  • Travis Walker, Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Karl (Dr. Rat) Schilke, Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Adam Higgins, Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, College of Engineering

Karplus  McFadden


The College of Science celebrated teaching and advising excellence at its annual Winter Awards Ceremony at the Memorial Union on February 3. Guided by the theme of mentorship, students and professors paid heartfelt tributes to cherished mentors who were instrumental in igniting their passion for science and influencing their careers.

“Impactful teaching and mentoring is what transforms good students into leaders of science,” said Sastry G. Pantula, dean of the College of Science who presented the teaching and advising awards. “I cannot thank faculty and advisors enough for the incredible amount of time spent advising, teaching and mentoring. It does indeed take a village to build the next generation of leaders in science.”

The event was enriched by the presence of students who announced the awards for which they had enthusiastically nominated their teachers and advisors.

Statistics senior instructor Jeff Kollath won the Frederick H. Horne Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching Science. His former student Juliann Moore praised him for guiding her career as a student, and, subsequently, as a teacher of statistics.

“Now I teach alongside my mentor. This instructor has shown me that teaching can be so rewarding,” said Moore, who is also a statistics instructor in the College.

Kollath described his own recipe for successfully teaching large undergraduate lecture classes. “You have to remember the audience you have and keep your expectations high as well as realistic.”

Physics Professor Henri Jansen, who won the Olaf Boedtker Undergraduate Advising Award, recalled the “invisible mentoring” he received from his postdoctoral advisor that continues to influence his own approach to student advising.

“The mentee has to be ready. Plant the seed, but don’t push,” said Jansen. “A good mentor should help you figure out what you should be doing, not what the mentor would have done.”

Mathematics Instructor David Wing, who won the Loyd Carter Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching, has a reputation for using Rubik’s Cube puzzles to break the ice with his students and make them fall in love with mathematics.

Biophysics and Biochemistry Professor Tory Hagen was awarded the Loyd Carter Award for Outstanding Graduate Teaching.

“Professor Hagen’s inspiring mentorship and teaching reminds me of the famous saying by Plutarch. ‘The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled,’” said Nick Thomas, his graduate student.

“The best way of teaching and mentoring is to give room and allow innately good students to achieve their best,” said Hagen while accepting his award.


Congratulations to the College of Science Winter 2015 Teaching and Advising Award Winners

Henri Jansen, Physics Department—Olaf Boedtker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising

David Wing, Mathematics Department—Loyd F. Carter Award for Outstanding and Inspirational Teaching, Undergraduate

Tory Hagen, Biochemistry & Biophysics Department—Loyd F. Carter Award for Outstanding and Inspirational Teaching, Graduate

Jeff Kollath, Statistics Department—Frederick H. Horne Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching


More than 600 students and teachers from elementary and middle schools across the Willamette Valley and as far north as Portland participated in Oregon State University’s Discovery Days. This annual outreach program is co-sponsored by the Colleges of Science and Engineering. College of Science Dean Sastry Pantula was on hand to talk with the students and handle the snakes.

Discovery Days encourages students to develop their own questions and ideas about science while creating a deeper interest to learn more. The activities and programs encourage students to explore more of the world around them by piquing their curiosity and engaging their minds with interactive exhibits.  Students participate in hands-on activities where they can even examine examining live specimens such as snakes and geckos as well as make polymers.

The event continues from 9:00 am-3:00 pm February 4 in LaSells Stewart Center on OSU’s main campus in Corvallis.

DD 2015 collage1 DD 2015 collage2 DD girls3_1789_web DD students painting_1776_web

By: Sastry G. Pantula, Dean, College of Science


Articles about Big Data are as ubiquitous as Big Data themselves are. However, as 2015 gets underway, I encourage you to consider reading the following two recent articles.

First, big data word cloud in the December issue of Significance, “Big data: A big mistake?”  And second, “The Enormous implications of Facebook indexing 1 trillion of our posts,” an article that appeared December 28 on

Harford makes an excellent point about the importance of using fundamental statistical principles in drawing conclusions and making proper inferences. Large “found data” is not a solution to everything, and worse, it could only lead to biased data, spurious correlations and false discoveries.

To quote Harford:

Cheerleaders for big data have made four exciting claims, each one reflected in the success of Google Flu Trends:

  • That data analysis produces uncannily accurate results;
  • That every single data point can be captured, making old statistical sampling techniques obsolete;
  • That it is passé to fret about what causes what, because statistical correlation tells us what we need to know; and that scientific or statistical models aren’t needed because, to quote “The End of Theory”, a provocative essay published in Wired in 2008, “with enough data, the numbers speak for themselves.” 

Unfortunately, these four articles of faith are at best optimistic oversimplifications.

Also, as with Census, there is a fascination with “N=All”, or a misconception that we are observing everything on everyone, without realizing what we are missing or that we are under counting certain groups. This article gives not only excellent examples to illustrate some of the traps and pitfalls of blind use of Big Data, but also illustrates what statisticians have spent the past couple of centuries figuring out in proper and efficient use of appropriate data. This is exactly the reason, as the College of Science develops a new master’s program in Data Analytics, we are basing it on solid statistical principles and then bring in collaborations with statistical, mathematical and computational sciences.

I mention the second article only to indicate how some of our data are becoming permanent records of our lives. There are certainly many privacy, ethical and moral issues related to how our own data could be used against us. Bits of biased information—as with the misconception of “N=All” and without proper context—can be extremely harmful and have a significant negative impact on people’s lives. These biased bits should be labeled:  “Handle with care!”

Fast forwarding from 53 years ago January, today the question is “Ask not what the Big Data can do for you, but what good you can do for society with Big Data.”

With New Year’s Eve a fading memory, don’t be intoxicated by the charm of Big Data. Instead, leave the keys in the hands of a good statistician to derive proper conclusions.

Braving the rain, nearly 400 students and faculty in the College of Science turned out to welcome new science students and connect with them over ice cream floats September 25. Everyone enjoyed the festivities, music, ice cream and good company. The new students met faculty and current students while learning about more than 15 science student clubs… Continue reading

The College of Science celebrated academic and administrative excellence at its annual Fall Awards Ceremony at the Linus Pauling Science Center. In addition to kicking off the new academic year, we took the opportunity to reconnect with each other and welcome new colleagues into our community. Congratulations to the following people in the College who received awards at the ceremony:

  • Edward Waymire, Mathematics Department – F.A. Gilfillan Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Science
  • Elisar Barbar, Biochemistry & Biophysics Department – Milton Harris Award in Basic Research in Science
  • Deanne Wilcox, Mathematics Department – Gladys Valley Award for Exemplary Administrative Support
  • Myra Koesdjojo, Chemistry Department – Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award
  • LeeAnn McGill and Andy Kuback, Arts & Sciences Business Center – ASBC Exemplary Service Awards

Welcome back and here’s to a wonderful year!

asa175ASA’s 175th Anniversary Breakfast Roundtable with past ASA Presidents and Executive Directors who will reflect on their leadership positions with ASA, including Dean Pantula, who served as the ASA President in 2010. In addition to serving on the World of Statistics Committee, he is also on the ASA Development Committee.

“I enjoy being associated with ASA, and I receive a great deal of satisfaction in serving the profession,” said Pantula.


Below are his responses to questions that ASA posed to the panelists.

What was your first thought when you were asked to run for president/be a candidate for executive director? What was your first thought when you learned you had won the election for president/been selected as executive director?

I was shocked when I got the call from Nancy Flourenoy about being nominated for ASA president. Who, me?

I couldn’t believe it. I talked to my dean at that time, Dan Solomon. He definitely said it is a great honor to be asked and that I must say yes. I recall talking to my classmate Sallie Keller, a former ASA President, and she said “how can you turn it down when your association calls you for your leadership help?” So, I accepted the nomination immediately, even without knowing at that time who my opponent may be.

When I found out that my opponent was Xiaoli Meng, I was very excited that at least for the first time, we will have an Asian president.

I was even more surprised, flabbergasted, when Ron Wasserstein called me several months later congratulating me on being elected.  What an honor it was and is!

When I told our daughter Asha that I won the election, she thought I beat Hillary Clinton, since I was talking about what a change it is for an Asian to lead the American Statistical Association. (Obama was talking about “Change we can believe in” at that time).


What was the high point of your time as president/executive director of the ASA?

My high point was traveling to various chapters and events and meeting people and talking about the impeccable impact statistical sciences are having on other sciences, engineering, business, and education.

I also enjoyed leading a delegation of 40 to China.

Certainly, I will always remember being the first Asian to be an ASA president (and so far the only one). We can use more diversity in the leadership and on the board.

I am always grateful to Fritz Schueren who gave me the opportunity to be the ASA Treasurer, which opened many doors for me.


What surprised you most about being president/executive director of the ASA?

How much our members are eager to volunteer and contribute to promoting the practice and the profession of statistics. It also gave me a sense for how big a tent ASA is and the importance of us paying attention to all of our sectors, not just academia.

I didn’t realize how many other doors (NSF Director for the Division of Mathematical Sciences, Oregon State University Dean of Science) it opened for me.

What surprised me is how well I got to know Ron Wasserstein the Executive Director of ASA and how wonderful he is as a person, and how dedicated he is to ASA’s success and our profession. I am very grateful for his friendship. It is by far one of the best surprising benefits I gained during the presidency and beyond!

Finally, it was such a pleasure to work with ASA staff.  There are more than thirty to name them all!


 What accomplishment as president/executive director of the ASA did you find most gratifying?

I truly enjoyed listening to our members. But also for advocating for our profession to youngsters and policy makers was the most gratifying experience.

I focused on “GIVE to ASA,” where GIVE stood for Growth, Impact, Visibility and Education.  We focused on membership growth; we developed mechanisms to explain our impact and to make us more visible; we worked on a tagline and an elevator speech for ASA; and we set in motion a process for studying workforce development, which my successors continued.

We enhanced the PR for ASA!


What particularly humorous or unusual incident happened to you while you were president/executive director of the ASA?

Certainly, my daughter thinking that I beat Hilary Clinton was cute.  I recall taking her to listen to Hillary speak, and Hillary getting a kick out of it when Asha handed over her Unicorn book for Hillary to autograph!

The AAAS director characterizing us, statisticians, as tools was unusual. That was a wake up call to recognize that we had a lot of work to do, and we did.  We now have some room at the table.


What advice would you share with future candidates for president or executive director of the ASA?

Enjoy!  What an honor it is to be the leader of 20,000 fellow members.

Connect with our members.  Don’t complain that you have to travel too much. Time will fly too fast.  So, start the job the day you get the news of being elected. Don’t wait until you are the president, by then it is too late if you want to see the impact of your vision.

Don’t run for the election if you are not excited about running around the globe! Toot the horn about our profession. Attract young people and future problem solvers.  Collaborate with other professions and other societies.


What are your feelings about the future of the ASA? What makes you particularly optimistic about the ASA’s future? What would you like to see addressed?

As you probably see from the Future of Statistical Sciences London workshop report, there is a bright future ahead of us. Data—big or small—will continue to play a role in discoveries and policymaking. We need to emphasize good ethics and trust in science. We are making significant progress in identifying data crooks and misuses of statistical methodologies. Keep being collaborative rather than combative. We have to not only be a part of scientific teams but also be the leaders at the table. Focus on grand challenges related to sustainability, energy, security and health.

As the goals at Oregon State University state: we want to make this a healthy planet for healthy people in a healthy economy. Who else can be a key to these goals besides statisticians?  We enable discoveries in other sciences, engineering, business and education, in addition to fundamental advances in statistical sciences.

Our Statistics faculty andasa175 Dean Pantula are in full force at the American Statistical Association’s Annual Joint Statistical Meetings in Boston August 2 – 7, 2014. They are celebrating the 175th anniversary of ASA – click to watch video from the Department of Statistics and Dean Pantula! They also be participating and presenting the following sessions to statisticians, faculty and students from around the country starting this weekend.

JSM is the largest gathering of statisticians held in North America. Attended by more than 6,000 people, meeting activities include oral presentations, panel sessions, poster presentations, continuing education courses, an exhibit hall, career placement services, society and section business meetings, committee meetings, social activities and networking opportunities.


In addition to being an American Statistical Association Fellow, Dean Pantula served as president of ASA in 2010.


August 3, 2014

Adam Branscum, Bayesian Nonparametric Methods and Some Applications – author

Sastrty Pantula, Development of Statistics Educational Programs in the South – author               


August 4, 2014

Yanming Di, Contributed Oral Poster Presentations: Biometrics Section  – author

Alix Gitelman, Section on Statistics and the Environment Business Meeting – chair

Ginny Lesser, Advances in Ecological Modeling – author

Paul Murtaugh, Advances in Ecological Modeling – author

Sastry Pantula, Developing Successful Mentoring Relationships (for mentors and protégés) – speaker

Quinn Payton, Advances in Ecological Modeling – author

Yuan Jiang, Contributed Oral Poster Presentations: Biometrics Section – author


August 5, 2014

Ginny Lesser and Lan Xue, Nonparametic Modeling – authors

Lan Xue, Emerging Statistical Methods for Complex Data – chair and organizer


August 6, 2014

Lan Xue, New Frontiers of Longitudinal Data Analysis – author

Alix Gitelman, Celebrate Our Past Through Histories of ASA Sections, Chapters, and Committees – author

Bo Zhang, Small Area Estimation – author


August 7, 2014

Alix Gitelman, Collaborative Statisticians Advancing Their Careers in an Academic Setting – panelist

Charlotte Wickham, Environmental Statistical Methods: Water and Forests – author