2018-2019 Scholarship Recipients
The Statistics department awarded over $40,000 in scholarships to nine students for the 2018-2019 academic year. The awardees were selected from 38 applications, on the basis of academic achievement and research potential as well as a personal statement of professional goals. Recipients include undergraduates, master’s and PhD students, at all levels of their academic careers.
- Behnaz Moradijamei - Coyne Scholarship
- Haoyu Zhang - Coyne Scholarship
- Chenshuang Lu - Fryer Scholarship
- Jia Liang - Lin Research Scholarship
- Andrea Garcia - Iman Scholarship
- Narmadha (Meenu) Mohankumar - Siepman Scholarship
- Jennifer Delzeit - Waller Scholarship
- Nelson Walker - Coyne and Statistics Scholarships
- Congxing Zhu - Coyne Scholarship
Behnaz Moradijamei receives a Coyne scholarship
Behnaz is a third-year PhD student working with Dr. Mike Higgins. Before coming to K-State, she received a degree from Polytechnic University of Tehran (Amirkabir University) and worked as an industrial engineer at MTN company. Her current research involves a new method for incorporating cyclic structures in networks to improve community detection. She will present her results at JSM2018 this summer and a journal article will be submitted soon. When she is not studying, her favorite activities are running and biking.
A distinguishing property of communities in networks is that cycles are more prevalent within communities than across communities. Hence, the detection of these communities may be aided through the use of measures of the local ``richness'' of cyclic structures. She is investigating the use of two methods for quantifying this richness---loop modulus (LM) and retraced non-backtracking random walks (RNBRW)---to improve the performance of existing community detection algorithms. LM solves a quadratic program to find an optimal allocation of edge usage across cycles to minimize cycle overlap, thereby giving a rigorous way to quantify the importance of edges. RNBRW is a new method, developed as part of her research. It quantifies edge importance as the likelihood of an edge completing a cycle in a non-backtracking random walk. The premise is that RNBRW provides an efficient and scalable heuristic approximation to LM, which is verified by simulation results that suggest pre-weighting edges by the proposed methods can improve the performance of popular community detection algorithms substantially. The new method is especially efficient for the challenging case of detecting communities in sparse graphs.
Haoyu Zhang receives a Coyne scholarship
Haoyu is from southern China. Yangzhou, the city where she grew up, has a history of 2500 years and once was the most prosperous trading center for salt, rice and silk. Her research interest is environmental and ecological statistics. Haoyu is currently working on her PhD, which focuses on developing statistical models that can be applied to ecological data that contain a large number of species.
More specifically, Haoyu is interested in regularization techniques that can reduce the number of coefficients in regression-types model when there is a species by environmental interaction. When analyzing large ecological data sets, there may be hundreds of species. For a single environmental covariate there will be as many coefficients as there are species. This presents a problem because communicating the results of the analysis to policy makers is not feasible. She is currently working with her advisor Dr. Trevor Hefley and is collaborating with the United State Geological Survey’s Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center and the National Wildlife Health Center.
Reading and traveling are favorite nonacademic activities. She considers reading a routine of her daily life while traveling is the ultimate escape. She very much enjoys a rainy afternoon with a cup of tea and a book as much as traveling around the world.
Chenshuang Lu receives the Fryer scholarship
Chenshuang is from Tianjin, a port city in China. Before joining the K-State Statistics department in 2014, she earned a Master’s degree in applied probability and statistics from Northern Illinois University. She thinks life at K-State is simple, but full of challenges. She appreciates the theoretical courses, even though they make her “burn the midnight oil”, and the applied courses provide “powerful tools that make me competitive in the job market”. The higher-level courses such spatial statistics, high dimensional data and Bayesian data analysis “broaden my horizons and prove me diverse perspectives in statistics”. Currently, she is working with her advisor, Dr. Wei-Wen Hsu, on developing a joint model for longitudinal and count data with latent class. She plans to use the scholarship to attend the JSM conference and workshop, and buy more books. She would also like to travel across the U.S. and the world because, as the old Chinese saying goes, “traveling is more eye-opening than reading.”
Jia Liang receives the Lin scholarship
Jia is a Graduate Research Assistant and has been in the Statistics department for four years. Before coming to K-State, he worked in a commercial bank in China. He is a PhD candidate working with Dr. Weixing Song and his research is based on kernel method applied to regression estimation and testing. He feels this is a “fascinating project”, in part due to its “beautiful methodology”. He also works in the Statistical Consulting Lab, where he is a primary researcher on two long-term projects with Dr. Trevor Hefley. One project examines the African swine flu virus toxicity test using continual reassessment method, and the other studies land use affections on watershed flashiness.
Andrea Garcia receives the Iman scholarship
Andrea started her college career as a Family Studies major, but became fascinated with Statistics after she discovered actuarial science. She is conducting research with Dr. Scott Velasquez in Educational Supportive Services (ESS), using SPSS software to analyze graduation rates for ESS students, and expects to have the results this summer. She joined the Statistics department in Fall 2017, and is pursuing a BS in Statistics and Data Science. She plans to use this scholarship to support her in Fall 2018 when she studies abroad at the University of Liverpool in England. In her spare time, Andrea enjoys DIY projects and quick crafts, particularly sewing and quilting. During her junior year of high school, she made a queen size quilt that she still uses today.
Narmadha (Meenu) Mohankumar receives the Siepman scholarship
Originally from Sri Lanka, Narmadha is a third year PhD student currently working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. She developed a strong interest towards Statistics during her undergraduate degree in Statistics and Computer Science in University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka. She is particularly captivated by machine learning and Bayesian statistics and is currently working with Dr. Trevor Hefley. Before working with Dr. Hefley, she was a Research Assistant in Department of Agronomy with Dr. Andres Patrignani. For this research project, she won the award for top ten graduate student poster presenters in Graduate Research and the State Poster Session, in November 2017. She was also selected to represent Kansas State University at the Annual Capitol Graduate Research Summit at the Capitol Building, Kansas. In addition, she won the Outstanding Student Leader of the Year Award for the 2017-2018 academic year from Center for Student Involvement & Blue Key Honor Society.
Apart from studies, Narmadha likes very much to be involved with other student organizations and activities. She is the current President of K-State International Coordinating Council and the President of Sri Lankan Student Association at K-State. She also served as the vice president of Stat Club. Her passion towards community service led her to be the community service coordinator at Rotaract Club of Kansas State University. She has been elected as the treasurer in Graduate Student Council, and the International Affairs Director in Student Governing Association for next year. She says that "these volunteer experiences not only develop my organizing and communication skills, they also help me to learn to work with a diverse group of people, handle conflict and to successfully overcome every challenge in my life.”
Jennifer Delzeit receives the Waller scholarship
Jennifer earned a BS in Statistics and Data Science from K-State a year ago and is currently working on her MS. Originally a biology major, she caught the statistics “bug” after taking a JAVA class, where she learned to love the logic behind computer programming. So far, her favorite class has been Multivariate Analysis with Dr. Perla Reyes, because, in her words, “I really enjoyed being able to apply what I had learned in class to a dataset of my choosing and being able to actually write a whole report based off of that.” As an undergraduate, Jennifer worked on projects in three different biology labs – one in stem cells, one in cancer cells, and one in evolutionary genomics. She has publications under review from each of these projects. She is currently working on her Masters Report with Dr. Wei-Wen Hsu, analyzing a high dimensional dataset of women with breast cancer to see if there are specific gene locations that correspond to increased survival. For nonacademic pursuits, Jennifer is an avid enthusiast for anything on 2 wheels – she has three bicycles and three motorcycles.
Nelson Walker receives a Coyne scholarship and the Statistics scholarship
Nelson is originally from Freeport, IL and discovered the discipline of statistics as an undergraduate student at Brigham Young University. Nelson was drawn to statistics because he found it amazing that a single discipline could under-gird all of science. After completing his B.S. in Statistics he worked in industry for two years. Nelson is currently pursuing his MS & PhD at Kansas State University. Working with Dr. Trevor Hefley, Nelson is developing methods to correct bias in regression models caused when observations are recorded with inexact spatial locations. Public health and ecological citizen-science data sets are often collected in such a way that the true locations of individuals being measured are inaccurate. As a result, it is often impossible for researchers to obtain the covariates needed to apply regressions models to spatial data. Nelson's current research develops a generalized framework for correcting bias caused by inexact location information in spatially referenced binary and presence-only data. Nelson has also been active in the Statistical Consulting Lab and is an officer in the Stat Club.
Congxing Zhu receives a Coyne scholarship
Congxing is from Huaian, China, a city with many notable people, such as the first premier of the People's Republic of China, Zhou Enlai and the author of the Journey to the West, Wu Cheng'en. He is interested in statistics applied to entomology and ecology. Currently, he is working toward his MS at Kansas State University. Congxing is working with Dr. Trevor Hefley to evaluate numerical integration methods for kernel averaged predictors for use in spatial regression models. He hopes that the result of his research will make the increasingly employed regression modeling approach of kernel averaged predictors more accessible and reliable for entomologists and ecologists. In his spare time, Congxing loves sports, especially soccer, going fishing.