MSSISS 2018 – MSSISS 2024


The 2018 Michigan Student Symposium for Interdisciplinary Statistical Sciences

Thank you all for attending MSSISS 2018!

MSSISS 2018 extended and enhanced the success of previous symposia. In 2018, an inaugural Monday night event showcased a junior faculty keynote (Assistant Professor Zhenke Wu), speed oral and poster combo presentations, and interdisciplinary posters. We were also honored to have Professor Xiao-Li Meng, the Professor in Statistics and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, Cambridge, as our keynote speaker.

Professor Xiao-Li Meng

A Trio of Inference Problems That Could Win You a Nobel Prize in Statistics (if you help fund it)

This talk presents and discusses a host of challenging problems as listed in Meng (2014). Statistical inference is a field full of problems whose solutions need the same intellectual force as for winning a Nobel Prize in other scientific fields.  The multi-resolution inference is the oldest of the trio, but emerging applications such as individualized medicines push us to estimate estimands with resolution far exceeding the resolution of our estimators.  The multi-phase inference is another reality because (big) data are almost never collected, processed, and analyzed in a single phase. The newest of the trio is a multi-source inference, which aims to extract desired information in data coming from very different sources, some of which were never intended for inference purposes. All these challenges call for an expanded paradigm with much greater emphases on qualitative consistency and relative optimality than do our current inference paradigms. It is recommended attendees read the accompanying paper to better understand the talk.

Meng, X.L. (2014). A Trio of Inference Problems that Could Win You a Nobel Prize in Statistics (If You Help Fund It). In Past, Present, and Future of Statistical Science (Eds: X. Lin, et. al), CRC Press, pp. 537-562.


Xiao-Li Meng, Dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Whipple V. N. Jones Professor and former chair of Statistics at Harvard, is well known for his depth and breadth in research, his innovation and passion in pedagogy, and his vision and effectiveness in administration, as well as for his engaging and entertaining style as a speaker and writer. Meng has received numerous awards and honors for the more than 150 publications he has authored in at least a dozen theoretical and methodological areas, as well as in areas of pedagogy and professional development; he has delivered more than 400 research presentations and public speeches on these topics, and he is the author of “The XL-Files,” a regularly appearing column in the IMS (Institute of Mathematical Statistics) Bulletin. His interests range from the theoretical foundations of statistical inferences (e.g., the interplay among Bayesian, frequentist, and fiducial perspectives; quantify ignorance via invariance principles; multi-phase and multi-resolution inferences) to statistical methods and computation (e.g., posterior predictive p-value; EM algorithm; Markov chain Monte Carlo; bridge and path sampling) to applications in natural, social, and medical sciences and engineering (e.g., complex statistical modeling in astronomy and astrophysics, assessing disparity in mental health services, and quantifying statistical information in genetic studies). Meng received his BS in mathematics from Fudan University in 1982 and his PhD in statistics from Harvard in 1990. He was on the faculty of the University of Chicago from 1991 to 2001 before returning to Harvard as Professor of Statistics, where he was appointed department chair in 2004 and the Whipple V. N. Jones Professor in 2007. He was appointed GSAS Dean on August 15, 2012.

Professor Zhenke Wu

Bayesian Hierarchical Methods to Power Disease Discovery and Improve Clinical Decisions

Precision medicine presents exciting opportunities for data scientists who may sculpt modern medicine by building game-changing analytic tools. For example, an ongoing challenge in human disease discovery is to identify patient subsets likely unified by distinct mechanistic pathways. This talk will formulate the key questions in statistical terms. It will offer Bayesian hierarchical models to integrate potentially complex novel biological measurements with the prior medical knowledge to address the questions. The talk will then present two applications of the models, the first to better understand the etiology of childhood pneumonia when designing prevention and treatment programs, and the second to define autoantibody signatures among autoimmune disease patients for guiding patient management. The talk will identify statistical opportunities for improving clinical and public health decisions by inferring individual health states, trajectory, and likely benefits of competing treatment options. It will highlight that teams of biological, clinical and data scientists can collaborate to build statistical models that infer underlying biology from imperfect data.


Zhenke Wu’s research involves the development of statistical methods that inform health decisions made by individuals. He is particularly interested in scalable Bayesian methods that integrate multiple sources of evidence, with a focus on hierarchical latent variable modeling. Those methods have been applied to estimate the etiology of childhood pneumonia, autoantibody signatures for subsetting autoimmune disease patients and to predict whether a user is engaged with mobile applications.

Zhenke has developed original methods and software that are now used by investigators from research institutes such as US CDC and Johns Hopkins, as well as site investigators from developing countries, e.g., Kenya, South Africa, Gambia, Mali, Zambia, Thailand and Bangladesh.

Zhenke completed a BS in Math at Fudan University in 2009 and a PhD in Biostatistics from the Johns Hopkins University in 2014 and then stayed at Hopkins for his postdoctoral training. Since 2016, Zhenke is Assistant Professor of Biostatistics, and Research Assistant Professor in Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS) at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

MSSISS 2018 Presentation Awards:

Best Oral Presentation:

Sharan Sharma (Survey Methodology) – What can paradata tell us about interviewing quality?

Oral Presentation Honorable Mention:

Alexander Giessing (Statistics) – Predictive Risk of Misspecified Quantile Regression

Best Speed Session:

Timothy NeCamp (Statistics) – Predicting Mood Using Multivariate Mobile Sensor Data Streams for Medical Interns

ASA Prize for Best Poster Presentation:

Christina W. Zhou (Statistics) – Late pregnancy urinary phthalate metabolite associations with infant growth characteristic deferral: a longitudinal study in Mexico City

Departmental Poster Presentation Winners:

  • Emily Morris (Biostatistics) – SurvBoost: An R Package for High-dimensional Variable Selection in the Stratified Proportional Hazards Model via Gradient Boosting
  • Daniel Vial (EECS) – The Role of Clustering in Personalized PageRank Estimation
  • Mansur M. Arief (IOE) – An efficient sampling machinery for the rare and safety-critical events in self-driving car evaluation
  • Julie Deeke (Statistics) – Identifying endogenous reference genes for single-cell RNA-sequencing
  • Colleen A. McClain (Survey Methodology) – Seeking the “Ground Truth”: Assessing Methods Used for Demographic Inference from Twitter

 Selected photos from the event

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The Michigan Student Symposium for Interdisciplinary Statistical Sciences (MSSISS) is an annual event organized by graduate students in the Biostatistics, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science, Industrial & Operations Engineering, Statistics and Survey Methodology departments at the University of Michigan.

The goal of this symposium is to create an environment that allows communication across related fields of statistical sciences and promotes interdisciplinary research among graduate students and faculty. It encourages graduate students to present their work, share insights and exposes them to diverse applications of statistical sciences. Though hosted by five departments we extend our invitation to graduate students from all departments across the University to present their statistical research in the form of an oral paper presentation or a poster presentation. It also provides an excellent environment for interacting with students and faculty from other areas of statistical research on campus.


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