The New Zealand Statistical Association is having its annual meeting at the moment in Christchurch. It’s hard for a lot of people to imagine how there could be new research in statistics, so here are some examples from the awards.
Maxine Pfannkuch won the Association’s lifetime achievement award, for her work on statistics education. She studies how people (mostly schoolkids) draw informal statistical conclusions from data and from graphics, and looks for ways to teach them to do it better. A lot of the improvements in the high-school stats curriculum are her fault.
Mark Holmes won the research award. His research is harder to explain in simple terms, but he studies random processes that accumulate over time — like the shape of the trail left by a randomly-moving point.
Blair Robertson won the junior research award. He used to be an applied mathematician, working on optimisation — finding the best value of a complicated function. He now uses similar techniques to come up with improved ways to choose sets of locations in space and time for environmental sampling.
Maarten Kruijver won a `young statistician’ talk award. He works in forensic statistics, looking at ways to estimate the chance that a DNA sample from a crime scene will coincidentally look as if it is from a close relative of someone in the police database.
Anjali Gupta won the other `young statistician’ talk award. She is studying a laser-based technique for measuring chemical composition of things, with forensics being one application. She was studying the variation in measurements for the same object over time, to understand more about the accuracy of the technique.