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Lan Xue smiles for a headshot wearing a puffer jacket.

College of Science welcomes new Department of Statistics Interim Head

By Tamara Cissna

The College of Science welcomes Lan Xue as Department of Statistics Interim Head, effective January 1, 2024.

Joining Oregon State University in 2005 after completing her Ph.D. at Michigan State, Xue has served on the faculty of the department since 2005, achieving the rank of Professor in 2018.  

Xue’s research focuses broadly on non-parametric and semi-parametric methods, methods for longitudinal data analysis, and measurement error models. She was elected a member of the International Statistical Institute in 2007.

She has secured significant research funding, garnering over $2.3 million from the NIH as the co-PI for statistical methods related to wearable device data, a $100K NSF grant to lead a study on non- and semi-parametric models, a College of Science SciRIS award, and other grants.

Xue’s contributions to the department and to the profession include service as Assistant Chair of the Department of Statistics and leadership of the American Statistical Association Oregon Chapter as well as associate editorships of several journals. She has taught numerous statistical theory classes, developed several new applied courses, and mentored numerous Ph.D. and M.S. students.

“I am confident Xue will lead exceptionally well through this transition. She is an outstanding scholar and exemplifies a strong commitment to both the department and the field of statistics. Her involvement in mentoring students further strengthens her qualifications," said Eleanor Feingold, Dean of the College of Science.

Lisa Ganio, who served as department head since 2018, returns to her teaching and research responsibilities.

“Please join me in giving tremendous thanks to Lisa for her significant accomplishments as Head of the Department of Statistics, including leading the growth of the data analytics certificate, growing the faculty, and guiding the department through the pandemic,” Feingold said.

Under Ganio’s leadership, the department oversaw the growth and curricular development of the online data analytics program, graduating 116 M.S. students in the last five years. She supervised the implementation of adaptive courseware and learning assistants in undergraduate statistics courses, the inclusion of undergraduate statistics courses in the statewide common course numbering for transfer students, and the incorporation of statistics courses in OSU’s new Core Education.

She also implemented inclusive practices within the statistics graduate program in areas of scholarship, admissions and student funding. Additionally, she led the hiring of three new tenure-track research faculty and four instructional faculty and oversaw the development of the new department website.

Xue affirmed the strengths of the statistics department, emphasizing its wide-reaching service through the Survey Research Center, interdisciplinary partnerships, and dynamic faculty with diverse research interests in growing fields, for example, survey sampling, genomics and emerging data science areas.

Xue's research focuses on addressing methods for handling increasingly complex data. Traditional linear models are not well-suited for them, she explained, so there's a need to develop non-linear or non-parametric methods for interpreting the data and unlocking benefits.

In her recent research focus, Xue delves into functional data, which refers to information continuously connected over time and observed as curves. Common examples include health data from devices like Apple Watch or Fitbit, which capture physical movement, activity and heart rate. The challenge lies in inherent measurement errors in these devices, which provide only a partial representation of accurate physical activity.

"The question we aim to address is how to handle these measurement errors, ensuring that we can still derive a valid, reasonable and efficient inference based on the data, even when we are aware that the data are contaminated with measurement errors,” Xue said.

The relevance and promise of the research keep things interesting for her.

“We are very excited about working with students to develop new methods with practical applications, especially in health studies where data from volunteers offer real-world scenarios. It's thrilling to see how these methods can be useful in analyzing diverse exercise patterns and physical activity in the population,” Xue said.  

The significant increase in data opens huge opportunities to benefit society, she explained, and she anticipates the College of Science will play an increasingly impactful role.