Statistician James O. Berger Ph.D. '74 to Deliver Twenty-third D.R. Fulkerson Lectures
James O. Berger received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell in 1974 and was a faculty member in the Department of Statistics at Purdue University until 1997, when he moved to Duke University. He is now the Arts and Sciences Professor of Statistics in the Department of Satistical Science at Duke, and directs the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI), a partnership of research organizations in the "Research Triangle" of North Carolina "whose vision is to forge a new synthesis of the statistical sciences and the applied mathematical sciences with disciplinary science to confront the very hardest and most important data- and model-driven scientific challenges."
After twenty years in the mathematics department of the Rand Corporation, D.R. (Ray) Fulkerson joined the School of Operations Research and Information Engineering (ORIE) as Maxwell Upson Professor of Engineering in 1971 and remained at Cornell until his death in 1976. He made fundamental contributions to operations research and has had a lasting influence upon ORIE. In his honor, ORIE established a lecture series in 1980 that in the ensuing years has featured a broad array of major scholars in the field, including George B. Dantzig, Lloyd S. Shapley, and Arthur M. Geoffrion ORIE '60 M.I.E. '62.
As the twenty-third D. R. Fulkerson lecturer, Professor Berger is presenting three lectures, on April 20 and April 21, 2009 at 4:30 p.m. and April 23 at 3:00 p.m. The first lecture, in Phillips 101, addresses the problem of risk assessment for rare natural hazards, such as volcanic pyroclastic flows, as illustrated by the Soufriere Hills volcano that erupted in 1995 and buried half the island of Montserrat-- hence the title "I don't know where I'm gonna go when the volcano blows," taken from a Jimmy Buffet song about the eruption. Assessing risk for such a rare event entails combining mathematical computer modeling, statistical modeling (in this case of geophysical data), and extreme-event probability computation.
The remaining two lectures in the series address issues in computer modeling, which are "virtually always incomplete representations of reality" Berger points out. The lectures are titled "Working with Inexact Models: The World of Computer Modeling" and deal with a series of increasingly involved real examples, outlining the statistical challenges and applying a methodology that is a mix of statistical techniques. The April 21 lecture is in Phillips 203 and the April 23 lecture is in Phillips 219.
Berger is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has served as president of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics, and has received Guggenheim and Sloan Fellowships. His research has primarily been in Bayesian statistics, foundations of statistics, statistical decision theory, simulation, model selection, and various interdisciplinary areas of science and industry. He has consulted with organizations such as Florida Power and Light Company, Ford Motor Company, the National Center for Atmospheric Research and General Motors Corporation, and has published more than 160 articles and 14 books.
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