Statistic Program's Five Junior Faculty Achieve NSF Awards

In rapid succession, five assistant professors in the Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) have earned the NSF (National Science Foundation) CAREER Award in the last four years.

Jeff Wu
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School of Industrial and Systems Engineering Assistant Professors Yajun Mei, Ming Yuan, Nicoleta Serban, Roshan Joseph Vengazihiyil and Nagi Gebraeel have each received the NSF CAREER award in the past five years. Professor Jeff Wu, third from right, oversaw efforts to bring the five to Tech.

Two were named as award recipients this year. All five were recruited by and brought to Tech by ISyE Professor Jeff Wu, who joined Georgia Tech in 2003 as the Coca-Cola Chair in Engineering Statistics. Wu also was able to fill five assistant professor slots—one each year. By 2008, Wu had found the junior faculty he wanted for these positions in members Nagi Gebraeel, Yajun Mei, Nicoleta Serban, Roshan Joseph Vengazihiyil and Ming Yuan.

  • Gebraeel’s research centers on improving the accuracy of predicting unexpected failures in engineering systems. A Tech faculty member since 2007, he earned both his masters and doctoral degrees from Purdue University in 1998 and 2003, respectively. The NSF named him a recipient of the CAREER Award in 2006. He also is a recipient of the Purdue University Graduate Student Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2003.
  • Mei’s research centers on change-point problems and sequential analysis in mathematical statistics, sensor networks and information theory in engineering, as well as longitudinal data analysis, random effects models and biostatistics clinical trials. He earned his doctorate in mathematics with a minor in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology. Mei, who started at Tech in 2006, spent two years as a postdoctoral scholar in biostatistics in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He was named a CAREER recipient this year.
  • Serban joined the ISyE faculty in 2005. With a master’s in theoretical statistics and stochastic processes from the University of Bucharest, Serban earned her doctorate in statistics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. Her research focused on nonparametric statistical methods motivated by recent applications from proteomics and genomics. A 2007 recipient of the Class of 1969 Teaching Fellow award from the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, she earned her CAREER award this year.
  • Vengazihiyil, who earned his doctorate in statistics from the University of Michigan in 2002, was awarded the CAREER Award in 2005. With research interests in the areas of quality engineering and statistics, he has focused on developing novel statistical methods for solving complex engineering problems. Named the Coca-Cola Junior Chair in ISyE from 2008 to 2011, Vengazihiyil also is the recipient of the Best Paper Award, IIE Transactions-Quality and Reliability Engineering 2009.
  • Yuan, who holds a master’s in computer science from the University of Wisconsin, received his doctorate in statistics from the University of Wisconsin in 2004. Earning the NSF CAREER Award in 2009, he was named the Georgia Cancer Coalition Distinguished Scholar in 2007. Yuan’s research interests include statistical learning, bioinformatics and methods of regularization.

Wu’s selection of these faculty members for the ISyE Statistics Group and their earning the prestigious award were a bit serendipitous, he says. “We simply wanted to hire the best people and groom them,” he said. “Winning a CAREER Award is one measure—though not the only one—of success.”

Their selection for the group, he says, was not based upon work that he consciously thought would be considered for this recognition of junior faculty. Wu adds that he did comment on and read the faculty members’ proposals who won their awards while at Tech, but that was the extent of his involvement.

“These CAREER awards are kind of rare,” explains ISyE Chair Chelsea “Chip” White, H. Milton and Carolyn J. Stewart Chair and Schneider National Chair in Transportation and Logistics. “To have the insight to be able to identify junior faculty capable of successful award-winners is phenomenal.”

Having a statistics group within the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering is unique in the higher education landscape, according to Vengazihiyil, who says the arrangement has led to better exposure of the latest developments and trends in engineering, as well as providing opportunity to collaborate with engineers.

“We have 11 to 12 members, one of whom is joint with another research group,” Wu said. “Ours is the best research group internationally in engineering statistics—that is, in developing statistical methodologies and theory and applying them to engineering, information technology and physical sciences. Besides adding our reputation to the prestige of Georgia Tech, members of our group have become involved extensively in collaborative work with faculty in Engineering, the College of Computing and the College of Sciences.”

Barbara Christopher in Industrial and Systems Engineering contributed to this story.