Murali Haran named head of Department of Statistics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Murali Haran, professor of statistics, has been named the new head of the Department of Statistics at Penn State, effective July 1. Haran succeeds David Hunter, professor of statistics, who had served as head of the department since 2012.

“Murali has a distinguished record of service and leadership in the Department of Statistics,” said Douglas Cavaner, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “I am confident that he will lead the department to further success and excellence.”

Haran served as chair of undergraduate studies for the department from 2012 to 2016 and has been involved in numerous committees at the department and college level during his tenure at Penn State. He also has supported the role of statistics across various campus initiatives and institutes, for instance through working with the Institute for Cyberscience and Penn State climate science research groups, including the National Science Foundation-supported research network SCRiM (Sustainable Climate Risk Management). Haran also organizes a weekly seminar series on “Stochastic Modeling and Computing,” which he began in 2012. This series provides a forum for speakers from across the University who have interests in statistical methods.

In his research, Haran develops statistical methods for understanding complex physical phenomena, such as ice sheet dynamics and disease transmission, by combining information from computer simulations and noisy observational data. His research is heavily focused on developing efficient computing algorithms, particularly simulation approaches called Monte Carlo methods, and on statistical models for spatial data. Much of his methodological research is motivated by cross-disciplinary research problems in climate science and disease modeling. With collaborators in the Department of Geosciences and the Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics at Penn State, he has used statistical models for research topics as varied as the past and future of the Antarctic ice sheet, and the impact of vaccination on the transmission of infectious diseases like measles and rotavirus.

Haran’s research accomplishments have been recognized with an Abdel El-Shaarawi Young Researcher Award from the International Environmetrics Society in 2015 and a Young Investigator Award from the American Statistical Association Section on Statistics and the Environment in 2014. Haran has published nearly 50 articles in scientific journals, including the Journal of the American Statistical Association, the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B and C, Nature, Nature Climate Change, the Journal of Climate, and the Annals of Applied Statistics. Haran is an elected member of the International Statistics Institute and a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.

Haran joined the faculty at Penn State in 2004 and was promoted to associate professor in 2010 and to professor in 2016. Prior to joining Penn State, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Statistical Sciences from 2003 to 2004. He earned master’s and doctoral degrees in statistics from the University of Minnesota in 2001 and 2003, respectively, and a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Carnegie Mellon University in 1997.

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