SDS Newsletter


Ben Baumer


July 15, 2023

This newsletter is mostly a distillation of our Twitter @SmithCollegeSDS feed. Please follow us to see more news, updates, and pictures!

There is also a Facebook group, a Google group, and a Slack. Please help us reach out to other alumnae by having them contact me!

Program Updates

  • Smith teams garnered two out of three Best In awards at this year’s Five College DataFest held at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Smith teams were The Model Mavericks, who won Best in Show (Clara Li ’23, Nikki Lin ’25, Rose Porta ’23, Quinn White ’23), and the Sexy Data Scientists, who won Best in Group (Sarah Branch ’24, Yaretsy Castro ’25J, Camila Maldonado ’24, Su Than Thar Nyi ’24J and Sonia Paredes ’23).

  • An article co-authored by five members of the department was awarded the Jackie Dietz Award for the 2022 Best Paper published in the Journal of Statistics and Data Science Education. The paper is titled “Integrating Data Science Ethics Into an Undergraduate Major: A Case Study”, and was written by Benjamin S. Baumer, Randi L. Garcia, Albert Y. Kim, Katherine M. Kinnaird & Miles Q. Ott ’01.

  • Our work on the DSC-WAV project was written up in the Grécourt Gate. This article features AJ Haller ’22J

  • Students from SDS 236 (data journalism) wrote two articles that appeared on the front page (above the fold!) of the Daily Hampshire Gazette:

Previous Updates

Faculty Updates

  • Albert Kim was promoted to associate professor with tenure! Ben Baumer was also promoted to full Professor.
  • Albert Kim is the 2023 winner of the Waller Education Award, given annually by the ASA Section on Statistics and Data Science Education! Previous winners from Smith include Ben Baumer (2019) and Nick Horton (2009).
  • We hired Casey Berger to a joint tenure-track position with the Physics department. Casey has been teaching at Smith already and her research is in applying high performance computing and machine learning methods to many-body quantum systems. She has already designed a new course, SDS 271, which she will offer in the fall as a Python-based alternative to SDS 270. Casey was just recently elected as a Member-At-Large for the Topical Group in Data Science within the American Physics Society. We’re super-excited to keep her at Smith!
  • We also hired Rebecca Kurtz-Garcia into a joint tenure-track position with the Mathematical Sciences department. Rebecca comes to us from the University of California, Riverside, where she recently completed her Ph.D. in statistics. Rebecca works in the intersection of time series analysis, econometrics, spectral analysis, and steady state simulation. She is starting as a Project NExT fellow this summer, and will be teaching introductory statistics and mathematical statistics in her first year. Yay!
  • After completing his first year, Jared Joseph is moving on to pursue a permanent job in the criminal investigations unit of the Internal Revenue Service. We’re sad to see Jared go, but excited to see what he does next!

Ben Baumer

I am about to embark on what I can only hope will be a fantastic adventure during the full-year sabbatical I’m now starting: my family and I will spend the year in Medellín, Colombia! I will have an appointment as a Visiting Faculty member at the Universidad EAFIT, and I am also anticipating extending my current role as interim Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Quantitative Analysis in Sports for a three-year term. Learning a new language in your forties hasn’t been easy, but I took SPN 200 at Smith this spring with Prof. Adrián Gras-Velazquez and learned a lot while making some new friends.

Cuando vuelvo hablaremos español juntos!

Casey Berger

I’m so excited to be joining SDS here at Smith. I’ve loved my last two years as a visitor in the physics department, but my work has always been interdisciplinary, so it feels fitting that I start my tenure-track role jointly appointed in PHY and SDS. I look forward to getting to know a whole new set of majors and embrace the challenges and joys of teaching and doing research across fields. My summer has already been packed with a return to conference travel – my first in-person conferences and workshops since the pandemic started. It’s a nice blend of teaching, service, and research, starting with the American Physical Society’s Data Science Education Community of Practice (APS DSECOP) workshop on data science in the physics classroom, then helping coordinate events as an alum at the Annual Program Review for the DOE’s Computational Science Graduate Fellowship (CSGF), and finishing off the summer presenting at the International Symposium on Lattice Field Theory at FermiLab. As if that weren’t enough on my summer schedule, my spouse and I bought a house in the area and are moving in next month. It will be nice when the dust settles – just in time for the fall semester!

Shiya Cao

Year one at Smith was good, and I enjoyed research, teaching, and importantly, a supportive environment in SDS and Smith. In Fall 2022, I created the Disability Inclusion Analytics Lab (DIAL) to advance my research in disability inclusion and broader social inclusion topics. I had the pleasure to work with six Smithies Linh Pham ’25, Zhirou Liu ’25, Christy Yang ’25, Vicky Xu ’26, Nikki Lin ’25, and Amber Liu ’24 in my lab this year. A paper on Examining Environmental Barriers for Disabled Employees in Different Industries and Work Spaces I wrote with Christy Yang ’25 and Vicky Xu ’26 was accepted by WSDS 2023. This summer four SURF students (Christy Yang ’25, Vicky Xu ’26, Nikki Lin ’25, and Amber Liu ’24) joined my lab and worked on two research projects: (1) Integrating Disability Inclusion Components into Introductory Data Science Pedagogy and (2) Examining the Intersection of Disability, Race, and Gender in Shaping the Employment Outcomes of Higher Educated Individuals. I also advised Vicky Xu ’26 on a poster presentation she gave at the 2022 NextGen Data Science Day Conference. In addition, my coauthored book chapter titled “The Chains that Bind: Gender, Disability, Race, and IT Accommodations” was published. I also gave a research talk at the UMASS Amherst Statistics and Data Science Seminar Series in Spring 2023. Moreover, I went to my first SDSS, attended some interesting talks, and met people who share similar research interests. This upcoming year I will continue working on publishing my dissertation papers, writing up papers from the lab projects, and explore some new research streams related to disability inclusion, statistics, and accessibility.

This fall, I will continue to teach SDS 192 Introduction to Data Science (taught two semesters this past year. Love it!) and develop and teach a research seminar course: SDS 300 Disability Inclusion and Data Analytics (so excited!). In the spring, I will also teach SDS 410 Capstone (looking forward!).

I am also very proud of our book club this year! We read six books: Stoner, The Memory Police, Seven Empty Houses, The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, Lessons in Chemistry. We are currently reading The Personal Librarian. Looking forward to reading more books with my peers!

Kaitlyn Cook

Year one is officially in the books! I had a wonderful time getting to know and work alongside the students, staff, and faculty in the SDS program—thank you for such a warm welcome to Northampton and to Smith.

Some personal highlights from this past year include:

  1. Teaching Introduction to Probability and Statistics (SDS 220), Probability (MTH 246) and Mathematical Statistics (MTH/SDS 320), all for the first time, and adapting the latter two courses to include a strong focus on simulation in R.
  2. Temporarily buying Amazon out of loaded die. (It was for a good statistical cause!)
  3. Publishing an article on marginal proportional hazards models for clustered interval-censored data in Biometrics, continuing existing collaborations with sleep medicine and COVID-19 researchers in Boston, and building new connections and collaborations with the Five College statistics community and other researchers here at Smith.

Finally, I would also be remiss to not mention the excellent progress I made on my reality TV show “research” agenda, having managed to watch all 14 seasons of Ink Master and 31 seasons (and counting) of the Amazing Race within the last year.

Randi Garcia

On September 21, 2023 my daughter Devyn Sequoia Durbin was born! She is amazing and kept me very busy this year. I was lucky to have enjoyed parental leave in the fall and then a sabbatical in the spring. I took minimal time for research this year, but I did continue my collaborations with Nicole Campione-Barr at the University of Missouri on adolescent disclosure and family systems and with Sarah Witkowski in the Exercise and Sport Studies department here at Smith on perimenopause symptoms, activity, and cardiovascular health. I also took on a Associate Editor role at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

As much as I enjoyed my time with family, I am excited to get back to teaching and research in the fall!! I also look forward to taking over as Chair of SDS next year so Ben can take a much needed break. Thank you for your service Ben!

Will Hopper

Jared Joseph

Albert Y. Kim

2022-2023 was a big academic year for me, both on personal and professional fronts. First, my spouse and I survived our first year of raising our beautiful daughter Gigi. Nothing describes the experience better that the old adage about parenting: “The days are long, but the years are short.” Second, I got tenure and hence promoted to Associate Professor. It’s been a long time since I first started teaching at Reed College in 2013, but the journey has been a rewarding one. In particular, I got two papers published that I’m very proud of:

  1. In Methods in Ecology and Evolution: Kim et al. (2022) “Implementing GitHub Actions continuous integration to reduce error rates in ecological data collection”
  2. In Nature: Dow et al. (2022) “Warm springs alter timing but not total growth of temperate deciduous trees”

This coming year, I will be teaching SDS 390 Ecological Forecasting and SDS 410 Capstone in the fall and SDS 220 Intro Stats in the spring.

Katherine M. Kinnaird

This year was great between teaching two flavors of Machine Learning, SDS 293: Modeling for ML and CSC 294: Computational ML, before heading off to London for my sabbatical at King’s College London working with Prof. Elaine Chew and her COSMOS team. It was such a great experience to work with Prof. Chew and her group, and I’m excited to bring back new collaborations and projects for Smithies to work on!

The big news out of my TInKER Lab is that our first big project was published in the Journal of Open Source Software (JOSS): repytah: An Open-Source Python Package for Building Aligned Hierarchies for Sequential Data. This is joint work with 12 Smithies: Chenhui Jia, Lizette Carpenter, Thu Tran, Amanda Y. Liu, Sasha Yeutseyeva, Marium Tapal, Yingke Wang, Zoie Kexin Zhao, Jordan Moody, Denise Nava, Eleanor Donaher, Lillian Yushu Jiang, and Ben Bruncati.

This coming fall, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone back on campus and teaching the new CSC 110.

Rebecca Kurtz-Garcia

Scott LaCombe

Year three at Smith was my favorite so far, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing all the traditions come back in full force! The past year has been full of collaborations with students, and I had my first opportunity to take Smithies with me to the Midwest Political Science Association Conference.

This past Spring, I was able to start up the State Politics Lab through the Humanities and Social Science Lab program on campus. This lab focuses on tracking state legislatures across the American states to see what policy networks are forming. In particular, we are currently tracking laws around LGBT topics and are looking to collaborate with journalists and activists to get a better understanding of why some states pass restrictions and others do not. We are in the middle of data collection right now, but plan on starting to analyze the data this Fall and present our work. This research lies at the intersection of Government and Data Science, so please reach out if you are interested in joining our team this Fall. My reserach is continuing to focus on how public opinion is translated into policy across the states, and using network analysis to study how states are influenicng each other.

This upcoming year, I will be teaching Introduction to Probability and Statistics (SDS 220) in the Fall, as well as The Politics of Public Policy (GOV 207) for the Government department. I will be on sabbatical in the Spring, but will be around campus.

Lindsay Poirier

Alumni Updates

  • Brittany Bennett ’16: I am leading the analytics and engineering at Working Families Party as their Data Director, working to find ways to leverage data to win more elections. This role has challenged me in so many ways. I am dipping my toes into more advanced data engineering practices, DevOps, analytics engineering, the wild west of vendor politics, contract negotiations, and product development. While the time I spend coding is becoming less and less, I’m deeply enjoying my work at the intersection of data and electoral politics. Otherwise, I’m enjoying plenty of time in the kitchen as a hobbyist home-chef and have added many new recipes to my cooking Instagram. Pittsburgh is still home for now, though I have my eyes on Chicago or Philly.
  • Christa Chiao ’15: I am continuing to work in campaign-side electoral politics in data science and data engineering roles. This past year I graduated from the QMSS program at Columbia University and later worked as a Senior Data Scientist at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2022 midterm cycle. I’m looking forward to electing more Democrats in 2024 and to keep learning about survey research, managing data teams, and more.
  • Sara Stoudt ’15: Year 2 teaching at Bucknell was a busy one! Here are some things I’m proud of from the year: we released our second Data Science by Design Anthology (“Our Environment”), I developed and taught a new first year seminar “Storytelling with Data”, I got to give an USCOTS keynote and be on an SDSS panel with superstars Christine Zhang ’09 (another Smithie, we’re everywhere) and Roger Peng (I only fangirled a little over his podcasts). I’m on pre-tenure leave this upcoming school year, so if anyone is in need of a seminar speaker, I’m up for a travel adventure. :D
  • Liz Stuart 97 (math major): I’ve been named Chair of the Biostatistics Department at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She would love to welcome more Smith alums to the field and Department! She also is succeeding former Smith faculty member Nick Horton as co-chair of the National Academies’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics.
  • Dana Udwin ’14: I’m happy to report that I defended my dissertation in biostatistics and joined the JHU Applied Physics Laboratory as a senior data scientist.
  • Maggie Wang ’20: I start my PhD in political methodology at UChi this fall. Shout out to Ben and Scott for their help during the application process!

What’s next?

Joint Statistical Meetings

Many of us will be at the 2023 Joint Statistical Meetings during the second week of August. Don’t miss these events featuring Smithies!

We hope to see you in person!


StatFest 2023 will also be virtual in September.

Women in Statistics and Data Science Conference

WSDS 2023 will be in Seattle in October.