2016 Summer School in Statistics for Astronomers

Project: Research project

Project Details


2016 Summer School in Statistics for Astronomers; May 31-June 4 2016; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, State College, PA

Penn State's very popular astrostatistics summer school has trained over 700 total participants since its inauguration in 2005. At this rate, they train about 10% of the nation's young astronomers. They give critical skills to the US scientific workforce. Highly skilled instructors provide an intense immersion in statistical methods. The courses are oriented towards graduate students and young researchers. The curriculum covers the underlying principles of modern statistics. It covers advanced methods useful in astronomy, and hands-on training in statistical software. Attendees gain much better expertise in statistics and its application to their science. They have a better understanding of how to teach this material to others. The value and meaning of statistics in science become clear. The instructors devote considerable effort to adapting the course material to their audience. In 2012, the course leaders published a formal textbook based on this curriculum, which continues to evolve.

A vast range of statistical problems arises in modern astronomical and space sciences research, particularly due to the flood of data produced by ground-based and space-based surveys at many wavelengths. There has been a resurgence of interest in statistical and computational methods as researchers seek insight into the physical phenomena underlying such complex data. Common approaches either inadequately utilize known methods or require the invention of new methods. Regrettably, the statistical needs of physical scientists have been neglected in recent decades, even while modern statistical procedures implemented with computationally efficient algorithms became increasingly essential. Unfortunately, due to the structure of undergraduate and graduate curricula, U.S. astronomers are generally not well trained in statistical techniques. Statistics is an available technology that must be tapped to advance the needs of astronomy and astrophysics.

The 2016 Summer School in statistical inference for young astronomers will present concepts and methodologies at an intermediate level, using experienced instructors and an innovative curriculum. Lectures are accompanied by hands-on software R tutorials, and training in high performance cluster computing with applications to astronomical datasets. The Penn State Research Computing & Cyberinfrastructure Group, and its Institute for CyberScience, are providing technical manpower and partially supporting the high-performance computing.

Effective start/end date5/15/164/30/18


  • National Science Foundation: $5,000.00


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