A day on Capitol Hill

The following was written by Kimberly Kaufeld, SAMSI postdoctoral fellow.

The American Statistical Association (ASA) and the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) paired up to participate in meetings with staffers from Congress and an exhibition for the Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) on Wednesday, April 29th in D.C.

The day led off by meeting representatives from Congress to communicate the importance of NSF. Our group consisted of Jessi Cisewski, a former graduate fellow of SAMSI and visiting faculty at Carnegie Mellon University;

three people next to a scientific poster

(L-R) Jessi Cisewski, Richard Smith and Kimberly Kaufeld.

Kimberly Kaufeld, a current postdoctoral researcher at SAMSI ; Richard Smith, the director of SAMSI; and Steve Pierson, Director of Science Policy for the ASA. Together, we had several meetings with staffers from both the Senators and Representatives in North Carolina.

The exhibition in the evening featured science, mathematics and engineering research and education projects supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Over 50 projects were represented, including researchers, students, and educators from across the US, as well as program officers from NSF as well as representatives of the Senate and House of Representatives. The SAMSI/ASA poster featured a variety of work from SAMSI. Jessi demonstrated her work in the field of astrostatistics, using statistics for astronomy problems one universe at a time. Kimberly showed her work in the current SAMSI statistical and mathematical ecology program on the impact of bark beetle outbreaks and climate change in the West. Richard talked about what SAMSI is about and past and upcoming programs that SAMSI offers and the number of researchers involved in the programs across the United States.

SAMSI people with Rep. Jerry McNerney

(L-R) Jessi Cisewski, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9) and Kimberly Kaufeld.

During the event, representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30), the ranking member of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee talked to Richard Smith about SAMSI and how NSF has contributed to SAMSI’s development. Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-CA-9) also spent some time at the SAMSI booth – he has a PhD in Mathematics and has long bene known as a champion of science in Congress. Several NSF program officers stopped by to talk to Jessi and Kimberly about their research and provided them with different funding opportunities within NSF.

Overall, it was a great experience to meet and talk to representatives of the Senate and House about how NSF is a vital part of the statistical and mathematical community. It was welcoming to see all the different NSF supported programs come together to the Capital to show all the different projects and programs in the United States that NSF is supporting.


Our Experience Talking to Undergraduates at the Field of Dreams Conference

By Kimberly Kaufeld and Daniel Taylor-Rodriguez, both postdoctoral fellows at SAMSI this year.

Kimberly Kaufeld at the podium

SAMSI postdoc Kimberly Kaufeld speaking at the Field of Dreams Conference in Arizona

A few weeks ago, Daniel and I had the pleasure of presenting and attending the Field of Dreams conference in Phoenix, AZ. The conference is supported by the National Alliance for Doctoral Studies in the Mathematical Sciences and is for underrepresented undergraduate students in the mathematical sciences. The conference hosted workshops on how to network at conferences, interview for graduate school, and talk to schools and institutes such as SAMSI that offer workshops on various topics in the field.

Daniel Taylor-Rodriguez at the podium

SAMSI postdoc Daniel Taylor-Rodriguez presenting at the Field of Dreams Conference.

Daniel and I had the opportunity to present our research along with other postdocs from institutes in the mathematical sciences at the conference.  It was a great way to exhibit how different examples of research in the mathematical and statistical fields of ecology, cancer research, topology, and structures tie together in the sciences. It also a way to demonstrate what types of work one can do and communicate to undergraduates the exciting opportunities there are in mathematical and statistical research.

crowd shot of the students at the conference

Students listen to the speakers intently.

One of the things that impressed me was the excitement and drive of the undergraduates attending this conference. At our SAMSI table in the evening, Daniel and I were able to talk to undergraduates about the undergraduate workshops SAMSI offers each year, which many were excited to hear about. The juniors and seniors asked insightful questions about SAMSI and what led Daniel and I to the field of statistics. It was also when we got the chance to hear his/her background, what their goals are, and what they want to do in the future. It was impressive to hear what they had to say. Some of the undergraduates already narrowed down to the exact field they wanted to go into as they already starting projects related to neuroscience, statistical ecology or biostatistics. The conference opened the undergraduates’ eyes to the possibility that they can succeed if they put themselves out there. They made the right first step, attending the field of dreams to network and create opportunities for themselves.  They will one day make up the field and I was fortunate enough to talk to them. I hope that I am able to attend more in the future.