SAMSI Hosts Simons Foundation Public Lecture – “The Public Health Impact of Air Pollution and Climate Change”

Francesca Dominici speaking on April 24 in Chapel Hill

Francesca Dominici speaking on April 24 in Chapel Hill

SAMSI was proud to be chosen as just one of nine places in the world to host a public lecture for the Simons Foundation. The Simons Foundation is sponsoring these lectures as part of “Mathematics for the Planet Earth”. MPE 2013 is a year-long series of events recognizing the role of the mathematics sciences, including statistics, in solving important problems in ecology, the environment, climate change, human health and a variety of other areas that concern the planet on which we live.

On April 24, over 150 gathered to hear Dr. Francesca Dominici talk about the public health impact of air pollution and climate change. The evening started out with a reception for professors and other distinguished guests from the Triangle region.

Richard Smith at the podium

Richard Smith welcoming everyone to the event.

Dr. Richard Smith, director of SAMSI, welcomed everyone and introduced Dr. Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program.

Dr. Linda Birnbaum at the podium

Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Director of NIEHS, introduces Francesca Dominici

Dr. Birnbaum then introduced Francesca Dominici, Professor of Biostatistics in the Harvard School of Public Health, and Associate Dean of Information Technology.

Dominici gave an eloquent speech talking about how she and her colleagues look at various data sets, such as air pollution monitoring sites from the EPA, Medicare claims, data from NOAA, amongst others. She has developed statistical methods for the adjustment of measured and unmeasured confounders, Bayesian hierarchical models, causal inference methods, and missing data methods.

Here are more photos from the evening’s events. More about the speech will be covered in the next issue of SAMSI.Info.


Dan Solomon talking at reception





MECC2013 – Richard Smith’s Notes from Portugal

The following was written by Richard Smith, Director of SAMSI.

Last week I attended “MECC 2013” – the International Conference and Advanced School Planet Earth, Mathematics of Energy and Climate Change, in Portugal, March 21-28, 2013.

This was one of the two Portuguese research conferences linked to MPE2013, Mathematics of the Planet Earth. The main part of the conference took place over two and a half days in the magnificent Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation building in the center of Lisbon (as I discovered while there, the same building is also the concert hall of the Gulbenkian Orchestra – one night I went to a fine performance of the Brahms Requiem). There were fourteen keynote speakers as well as “thematic sessions” covering numerous aspects of mathematics, statistics and economics associated with climate change, renewable energy and related themes. I was one of the keynote speakers, and talked about recent work on climate extremes. Another keynote speaker with SAMSI connections was Chris Jones, of the UNC Math department and former Associate Director of SAMSI. Chris gave his talk by video link from Chapel Hill, which worked fine for most of his talk, though the communication was all one way: we could hear Chris just fine, but he could not hear us. Chris later commented to me that he found this very strange, though the talk was excellent. Other speakers covered topics such as solar energy and the economics of sustainability.

While I was there, they also asked me (along with several of the other visitors) to give some lectures at the University of Lisbon. So on the last day of my visit, I spoke for three hours to an audience that was mostly from the Statistics department of the University. I have had long connections with the Portuguese statistics community dating back to the first international conference on extreme value theory, which took place in Portugal in 1983. It was good to meet up with several old friends.

Richard Smith