Carnegie Mellon University

Meet the Department Head, Rebecca Nugent

By Abby Simmons

Carnegie Mellon University has appointed Rebecca Nugent head of the Department of Statistics & Data Science, effective June 15, 2021.

"Rebecca is a force of nature — but in a good way!" said Richard Scheines, Bess Family Dean of the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. "She has become a national leader in data science education, sports analytics, and promoting opportunities for women in data science and technical fields more generally. She is always inclined to build, so this is a great role for her and for us. I am truly excited to work with her over the next several years."

Nugent succeeds Christopher Genovese, who has served as department head since 2014.

"Under Chris, statistics thrived. The department changed its name to the Statistics & Data Science Department, its popularity as an educational destination soared, and its research profile, both in theory and applications, continues to be highly innovative and among the best in the world." Scheines said. "The department is large and complex, and Chris devoted enormous quantities of energy in running it. I enjoyed working with him, and I am grateful for his work."

The Department of Statistics & Data Science is a global leader in applying statistics to many areas of science, technology, policy and education. Since joining the department in 2006, Nugent, the Stephen E. and Joyce Fienberg Professor in Statistics & Data Science, has been a driving force, helping to make CMU's program one of the fastest-growing and top-ranked in the country.

"I'm honored and very excited about the opportunity to continue building on the longstanding Carnegie Mellon Statistics & Data Science tradition of ground-breaking theoretical, methodological and interdisciplinary research alongside innovative, leading pedagogical programs," Nugent said. "Best faculty, best students, best staff — a wonderful place to be!"

Nugent has served as associate department head since 2017 and director or co-director of undergraduate studies since 2016. She is the founding director of the department's Corporate Capstone Program, an experiential learning initiative that matches groups of faculty and students with data science research problems in corporate, nonprofit and government organizations. She has provided leadership for a number of other initiatives, including the Carnegie Mellon Sports Analytics Center and Women in Data Science Pittsburgh, as well as the launch of Advanced Analytics Executive Education programs through CMU's Tepper School of Business.

Numerous organizations have recognized Nugent for her commitment to and innovation in training and education. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) named her video, "Personalized Learning Environments for Student-Centric STEM," a winner of its 2020 Big Ideas competition for the future of higher education. The video features CMU's Integrated Statistics Learning Environment (ISLE), a browser-based educational platform that supports data analysis as well as report writing, presentations, lecture slides, videos and student-instructor interaction. She is also the co-chair of the current NASEM consensus study "Improving Defense Acquisition Workforce Capability in Data Use."

She is the incoming chair of the American Statistical Association Section on Statistics & Data Science Education and has also received the ASA's Waller Education Award, CMU's William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching, and Dietrich College's Elliott Dunlap Smith Award for Distinguished Teaching and Educational Service.

Nugent has worked extensively in clustering and classification methodology with an emphasis on high-dimensional, big data problems. Her current research focus is the development and deployment of low-barrier data analysis platforms that allow for adaptive instruction and the study of data science as a science. In addition, she serves as the president-elect of the International Federation of Classification Societies.