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SSA Canberra “rego grant” prize winners Santiago Marin, Xian Li, and Zhi Yang Tho discuss their experiences attending and presenting at ASC & OZCOTS 2023

20 Dec 2023 7:59 AM | Marie-Louise Rankin (Administrator)

SSA Canberra congratulates three winners of its 2023 “rego grant” prize, Santiago Marin, Xian Li, and Zhi Yang Tho, all of whom share their recent experiences of attending the 2023 ASC & OZCOTS conference at Wollongong.

Santiago Marin

“I am immensely grateful for the enormous support provided by the Canberra branch of the Statistical Society of Australia, which helped me to attend the 2023 Australian Statistical Conference through a “Rego Grant”. I spent five remarkable days in sunny Wollongong, where I was able to meet and socialize with new people, catch up with old friends, and have constructive discussions with fellow Statisticians and Data Enthusiasts, especially with other Ph.D. students working on truly amazing projects!

This year, the theme for the conference was ‘Statisticians in Society’. Through a wide variety of Keynotes, oral presentations, and informal chats in the halls of the University, I realized the vast impact that Statistics has on our societies. From theoretical and methodological advances to effective data communication—and everything in between—Statistics plays a key role in how we make decisions, which ultimately will affect all of us.

Additionally, I was able to present my research on Scalable Bayesian Posterior Sampling in the form of a rapid oral presentation and a poster. As a Ph.D. student and an early career statistician, sharing my work with a broader academic audience and hearing their comments and suggestions is crucial to produce high-quality and significant research. Thus, I would also like to express my most sincere gratitude to everyone who stopped by my poster, asked challenging questions, or provided meaningful feedback.

Before wrapping up, I would also like to recognize the hard work of the Organizing Committee. They truly pulled off an amazing event! All in all, I am looking forward to the 2025 ASC conference in Perth!”

(The credits of the photo go to Dr. Swen Kuh) 

*Santiago Marin is a first-year PhD student in Statistics at the Australian National University.

Xian Li

“First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the generous support provided through the Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) Canberra registration grant. This grant played an important role in facilitating my active participation and engagement in the Australian Statistical Conference, Wollongong 2023.

The four-day conference was exceptionally well-structured, featuring a diverse range of sessions covering topics such as ecology, network/graph theory, spatial statistics, and Bayesian computations, etc. There are keynote sessions and contributed sessions.

The keynote sessions, particularly those delivered by Professor Xiao-Li Meng, Professor Andrew Mangion, and Professor Julie Simpson, provided fascinating insights into the integration of statistics with other fields, significantly enriching my understanding of statistical methodologies and their applications.

In the contributed sessions, I presented my work on “subbagging variable selection” in a parallel session on “Big Data”; This marked my first formal presentation to an audience of more than 30 individuals. I received many friendly and constructive feedback on my work from both academic and industry researchers. Additionally, I was impressed by the other three presenters from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) who covered topics such as anomaly detection, survey design and estimating equations, and network analysis on consumer data for estimation of household expenditure. Their presentations provided informative and inspiring aspects of the application of statistical methods in real-world big data problems. After the parallel session, I had the opportunity to chat with the other presenters during lunchtime, gaining more insights into their works and understanding the daily tasks and working environments of the ABS in different divisions and teams. They also provided their advantageous advice on my career development.

I thoroughly enjoyed the conference, and I am confident that such precious experiences will significantly contribute to my future academic endeavors and professional career. I will continue to be passionate about statistics with gratitude to SSA Canberra. The continued support from SSA Canberra has been helpful in having a positive impact on Canberra-based students and researchers alike. I extend my heartfelt thanks once again for the invaluable opportunity afforded to me through this grant. I believe this journey will be very memorable in my future study and career.

*Xian Li is currently completing his PhD in Statistics at the Australian National University, while also undertaking an internship at the Australian Public Service.

Zhi Yang Tho 

The ASC & OZCOTS 2023 conference was held on the beautiful campus of the University of Wollongong, and it has been an amazing experience to be part of the conference. The conference consisted of talks from a wide range of topics in Statistics e.g. spatial statistics, causal inference etc., which allowed me to stay up to date with the ongoing work of other researchers. For instance, I learnt about a new idea of visual inference that involves conducting statistical inferences with the help of statistical graphics. I also enjoyed the keynote speeches, particularly the Joint ASC/OZCOTS Keynote by Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter FRS OBE, who presented an insightful talk on the importance of presenting balanced information to improve the trustworthiness of statistical communication. I was impressed by the work presented in the Horizon Lecture by Associate Professor Andrew Zammit Mangion, who discussed the idea of amortised inference by applying neural networks to large spatial datasets.

By presenting my work in the session ‘Spatial Statistics and the Environment’, I was able to obtain useful comments from other researchers in similar field to improve the project. It was also my first time to co-chair a session in an academic conference. Specifically, I co-chaired the session 'Training the Next Generation of Statisticians', where the great discussions in the field of statistical education reminded me of the importance of developing students’ statistical thinking as an educator. Throughout the conference, I met many new people from a wide variety of backgrounds, and it is amazing how the conference was able to bring together everyone who shares the same passion for Statistics. Various social events were also held during the conference. The ECSS Network ASC Social was one of my favourite events as I had the chance to not only talk to early-career peers about the challenges that we face as a researcher but also discuss with more senior statisticians on their advice to overcome these difficulties.

Finally, I would like to thank the organisers of the ASC & OZCOTS 2023 conference for their immense effort in putting up such a great event, and the Canberra Branch of the Statistical Society of Australia for sponsoring my registration of the conference.”

*Zhi Yang Tho is a completing PhD in Statistics at the Australian National University and will commence a postdoctoral fellowship in Statistics at the ANU at the start of 2024.

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