The inaugural lecture in a series named in memory of the late Rice University statistician James Thompson will be held at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1, and is open to the public.
The guest speaker will be Karen Kafadar, Chair and Commonwealth Professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Virginia. Her lecture is titled “The Critical Role of Statistics in Evaluating Forensic Evidence.”
“This is a way to celebrate Jim and his contributions to Rice and the statistics department. Jim was here from the beginning,” said Marina Vannucci, the Noah Harding Professor and chair of statistics (STAT) at Rice.
Kafadar and Thompson shared an academic adviser, the late John Tukey, founding chair of the Princeton statistics department in 1965.
“In my talk,” Kafadar said, “I will give three examples -- glass fragments, the U.S. anthrax investigation, eyewitness identification – in which statistics plays a vital role in evaluating forensic evidence and ultimately strengthening it. I will emphasize connections to the broad scope of Jim Thompson’s influence on our profession.”
Thompson, the Noah Harding Emeritus Professor of STAT, who was a statistician at Rice before there was a Statistics Department and who retired in 2016 after 46 years as a member of the faculty, died last Dec. 4 at age 79.
When Thompson joined the Rice faculty in 1970 as a member of the Mathematical Sciences Department in the Wiess School of Natural Sciences. Only in 1987 did STAT become a separate department within the School of Social Sciences, with Thompson as the founding chair. The department moved to the George R. Brown School of Engineering in 1990.
Thompson earned his M.A. and Ph.D. in mathematics from Princeton University in 1963 and 1965, respectively. At Rice, his research focused on statistical model building, biomathematics, quality control and computational finance. He did pioneering work in HIV/AIDS and cancer modeling and served as an adjunct professor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and the University of Texas School of Public Health.
The James R. Thompson Distinguished Lecture Series in Statistics is supported by an endowed fund through contributions from family, friends and colleagues. The lecture will begin at 4 p.m. on Oct. 1 in Duncan Hall’s McMurtry Auditorium. A reception in Martel Hall will follow.