Master of Applied Statistics program comes of age

University Park, Pa. -- The Master of Applied Statistics (M.A.S.) program at Penn State has barely completed two years, but it already has graduated its first class of students and established a strong presence in the field, organizers say.

"This professional master's program provides training in statistics focused on developing data-analysis skills and exploration of all core areas of applied statistics," says Jogesh Babu, professor of statistics and professor-in-charge of M.A.S. "It is built on our extensive repertoire of graduate-level applied statistics courses." 

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which partially funded the development of the M.A.S. program, hopes programs such as those at Penn State will help to create stand-alone master's degrees to prepare students for challenging and diverse opportunities in high-tech and scientific fields. Traditionally, master's degrees in many scientific fields have represented a step along the way to a doctoral degree and a job as an educator or researcher.

"These new master's programs enable us to reach out to an entirely new graduate population and should provide an attractive option for more students," says Norman Freed, associate dean of the Eberly College of Science. "They also enhance our relationships with business and industry because these programs are specifically designed to prepare students for employment in a growing number of important fields."

The testimonials of recent graduates and current students support the program:

-- Stephanie T. Lanza, a statistician at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute and a research assistant professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a recent graduate from the Master of Applied Statistics program. She also received her Ph.D. degree in Human Development and Family Studies in May 2003. She says, "I am proud to be the first graduate of this new program." She adds, "In addition to the excellent coursework at Penn State, obtaining the M.A.S. degree has helped others recognize that my graduate work was truly interdisciplinary. The program provided me with training and credentials that are widely marketable and that will help me achieve my goals in the social sciences."

-- Jianxiong Chu, a mathematical statistician at the Food and Drug Administration's Center for Devices and Radiological Health and a graduate of the program, says, "All the professors were wonderful and were easily accessible for helpful discussions even after classes. I obtained rigorous training in both the theoretical and the practical sides of statistics. I really enjoyed the flexibility of the program in catering to my own needs and goals. It played a critical role in enabling me to switch my career from the credit-card industry to the biomedical field."

-- Steven Orlich, now a senior statistical analyst at Minitab, Inc., received his M.A.S. degree at Penn State in August 2003 and his bachelor's degree in statistics in 1999. He comments, "Statistics and the results of various studies are being reported to us in one way or another every day. The ability to question and scrutinize these results allows one to have a richer understanding and appreciation of science." He adds, "The M.A.S. program is quite flexible and allows you to pursue primary statistical areas of interest. In addition, the required consulting practicum is extremely valuable in preparing one for the workforce. The experience it provides in meeting with clients and aiding them in their data analysis gives students from this program an edge in the job market."

-- Nikolina Icitovic is currently an intern in the department of health evaluation sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine. She expects to graduate from the M.A.S. program at Penn State in May 2004 and has been on the Dean's List in every semester. She says, "All the professors in the program have been extremely helpful and I have learned a lot. I enjoyed interacting with the faculty and students."

-- Girish Srinivasan, an assistant manager at GE Capital Analytics and a recent graduate, says, "M.A.S. faculty members were all extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I enjoyed the regular seminars and workshops, which added an extra dimension to the program. By the end of my first semester in the program, I knew most of the graduate students in the department and really enjoyed their company. I felt like a part of a really big family." Srinivasan adds, "The program equipped me with a sound theoretical background in statistics and provided me with the right set of skills that I would need as a quantitative analyst."

Mosuk Chow, associate professor of statistics and the program director of the M.A.S. program, says, "In this new information age, the need for individuals to acquire and use the sophisticated tools and knowledge to handle and analyze data is ever increasing. As statistical analysis has become an indispensable component of many industries, we have worked closely with representatives from business and industry to develop the curriculum of this degree."

This new degree aims to produce well-trained applied statisticians for industry and government. "The Master of Applied Statistics program is intended for students who are mostly interested in the practical side of statistics and who have earned a bachelor's degree in the agricultural, biological, or social sciences; business, computer, or information science; engineering; mathematics; or the physical sciences," adds James L. Rosenberger, professor and head of the Penn State Department of Statistics.

With rapid advances in technology, universities, and in turn departments and their programs, face the challenge of having to continually remake themselves to include the exploding volume of new information and the changing needs of students. Organizers of the Master of Applied Statistics program at Penn State say it is meeting this challenge by providing students with a well-rounded education along with essential practical skills for the 21st century.

Information on the M.A.S. program is available on the Web at http://www.stat.psu.edu/grad/degrees/MAS/index.html

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Last Updated September 29, 2010