CRM-SSC Prize in Statistics 2012

Changbao Wu
CRM-SSC Prize in Statistics

Professor Changbao Wu, from the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Waterloo, is the 2012 winner of the CRM-SSC Prize. Awarded annually by the Centre de recherches mathématiques (Montréal) and the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC), this prestigious prize recognizes a statistical scientist's professional accomplishments in research during the first fifteen years after earning a doctorate.

This prize highlights Changbao's outstanding contributions to survey sampling and his exceptional mentoring of graduate students. Changbao also distinguished himself with extended service to his institution, the SSC, and several scholarly journals. The author or co-author of over 30 scientific articles, Changbao has done fundamental work on calibration methods; in particular, he showed how to construct optimal estimators of various finite-population parameters by exploiting auxiliary information efficiently through a model-calibration approach. The general framework he developed for model- assisted calibration methods stimulated much research. More recently, Changbao has focused his interest on empirical likelihood methods for survey data. He is one of the leading developers of pseudo empirical likelihood techniques and the efficient computational algorithms he developed in this context are widely used.

Throughout the years, Changbao also seized many opportunies to get his hands dirty with data. For example, he gained first- hand experience with fishery abundance survey design and analysis. He also played a key role in the Chinese leg of the International Tobacco Control Policy Evaluation Project. In recognition of his leadership role in survey sampling, he was invited to serve as Associate Editor for Biometrika, the Journal of Nonparametric Statistics, Survey Methodology, The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Statistics, and of course The Canadian Journal of Statistics. Advisor or co-advisor of three PhD students and more than 10 MMath students at the University of Waterloo, Changbao is also appreciated for his community contributions. He served on numerous committees at his institution and within the SSC; among others, he was President of the Survey Methods Section in 2005-2006.

Born in 1963, Changbao was raised in a small village in the Chinese province of Anhui. His parents and older brother, now deceased, were peasants; they never received any formal education. The village's first elementary school only opened in 1969. Changbao was part of the first class of students; he was the only one to go on to secondary school. After the Cultural Revolution, Changbao was able to study mathematics at Anhui Laodong University. He graduated in 1982 and was hired as a faculty member at the Anhui Institute of Education, a training centre for high school teachers; the institution later became Hefei Normal University. At the beginning of his career, Changbao was younger than most of his students. An energetic and passionate teacher, he was called "Mr. Towel" because when he taught in the summer, he would bring nothing in class except a towel to wipe off sweat.

Changbao completed an MSc Diploma in Mathematical Statistics at East China Normal University in 1986. Nine years later, he left his job to pursue doctoral studies in statistics in Canada. He completed his PhD at Simon Fraser University in 1999. His thesis entitled "The effective use of complete auxiliary information from survey data" was written under the supervision of the late Randy Sitter. Changbao was always a great teacher but in the 13 years since he joined the University of Waterloo, he has apparently managed to elevate his teaching to a level such that he no longer even needs a towel to teach!

Changbao is not only a statistician. He is also an avid athlete. He was a member of his college's long distance running team, with best finish in 10 km races at 31:29. He has been playing in the NBA (Non-Professional Basketball Association) since 1982. He also enjoys playing badminton and squash with his colleagues and students.

Changbao and his wife Jane recently celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. They have two daughters: Domeny is a graduate student in the School of Accounting and Finance at the University of Waterloo; Miranda is currently in 5th grade of elementary school. Both girls are very bright and athletic; they enjoy travelling with the family and all kinds of outdoor activities.

Changbao Wu is the 14th recipient of the CRM-SSC prize. Changbao delivered the CRM-SSC Prize in Statistics Address at the 40th Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canada held in Guelph, Ontario, June 3 to 6, 2012.

The citation for the award reads: 

"For his extensive and influential contributions to the theory and application of survey methodology, notably for the development of pseudo- empirical likelihood methods for the analysis of data arising from complex survey designs involving stratification and multiple frame sampling; and for proposing an inferential framework of importance to the practice of statistics in Canada."

Changbao Wu is the fourteenth recipient of the CRM-SSC Prize. Previous winners of the award were Christian Genest (Laval), Robert J. Tibshirani (Stanford), Colleen D. Cutler (Waterloo), Larry A. Wasserman (Carnegie-Mellon), Charmaine B. Dean (Simon Fraser), Randy R. Sitter (Simon Fraser), Jiahua Chen (Waterloo), Jeffrey S. Rosenthal (Toronto), Richard J. Cook (Waterloo), Paul Gustafson (UBC), Hugh A. Chipman (Acadia), Grace Y. Yi (Waterloo), and Edward Susko (Dalhousie).