CANSSI Welcomes New Scientific Director, Donald Estep

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Donald Estep, Scientific Director of CANSSI
Don Estep

The Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI) has the pleasure of welcoming our new Scientific Director, Donald Estep.

Don, a University Distinguished Professor and University Interdisciplinary Research Scholar at Colorado State University, conducts research in uncertainty quantification, construction of stochastic multiscale models, algorithms for efficient computation, and inverse problems related to prediction. He is also a champion for interdisciplinary collaboration and has worked tirelessly to highlight the importance of statistical and data science, especially in universities. He has served on several scientific advisory panels for the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation, where he promoted the increase of research support and high-performance computational capability to statistical and mathematical analysis relevant to the study of complex systems.

“I am delighted to welcome Don Estep as the new Scientific Director of CANSSI,” says Wesley Yung, Chair of the CANSSI Board of Directors. “Don’s experience in research and research administration makes him an ideal candidate to lead CANSSI through its next phase of development. Statistics plays a fundamental role in research in multiple disciplines and he is a strong believer of the CANSSI model of interdisciplinary research. We are excited about the future of CANSSI under his leadership”.

He also recently joined Simon Fraser University’s Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences as a faculty member. “Don is immensely respected not only for his work within his field, but also for his innate ability to work collaboratively with other disciplines,” says Thomas Loughin, Professor and Chair of SFU’s Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences. “He is renowned for his energy, enthusiasm, insight, and ability to bring people together to work for a common cause. We look forward to working with Don to help CANSSI continue to grow nationwide to support our booming disciplines.”

Don has served as the (founding) Chair of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Uncertainty Quantification, (founding) Co-Editor in Chief of the SIAM-American Statistical Association Journal on Uncertainty Quantification, and as SIAM representative to the Governing Board of the Statistical and Mathematical Sciences Institute.

Don’s awards include Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Computational and Mathematical Methods in Sciences and Engineering Prize, and the Chalmers Jubilee Professorship of Chalmers University of Technology.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve as the next Scientific Director of CANSSI,” says Don. “Nancy Reid led CANSSI to an outstanding record of success and impact. Building on that legacy, I am excited to work towards expanding CANSSI’s capacity to support the research of the Canadian statistics and data science communities as they tackle the challenges of modern society.” On joining the Department of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences at Simon Fraser University, Don adds, “Of course, having the opportunity to join a department of this caliber is an incredible opportunity for me personally. But equally attractive is the significant investment of Simon Fraser University in CANSSI, which demonstrates their appreciation of the central role of statistics in data science.”

Nancy Reid and Don Estep at CANSSI's Headquarters
Nancy Reid and Don Estep at CANSSI’s Headquarters

Learn more about Don

Recently stepping down as Chair of the Statistics Department at Colorado State University, he helped grow the department through a grassroots campaign that helped build capacity for interdisciplinary research related to their research activities and to fulfill the department’s broad educational mission. The campaign established tenure track positions for the department to grow their impact across the university.

By overcoming the challenges of recruiting talent and budget constraints, Don was able to grow the Graybill Statistical Laboratory at Colorado State by building strong relationships with some of the most well-funded science faculty members, who in turn built support for the lab into their funding on a regular basis.

Don has strong interdisciplinary collaborations with the engineering and scientific communities in universities and in the Department of Energy Laboratories including Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Idaho. His research has been supported by a multiple government agencies and national laboratories.

Don also has industry experience working on research in uncertainty quantification. He was a Co-Principal Investigator with Multiscale Design, LLC on an Air Force SBIR Phase II contract on research related to advanced materials, co-PI on a large DOE project with Tech-X Corporation on simulation and modeling of fusion reactors, and has sustained support by the Dynamics Research Corporation and Riverside Research Corporation on electromagnetic scattering related to national defense applications. Don is currently writing a graduate level textbook on probability called “A Ramble Through Probability: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Measure Theory”.

Academic Career

Don received his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1987. From 1987-2002, Don was a faculty member in the School of Mathematics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, rising to the rank of Full Professor. During 1991-1993, he was a visiting assistant professor in Applied Mathematics at the California Institute of Technology. Don moved to the Department of Mathematics at Colorado State University in 2000 and began his move to the Department of Statistics in 2006. Don was co-Director of the NSF IGERT Project Program for Interdisciplinary Mathematics, Ecology, and Statistics from 2003-2009 and Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Mathematics and Statistics from 2006-2019. He served as Associate Chair of the Mathematics Department from 2008-2010. Don was appointed University Interdisciplinary Research Scholar in 2009 and University Distinguished Professor in 2017. He served as Chair of the Department of Statistics from 2017-2019.

Research

Don’s research interests include uncertainty quantification for simulations of complex models, stochastic inverse problems for parameter determination, algorithms for efficient computation, and stochastic modeling of multiscale systems. His research scope embraces theoretical analysis, development and implementation of algorithms, and application to scientific and engineering problems. Don has close interdisciplinary collaborations with scientists and engineers in applications including ecology, materials science, detection of black holes, modeling of fusion reaction, analysis of nuclear fuels, hurricane storm surge forecasting, flow in porous media, and electromagnetic scattering. His research has received strong financial support from multiple government agencies, national laboratories, and industry. Don was awarded the Computational and Mathematical Methods in Sciences and Engineering Prize in 2005 and the Chalmers Jubilee Professorship from Chalmers University of Technology in 2013. He was appointed Fellow of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics in 2014.

Commitment to training of students and postdocs

Don has a sustained commitment to the training of highly qualified personnel. He is (co)author of several textbooks aimed at making advanced mathematics accessible to students in science and engineering. Don was co-Director of a National Science Foundation IGERT interdisciplinary graduate program called PRIMES (Program for Interdisciplinary Mathematics, Ecology and Statistics) at Colorado State University from 2003-2009 and developed the core interdisciplinary training program. He helped develop the interdisciplinary training program for a National Science Foundation UBM undergraduate training program called FEScUE (Flexible and Extendable Scientific Undergraduate Experience) that ran at Colorado State University from 2007-2012. Don has advised over 30 graduate students and postdoctoral scholars who have gone on to establish careers in academia, industry, and national laboratories.

Professional service

Don has been on a number of editorial boards including serving as founding co-Editor in Chief of the SIAM/ASA Journal on Uncertainty Quantification and Editor in Chief of the SIAM Book Series on Computational Science and Engineering. Don has co-organized a number of professional meetings and workshops, including serving as member of the Organizing Committee for the SIAM Annual Meeting in 2009, founding co-Chair of the SIAM ASA Conference on Uncertainty Quantification in 2011-2012, Program Leader for 2 SAMSI Programs, Principle Organizer of the Workshop on UQ for Inverse Problems in Complex Systems at the Isaac Newton Institute in 2018, and member of the Program Committee for the SIAM Conference on Uncertainty Quantification in 2020. Don served on the Governing Board of the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) from 2009-2014 and on the Computer and Information Sciences External Review Board for Sandia National Laboratories from 2012-2015. Don has served on several scientific advisory panels for the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation and co-authored advisory documents that promoted the increase of research support and high-performance computational capability to statistical and mathematical analysis relevant to the study of complex systems.

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