6 minute read
On 11 March, Dr Janice Scealy from The Australian National University (ANU) was awarded one of the country’s most prominent research recognitions – the Moran Medal.
The medal, presented by the Australian Academy of Science, is a major early-career honorific award named after Patrick Moran, who was the foundational professor of statistics at ANU from 1952 to 1983.
Janice received this accolade for her substantial contributions to statistical science.
“I feel truly honoured to receive this award and it really inspires me to continue with my research. I have been in the field of statistics for about 20 years and this is a major milestone. It is amazing to be part of the Moran Medal group. Many of the past recipients are now top professors in Australia, who are also world renowned,” shares Janice, who is a senior lecturer in the ANU College of Business and Economics’ (CBE’s) Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics (RSFAS).
In an historical twist, Janice’s PhD supervisor, CBE’s Professor Alan Welsh, was the very first recipient of the award in 1990.
I feel truly honoured to receive this award and it really inspires me to continue with my research. I have been in the field of statistics for about 20 years and this is a major milestone.
“I feel like I’m following in his footsteps,” admits Janice, while discussing the coincidence. “Alan was my mentor for a long time, and he passed down his knowledge and ideas. I wouldn’t be where I am today without his guidance and influence. He is the one that pointed me in the direction of studying statistical methodology relating to compositional data and we have a number of joint papers together on that topic.”
Janice’s work has appeared in leading academic journals including Journal of the American Statistical Association, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series B, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Statistics, Statistics and Computing, and Statistical Science.
Her research predominantly focuses on developing new statistical analysis methods for data with complicated constraints, including compositional data or percentage data. In statistics, compositional data are quantitative descriptions of the parts of some whole, conveying relative information.
Janice’s work has led to important new insights in a diverse range of applications. Recently, A Directional Mixed Effects Model for Compositional Expenditure Data, published in the Journal of the American Statistical Association, was applied to predict the proportions of total weekly expenditure on food and housing costs in Australia.
This is well deserved recognition of Janice’s research excellence and her contribution to statistical science; it rightly acknowledges her as an emerging leader in the field of statistics.
Using tools from statistics, mathematics, and computer science, Janice also analyses complex datasets to study a range of occurrences, such as identifying the geochemical processes acting on the surface of the Australian continental crust. She is currently a Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Council Discovery Project entitled A New Generation of Palaeomagnetic Statistics. The project is a collaboration with ANU geophysicists Professor Andrew P. Roberts and Associate Professor David Heslop.
“We are developing new statistical analysis methods for spherical data measurements relating to the Earth’s magnetic field, which were extracted from geological materials such as rocks and sediments. It is important to monitor the Earth’s magnetic field and see how it behaved in the past. My new statistical methods help to more accurately measure the uncertainty of the magnetic field so that geophysicists can make better informed decisions,” she explains.
At ANU, there has been a successful history of statisticians and geophysicists working together, since Moran’s days at the University. In 1956, ANU statistician Geoffrey Watson developed the first tests that enabled statistical inference from uncertain directional data. Collaborating with ANU geophysicist Ted Irving, Watson compiled palaeomagnetic statistical techniques. These statistical methods played an important supporting role in a major scientific revolution – the proof of continental drift.
“It is pretty exciting to continue this tradition of ANU statisticians and geophysicists working together and to revive it,” Janice shares candidly.
Associate Professor Steve Sault, Director of RSFAS, joins CBE in congratulating Janice on receiving the Moran Medal.
“This is well deserved recognition of Janice’s research excellence and her contribution to statistical science; it rightly acknowledges her as an emerging leader in the field of statistics. The School is very proud of Janice, both for receiving this award and for her ground-breaking work on developing new statistical analysis methods,” says Steve.
Photo credit: CBE
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Watch Janice discuss her research and receiving the Moran Medal in the video produced by the Australian Academy of Science.