Jeff Wu, Coca-Cola Chair in Engineering Statistics and professor in Georgia Tech’s H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is the 2020 recipient of Sigma Xi’s Monie A. Ferst Award. This national-level award, sponsored by Georgia Tech’s chapter of Sigma Xi, has a distinctive character, recognizing those who have made “notable contributions to the motivation and encouragement of research through education.” Wu’s research over the years have contributed fundamental advances, including the proof of convergence of a sampled Expectation-Maximization sequence to a Maximum Likelihood Estimate, fundamental advances in resampling methods, industrial statistics, and design of experiments.
Wu is also the 2020 recipient of the Class of 1934 Distinguished Professor Award, the highest honor Georgia Tech can bestow on a faculty member. In 2004 he was the first statistician elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Wu has received nearly all awards given in the field of engineering statistics, including the ENBIS Box Medal and the Shewhart Medal.
He will be honored with a Monie A. Ferst Symposium organized by his former students and mentees to celebrate his contributions to education and research. “This award came as a pleasant surprise and gives me consolation during this difficult time,” said Wu. “Educating and mentoring students is like polishing diamonds – it takes patience and effort, and the whole process is inspiring and rewarding.”
Wu’s dedication to educating future researchers can be seen throughout his distinguished academic career. He has supervised 49 doctoral students, 35 of whom are teaching in major research departments or institutions in statistics, engineering, and business around the globe.
In their award nomination letter, ISyE School Chair Edwin Romeijn, A. Russell Chandler III Professor Roshan Joseph, and Associate Professor Enlu Zhou noted, “Professor Wu has influenced multiple generations of researchers and students through his devoted teaching and mentoring. … More than 1,800 papers are published by his students to date without Professor Wu being a co-author. Four of his former students have become editors of Technometrics and Journal of Quality Technology, two of the most prominent journals in engineering statistics. His students would agree on one thing: Professor Wu is more than a research advisor. He remains in their lives as a mentor, friend, and guide even after graduation.”
Wu earned his B.S.in mathematics from National Taiwan University in 1971 and his Ph.D. in statistics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1976. He is an honorary professor at several institutions, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences and National Tsinghua University. He received an honorary doctorate (honoris causa) of mathematics at the University of Waterloo in 2008. He was formerly the H. C. Carver Professor of Statistics and professor of industrial and operations engineering at the University of Michigan (1993-2003) and the GM/NSERC Chair in Quality and Productivity at the University of Waterloo (1988-93). Before his stint at Waterloo, he taught in the statistics department at the University of Wisconsin (1977-88).
In his 1997 inaugural lecture for the Carver Chair, Wu coined the term “data science” and advocated that the field of statistics be renamed “data science” and statisticians should be called “data scientists.”
Sigma Xi is the international honor society of science and engineering. Founded in 1886, it is one of the oldest and largest scientific organizations in the world. Sigma Xi has a distinguished history of service to science and society. It has nearly 60,000 members in over 500 chapters around the world.