Alumni Spotlight: Chris Franck


Photo: Chris Franck

Our Alumni

Christopher Franck received his Ph.D. from the Department of Statistics in 2010 under the direction of Jason Osborne. From 2010 to 2016, Franck was an assistant research professor in the Department of Statistics at Virginia Tech, where he also served as the assistant director of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis. He is now an assistant professor at Virginia Tech and his research interests include model selection, spatial statistics and behavioral economic modeling.

What drew you to statistics?

As a requirement in my early attempt to major in psychology, I enrolled in an 8 a.m. statistics class. One day in class the students constructed a mixed jar of green and yellow beans in proportion unknown to the professor, Golde Holtzman, who had us shake the jar (randomization) and draw several spoons full of beans (sampling). Then he guessed the proportion in the larger jar (population) correctly (inference). On the strength of that live demonstration, I decided I would quit psychology and become a statistician. Turned out to be a pretty good choice.

What do you remember most about your time as a statistics graduate student at NC State?

I always remember the department as a place filled with incredibly smart and friendly people. Even though graduate school is (by design) a very challenging experience, I always remember having lots of smart friends and professors to learn from. I remember a culture of curiosity.

What are the research questions that you are interested in right now?

Currently I am studying model selection, spatial statistics and statistical modeling of behavioral economic studies.

Why did you make the transition from a mostly consulting/collaborative position as a research assistant professor and assistant/interim director of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis at Virginia Tech to a tenure-track position in statistics?

I guess the short answer is that after six years in my previous role I became eager to try something new. I am thankful for all of the scientific problems I encountered while working primarily with clients. These experiences have helped motivate the methodological problems I am working on now.

What are some ways that statisticians could improve on how they communicate statistics to the public?

(1) Engaging more with data journalists,
(2) writing more extensively (and accessibly) in non-statistical venues, and
(3) increasing the statistics exposure of high school students.

What’s the best advice that you can give to current graduate statistics students at NC State?

Everyone I know and respect has at one point or another encountered brutally harsh professional criticism. When you receive harsh professional criticism (via exams, research, reviewer comments, etc.), learn whatever you can from the experience. Do your critics have a point? What can you learn and how can you do better next time? The way you respond to criticism will profoundly shape your professional development. However, if someone “piggybacks” a suggestion to, for example, fundamentally change your goals or ambitions based on the result of a single project, test, encounter or discussion, you should ignore that suggestion. Nobody can determine the ultimate potential or talent of another person. Only you can determine how good you can become through years of hard work and dedication.

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