Abby Flynt

Abby Flynt

June 15, 2021

Abby Flynt is a statistician originally from Buffalo, NY. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics Secondary Education from the State University of New York at Fredonia and a Master’s and PhD in Statistics from Carnegie Mellon University. Abby joined the Department of Mathematics at Bucknell University in 2012. She teaches introductory to advanced statistics courses to undergraduates, as well as a Foundation Seminar for first year students on sports analytics and an Integrated Perspectives course for sophomores on Data Science. Abby’s research is broadly focused in machine learning and data science. More specifically, she works on both theoretical and applied problems in clustering with applications in educational research, social justice, public health, and sports. Abby has been on the board of The Classification Society since 2014, currently serving as President and organizer of the 2021 annual meeting at Bucknell.

1. How did you get into statistics and data science?

As an undergraduate, I was a mathematics secondary education major and in the honors program. After a couple of statistics courses, I decided to complete my honors thesis with the lone statistician in the department. She encouraged me to pursue a PhD in Statistics and I ended up getting a spot in a program at my “reach” school. I completed my PhD in the Department of Statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, and I was definitely prepared as a data scientist. I am really thankful that I was in a program that emphasized both the theory and practice of statistics.

2. What is the problem currently driving you?

If I’m being quite honest, the only thing driving me right now is helping my students learn statistics and data science during a global pandemic, and supporting my friends, family, and colleagues however possible.

3. What techniques do you use to empower your students to successfully learn and appreciate statistics and data science?

It’s all about getting their hands dirty with actual data that has some meaning to them. I find that students develop a better understanding of the concepts and formulas when they can see how they work in practice and how to effectively communicate results. I’m a big fan of teaching through simulation and resampling and like to do live coding in class whenever possible. I am also very intentional about building a strong community among students in my classes, so that they are able to learn and engage with the material in a safe and inclusive space.

4. What role has The Classification Society played in your life?

The Classification Society has been my academic family for over a decade. The first talk I ever gave as a PhD student was at a Classification Society annual meeting. I remember being so incredibly nervous, but the membership was nothing but encouraging and supportive. I’ve built both collaborative relationships and lasting friendships with people that I’ve met attending the yearly meetings. The annual meeting is also the absolute highlight of my academic year: we get to hear stellar research talks during the day and then have a great time socializing during the evening.

5. As the president of The Classification Society, what do envision for the future of the society?

The Society really has three main contributions to the areas of clustering and classification: (1) our annual meeting, (2) our Distinguished Dissertation award, and (3) The Journal of Classification. While I’ve already mentioned how much I enjoy our annual meeting, another great feature is our thriving poster session that is accompanied by drinks and hors d’oeuvres and offers students and researchers a slightly more relaxed opportunity to showcase their work. Each year, we honor new researchers in the field with our Distinguished Dissertation Award and feature their work at our annual meeting. The Journal of Classification has a new editor-in-chief and a diverse and prolific editorial board, and publishes outstanding research in the areas of clustering and classification. For me, the future of the Society involves continuing our already successful contributions, while finding ways to introduce more people to this extremely special community of researchers and friends.

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