Stan Sclove

Stan Sclove

June 15, 2021

Stan was born in Charleston, West Virginia, and grew up in Huntington, West Virginia, and graduated from Huntington High School. He then attended Dartmouth College, graduating with a math major. He then went to Columbia University’s Department of Mathematical Statistics, getting a PhD. He served as a TA to T.W. Anderson in a statistics course for grad students in Sociology. During the summers, Stan worked as a Statistician in the Laboratory of Medical and Biological Sciences, Taft Center, U.S. Public Health Service, Cincinnati, Ohio. After finishing the PhD at Columbia, he was a Research Associate (postdoctoral fellow) for two years in Stanford’s Department of Statistics, working on a government research contract held by Herb Solomon and Herman Chernoff. Stan’s part of the contract related to Classification and Cluster Analysis. Stan then joined the newly formed Statistics Department at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh. He was there for three years, then returned to Stanford for a year as a visiting assistant professor, then joined the faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where he has been for forty-nine years, in the Math Department for a decade and then in the Quantitative Methods Department (now the Department of Information & Decision Sciences) in the College of Business Administration.

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

In college, I started as a chemistry major. I liked it but found I liked math even better, so I switched to math. I took a course in probability and then a couple of statistics courses with Tom Kurtz and a couple of courses (Abstract Algebra and Philosophy of Science) with John Kemeny. (A couple of years later, Kemeny and Kurtz were to write the Basic computer language.) I looked into a Princeton Guide and found a summer job in Cincinnati, working on applied statistics in the U.S. Public Health Service, Lab of Medical and Biological Sciences, doing survey data processing and analysis of variance.

2. What is the problem currently driving you?

Applications of and implications of the BIC (Bayesian Information Criterion) model-selection criterion.

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

The Classification Society has been my primary societal affiliation, although I have been active in the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. The variety of professions represented in the Classification Society, including Biometrics, Psychometrics, and Statistics, makes it particularly interesting to an applied statistician.

4. You are one of our longest-serving members; Can you tell us about the origins of The Classification Society?

I think that the Society was an idea of Sokal and Rohlf. Statisticians including Herman Chernoff and John Hartigan picked up on the idea. I went to an early meeting of the Society, perhaps the first one, ca. 1969, at Ohio State University and one at NORC (National Opinion Research Center) near the University of Chicago in 1972. I have attended almost every year.

5. How has the study of classification changed over the course of your lifetime?

One of the most interesting things has been the application of the mixture model as an underlying model for classification problems.

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