2015 Summer School in Statistics for Astronomers

Project: Research project

Project Details


2015 Summer School in Statistics for Astronomers; June 1-5 2015; Pennsylvania State University, University Park, State College, PA

Penn State's very popular astrostatistics summer school has trained over 635 total participants since its inauguration in 2005. If maintained at a steady state, this activity will train about 10% of the nation's young astronomers, providing critical skills to the US scientific workforce. Oriented towards graduate students and young researchers, participants receive an intense immersion in statistical methodology taught by highly skilled instructors. The three-pronged curriculum provides instruction in the underlying principles of modern statistics, exposure to advanced methodologies useful in astronomy, and hands-on training in statistical software. Attendees come away with a much heightened expertise in statistics and its applications to their science, a better understanding of how to teach this material to others, and a fine appreciation for the value and meaning of statistics in science. The instructors have devoted considerable effort to adapting the course material to their audience, and the curriculum continues to evolve. The formal textbook based on this curriculum was published in 2012.

Although the dominant mode of observational astronomy in the 20th century involved an individual observing a few celestial objects to investigate the properties of well-defined classes of source, during the 21st century, enormous resources are being poured into telescopes devoted to wide-field astronomy. This has led to a proliferation of projects that survey large parts of the visible sky, with even more coming online over the next few years. While the promise is great, achieving the scientific goals depends critically on extraction of useful knowledge using statistical inference, and especially the use of advanced statistical methods. Observational astronomers are thus confronting a wider range of statistical challenges than ever before, while unfortunately most U.S. astronomers are not well trained in statistics, learning only elementary methods, receiving inadequate conceptual foundations in mathematical statistics, and getting little guidance in advanced applied statistics. Statistics is an available technology that must be tapped to advance the needs of astronomy and astrophysics.

The 2015 Summer School in statistical inference for young astronomers will present concepts and methodologies at an intermediate level, using experienced instructors and an innovative curriculum. Lectures are accompanied by hands-on software R tutorials, and training in high performance cluster computing with applications to astronomical datasets. The Penn State Research Computing & Cyberinfrastructure Group, and its Institute for CyberScience, are providing technical manpower and partially supporting the high-performance computing.

Effective start/end date6/1/155/31/17


  • National Science Foundation: $34,000.00


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