THE CENTRE DAILY TIMES
November 3, 1997
PROFESSOR SHINES AS STELLAR STATISTICIAN
RESEARCHER EARNS RECOGNITION FOR HIS MATHEMATICAL WORK
By VICKI CHENG
Centre Daily Times
UNIVERSITY PARK --
Jogesh Babu got into the field of statistics purely by chance.
"I got calls from two institutions. One was from an engineering college in the south, and another was the Indian Statistical Institute in the north."
Both requested interviews with him on the same day.
"I went to the nearest train station, and took whatever train came first," he said. It was the northbound train.
Years later, Babu, 48, is half a world away from the small fishing village in India where he grew up. Named a visiting professor at Penn State in 1985 and made a professor in 1987, he has four books and 85 research articles under his belt. Displayed on his walls are awards from the Institute of Mathematical Statis-tics, the American Statistical Association and the International Statistical Institute.
Babu is also co-founder of the field of astrostatistics, which combines statistics with astronomy. He and Eric Feigelson, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State, recently co-wrote a book on the subject.
"Many of the important concepts of statistics originated in astronomy," said Babu, whose impeccable Thomas Building office is lined with shelves of journals and books.
"After the development of astrophysics, the two fields diverged," he said.
But because astronomers have such large data sets to work with these days, statistics is more important than ever in understanding how the universe works, he said.
Babu and Feigelson have spent the last few years trying to bring the two fields together, organizing conferences and writing. Their goal is to teach the basics of statistics to astronomers, and vice versa.
Babu said he learned most of his astronomy from Feigelson.
Babu's current project is to analyze data on gamma ray bursts from deep space.
When asked about his recent award, he appeared modest. The Association selected him for his research in probabilistic number theory, statistical methods for astronomy and for his promotion of interdisciplinary activities, among other things.
a good thing his train headed north many years ago. "Yes," Babu said, "I
AT A GLANCE
Who: Jogesh Babu, professor of statistics
Personal: Wife, Sudha; two sons, Vinay and Vijay
Residence: State College
never dreamed he'd grow up to be an award-winning statistician. "I didn't
even know how to spell the word," he said of his undergraduate days, before
he chose the field. "I was not sure what I was doing."