Algebra meets statistics at Summer School in Tromsø
A group of mathematicians recently came together at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, to learn more about four new developments in the intersection of algebra and statistics.
Whereas statistics is often viewed as something very concrete and applied, many students think of algebra as an abstract matter. However, methods from computational algebra can help to approach problems in statistics from a different angle, and provide new insight.
To showcase this, the Algebra group at UiT organized a one-week summer school devoted to Algebraic statistics, supported by the Tromsø research foundation. The 36 participants, who came from all over Europe, and as far as Japan and Cuba, received the opportunity to hear about four new developments in the area where algebra and statistics meet.
The next generation of researchers
Their teachers, Carlos Amendola (TU Munich), Fatemeh Mohammadi (Bristol University), Kaie Kubjas (Aalto University), and Sonja Petrovic (IIT Chicago), presented a wide range of topics spanning from tensor decomposition to maximum likelihood estimation.
– This mix of different topics provided a very good coverage of how to use both algebraic methods and statistical models in order to approach the same problem in different ways, and take advantage of both practice areas”, says Alina Popa, one of the participants.
Cristina Chávez Chong, a recent graduate student in statistics from Cuba, adds:
– After this, I have a new perception of the relationship between algebra and statistics. This has forever changed the way I'm going to work with statistical models, and is definitely going to have an impact on my future research, she says.
This training of a new generation of researchers was one of the main motivations of Sonja Petrovic.
– I thought the school was an excellent opportunity to help train the next generation of researchers in algebraic statistics. Many of the participants are new to the field, and hopefully they found new connections and research interests, Petrovic says.
A great success
The summer school was not only about science. The participants also had the opportunity to explore the amazing nature around Tromsø in a hike up to Fjellstua, as well as see the northern lights at night.
Cordian Riener, who was organizing the summer school together with Hugues Verdure, sums up:
– The summer school was a great success. Only the weather was maybe not what people expect when they hear the term “Summer school”. We are extremely grateful for the financial support from Tromsø research foundation, which has made this wonderful event possible. I am sure that all of the participants have learned a lot of cool new mathematics and that they will take home good memories from our university and Tromsø.
What is statistics?
Statistics, i.e. the art of methods for collecting, analyzing and interpreting empirical data, is a fundamental tool used in all empirical sciences. Very recently, new developments in this statistics have arisen, building on techniques from a different branch of mathematics, namely algebra.
What is algebra?
Algebra can be characterized as the branch of mathematics interested in solutions to polynomial equations and inequalities. More abstractly, it also studies the structures and properties underlying mathematical objects.