Karen Kafadar is Commonwealth Professor of Statistics at the University of Virginia and the current chair of the UVA Department of Statistics. She recently fulfilled her term as 114th president of the American Statistical Association. Karen's professional accomplishments and activities are vast: she has been editor-in-chief of Technometrics and served as president of the International Association for Statistical Computing; she was editor for JASA's Review Section and is currently biology and genetics editor for the Annals for Applied Statistics; she chairs the ASA Committee on Statistics in Forensic Science, serves on the Forensic Science Standards Board, and is active on National Academy of Sciences committees; she has been on the National Institute of Statistical Sciences Board of Trustees since 2010.
Professor Kafadar is a leading exponent of exploratory data analysis. Her research also focuses on robust methods; characterization of uncertainty in the physical, chemical, biological, and engineering sciences; and methodology for the analysis of screening trials, which has resulted in awards from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ASA, and the American Society for Quality.
Karen earned her Stanford bachelor's degree in math and coterminal master's degree in statistics in 1975. Her adviser in the Statistics Department was Brad Efron; her PhD in statistics from Princeton was completed with John Tukey:
Like many of us, I liked math, and my parents supported my interests (many women in my era were not so encouraged). Near the end of my junior year, I realized I needed only one more quarter to graduate. Horrors! What was I going to do in my life—go out into the real world? I was having too much fun! So, I came up with a scheme: Get a master's degree! So, on the basis of one probability course, I signed up for a master's degree in statistics. It was my great fortune that the adviser for the MS program that year was one Professor Bradley Efron. When I showed him my wimpy study plan (it was my senior year after all), he promptly crossed out all my chosen courses and put me in PhD courses instead. Then, he smiled cheerfully, signed my study plan, and sent me on my way. So much for hanging out with my buddies; I was in the library every day—and night.
But that 10-minute meeting changed my life. Brad Efron encouraged me to continue to a PhD, during which I watched brilliant people like John Tukey and Peter Bloomfield work on real problems that demonstrated the importance of statistics. Later, when I was at Hewlett Packard, Tukey retired from Princeton but was still very much in demand as a consultant, which brought him frequently to Palo Alto. Our dinners together during his visits exposed me to even more interesting problems and the clever ways he approached them. My career is living proof of the influence you can have on someone in whom you see more potential than perhaps she dares to believe for herself. I hope all of you can have the impact on future statisticians in the way that my parents and professors Efron and Tukey had on me.