Meet new Statistics department head Hao Zhang


Hao Zhang

On July 1, Professor Hao Zhang became only the fourth head of the Purdue Department of Statistics. Zhang follows professors Rebecca Doerge (2010-2015), Mary Ellen Bock (1995-2010) and Shanti Gupta (1968-1995). He served as associate head under Doerge’s leadership.

Zhang’s long history in mathematics and statistics and his strong academic leadership helped make him a prime candidate to lead the department. A member of Purdue Statistics since 2007, Zhang has integrated theory and application in his research and has a clear vision for Purdue Statistics’ future. 

“Purdue Statistics is one of the top departments in the country,” Zhang said. “I would like to build upon its strengths and take it to a new level in the era when Statistics as a discipline faces unprecedented new opportunities and challenges that arise due to the new types of data in biology, health, environmental sciences, and social networking, among other areas.”

Hao Zhang lives and breathes his academic commitment and advocates for interdisciplinary research. This is clear in his collaborative academic history. Zhang held a joint appointment between Department of Statistics (75 percent) and Department of Forestry and Natural Resources (25 percent). He will be in Statistics entirely during his headship. 

Zhang said since he had worked in time series analysis, which is comprised of methods to analyze data that have a natural temporal ordering, and wanted to expand his research scope, he incorporated spatial statistics (like the inclusion of geographical information) into his research program. Conducting research of global importance and impact is a priority to Zhang’s research.

Since the field of spatial statistics is application driven, Zhang has been committed to collaborative and multidisciplinary research. Currently, his research is focused in:

  • Forestry and Natural Resources: working with Dr. Songlin Fei and others on the study of evasive species;
  • Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences: working with Dr. Qianlai Zhuang on uncertainty quantification of ecosystem models;
  • Agricultural Economics and Agronomy: working with Professors Tom Hertel and Nelson Villoria as well as Dev Niyogi on climate change and international trade;
  • Extreme Weather: working on a team in China and collaborating with the University of Chicago
  • Statistics Methodology: collaborating with Professor Tonglin Zhang of the Department of Statistics on a new class of spatial-temporal covariance functions.

Zhang’s experience in academic leadership extends to his successfully completed Ph.D. students: Juan Du, Yong Wang, Juan Hu, Cheng Liu, Inkyung Choi, Xian He and Yen-Ning Huang.  Currently, Zhang supervises Ph.D. students Piyas Chakraborty, Kelly-Ann Dixon Hamil and Whitney Huang. 

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