Profiles in APPM

Dr. Eric VanceEric Vance has been an Associate Professor in the Applied Mathematics Department since 2016, and before coming to Boulder, was the director of the Laboratory for Interdisciplinary Statistical Analysis (LISA) at Virginia Tech. Associate Professor Vance is also currently the director of LISA in Boulder.

In 1997, Dr. Vance graduated with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, economics, and statistics from the University of California, Berkeley. After his undergraduate studies, he traveled around the world three times through 67 countries. Dr. Vance then attended graduate school at Duke University where he would earn a masters in Statistics and Decision Sciences and graduate with a doctorate in Statistical Science with his thesis: “Statistical Analysis of Dynamic Network Data.” Eight years after receiving his PhD, Dr. Vance joined the Applied Mathematics Department as an Associate Professor here at CU Boulder.

During his time at Virginia Tech and here at Boulder, Dr. Vance has been given impressive awards, including becoming an elected member of the International Statistical Institute, receiving the American Statistical Association’s (ASA) Statistical Consulting Section’s Outstanding Mentorship Award, and winning the 2020 Jackie Dietz Award from the ASA for the best paper in the Journal of Statistics Education for his paper on the ASCCR Frame for collaboration

Teaching is another important part of Dr. Vance’s contributions as an Associate Professor, especially exemplified by his own course that he has been developing for 13 years: Statistical Collaboration (4680/5680). 

Q: What part of CU’s Applied Math department stands out to you most against other programs?

A: At the graduate level, nowhere else can a PhD student gain a rigorous foundation in applied mathematics and statistics and then apply those theories and methods on real projects (in LISA) to help real people make deep contributions to their research domains. 

At the undergraduate level, our Statistics and Data Science majors get the unique opportunity as juniors or seniors in STAT 4680 to learn the collaboration skills that will enable them to move between theory and practice to apply what they have learned on real projects (in LISA).

Q: What advice would you give to an undergraduate that you wish you had heard yourself as an undergrad?

A: I wish I had known more about going to graduate school, specifically in statistics. Getting a PhD in Statistics never crossed my mind as an undergrad, and yet has been a fantastic opener of doors. I did not know that most PhD students actually get paid to go to graduate school.

One piece of advice I gave myself as an undergraduate was to take as many math courses as possible … I was on a path to major in economics, which was really easy for me. Before college I really loved statistics, but the two stats courses I took in my first two years were just OK. I felt that I was on the path to just continue on the easy route in my last two years (studying economics), and I felt that future me would be disappointed if I “wasted my time.” … I ended up concocting a scheme in which I triple majored in math, economics, and statistics. I didn’t dive as deep into any of those fields as I could have, but the breadth was perfect for me…take lots of challenging classes and consider specializing in the field you really love in graduate school.

Q: What is your favorite part of CU, and Boulder in general? Anything you like to do most?

A: My favorite thing to do in Boulder is to go for a walk around CU Boulder South campus with my dog and one-year-old Max. My dog gets to run around off leash while Max and I admire the Flatirons and talk about our day.