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Teaching statement

The reason I chose to follow a career of a college professor is that I can combine my love to discover new things – research – and my passion to share my knowledge with others – teaching.

I started teaching in 1995 at Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. I taught a recitation section of a calculus-based service course in statistics. After coming to Michigan State University in 1996 I was a graduate teaching assistant and gained teaching experience as an instructor of several introductory statistics courses. After becoming a faculty member at Colorado State University in 2000 I taught mainly graduate courses designed for MS and PhD students in statistics. Since 2008 I have been teaching at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Here I have been teaching courses at all levels.

I believe that when teaching a difficult technical subject such as statistics, it is important not only to convey information in an understandable manner but also show true enthusiasm for the subject. Only someone truly interested and consistently passionate about a subject can expect students to get excited as well. Knowing this, I try to communicate not only knowledge but also show my emotion toward statistics and probability during every lecture I teach. Indeed, my Carolina course evaluations consistently show that over 90% of students strongly agreed or agreed with the statement “The instructor showed enthusiasm for the subject matter”. I believe that statistics is best learned by doing and not listening. Therefore I strive to assign challenging homework sets that help students to reach for deeper understanding of the main ideas covered in class.

I believe that it is important to keep the material that is taught in classes up to date with the scientific developments in the field. This means periodically updating the material covered in the classes we teach. In collaboration with other faculty we have also completely redesigned our first year Ph.D. level mathematical statistics sequence. I plan to participate in these important course review processes in the future.

I developed a first-year seminar “Adventures in statistics”. This first-year seminar provides freshmen with an engaging introduction into probability and statistics. We learn about the role of statistics in society by watching and discussing several statistics related movie. We investigate probability with the view of understanding game of chance. Finally, we discuss reasoning with data with the help of computer simulations instead of mathematical formulas. In addition to all of this the seminar provides a basic introduction to a statistical programing language R.

One of the things that make graduate education special is the one-on-one interaction between a student and his/her dissertation advisor. As opposed to classroom teaching, advising allows the advisor to personally mentor a student into a new researcher. For that reason I see advising as an important part of my role as a faculty member. My personal philosophy is to treat my advisees as colleagues. Therefore I really treasure the opportunity to shape the way they think about problems while always learning something new about myself in the process. In addition to mathematical and statistical skills, I work with my students on written and oral communication skills.

To date I was fortunate to oversee as an advisor or co-advisor the successful completion of 12 Ph. D. students. Out of this number 4 were females and one was a Hispanic male. Six of my students went initially to academia; most recently J. Shi went to a postdoc at University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and A. Pal Majumdar went to a postdoctoral position at the University of Copenhagen. Y. Liu has a faculty position at the University of Maryland and J. Cisewski is an assistant professor at Yale University. Among the ones who went to industry they have positions at companies such as Uber, SAS, Oracle and Leonteq Securities.

I also strongly believe that as human beings we have a responsibility to give back to the society at large. One way I have chosen to do so is by teaching masters level statistics courses in Cambodia. Cambodia is a country with a very sad history. The brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge eliminated most of the highly educated people during their brief rule at the end of 1970s. Consequently, even today Cambodia has an acute shortage of faculty qualified to teach high-level statistics and mathematics courses. I have volunteered to teach in a newly created MS program in mathematics at the Royal University of Phnom Penh through a volunteer lecture program co-sponsored by International Mathematical Union, the U.S. National Committee on Mathematics and the French Centre Internationale de Mathématique Pures et Appliqués. As a part of the program I traveled four times to Phnom Penh to teach an advanced statistics course. I am also advised MS projects of two Cambodian students.

As an academic faculty member, I will strive to continue to be an effective teacher and advisor. I view teaching and advising as rewarding parts of an academic career and I will work continuously to improve myself as a teacher and advisor.

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