Columbia University Department of Statistics
2017 Minghui Yu Memorial Conference

About Minghui Memorial Conference

The 2017 Minghui Yu Memorial Conference, organized by doctoral students at Statistics Department of Columbia University, will take place on Saturday, April 22nd at the Faculty House in Garden room 2. Minghui Yu was a doctoral student at the statistics department, who passed away in a tragic accident in the spring of 2008. Since then, doctoral students at statistic department have been organizing a conference each year to honor his memory.

The conference will feature talks by doctoral students at the Statistics Department, ranging from those just beginning a research program to those who are about to defend dissertations. In addition to being an occasion to remember our friend and colleague, this event will be an opportunity to learn about exciting new research areas emerging from our department. We would like to thank the Department of Statistics for their continuous support.

About Minghui Yu

Minghui was born in Shandong, China in 1983. In 2002, he entered the Special Class for the Gifted Young at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), one of the most prestigious universities in China. Minghui possessed the rare quality of being not only smart, but also diligent, versatile, modest and easy-going. He was the type of friend who would stand by you no matter the situation. Minghui breezed through the challenging undergraduate program at USTC, ranking at the top of his class. Minghui was well liked by his fellows students having served as the class president from his sophomore year. Although under enormous academic pressure, he still found time to organize a series of student activities, such as hiking, art performances, and athletic contests for his fellow students.

After graduating summa cum laude in 2006 from USTC, Minghui entered the PhD program at the Physics Department of Columbia University. After one year, he transferred to the doctorate program in statistics. During his time at Columbia, Minghui served as the public relations head of the Columbia University's Chinese Students and Scholars Association (2007-2008), and was a member of the Columbia Chinese Basketball Association and the Columbia Graduate Student Consulting Club. His biography on the CUCSSA website mentioned his love of ''movies, photography and delicacies''. Minghui described himself in his blog as ''a boy who wants to combine art and science together''.

On April 4, 2008, after attending a student-organized conference, Minghui escorted his girlfriend home on the west side of campus. On his return, he was accosted by juveniles as he was crossing 122nd and Broadway and in his attempt to flee, he was struck by an automobile on Broadway. Minghui was taken to St. Luke's Hospital where he passed away a short time later.

Keynote Speaker

We are very excited to have Persi Diaconis as our keynote speaker this year. Prof. Diaconis is currently Mary V. Sunseri professor of statistics at Stanford University. As a teenager, Prof. Diaconis was fascinated with magic and magic tricks, which has also inspired some of his mathematical work. Prof. Diaconis started his mathematical education as an undergraduate at City College of New York. He then went on to obtain his Ph.D. from Harvard before becoming Assistant Professor at Stanford. Throughout his career, Prof. Diaconis has held positions at Harvard and Cornell, and has won numerous awards, including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship and the Rollo-Davidson prize. Prof. Diaconis has made substantial contributions and is a current world expert in many areas of probability, combinatorics and mathematical statistics. He is also widely known for his work on the probability aspects surrounding magic and gambling — including the oft quoted result that seven shuffles will “randomize” a deck of cards.

Program Schedule

For the full program schedule and abstracts, see the program book for details.

  • 9:00 - 9:20Breakfast
    9:20 - 9:30Opening remarks by Tian Zheng, Columbia University
  • Morning Session I

    Chair: Professor Tian Zheng

    9:30 - 9:45Jing Wu, Latent state model for social interaction events
    9:45 - 10:00Tim Jones, Aggregated relational counts for citation networks
    10:00 - 10:15Yixin Wang, Robust probabilistic modeling with Bayesian data reweighting
    10:15 - 10:30Gabriel Loiza Ganem, Maximum entropy flow networks
  • Morning Session II

    Chair: Professor Sumit Mukherjee

    10:45 - 11:00Promit Ghosal, Shock fluctuation of the second class particle in TASEP
    11:00 - 11:15Louis Mittel, The inspection paradox in latent variable models
    11:15 - 11:30Lisha Qiu, Numerical methods for stochastic partial differential equation with locally-Lipschitz coefficients
    11:30 - 11:45Jing Zhang, Modeling time series of counts with shape constraint
    11:45 - 12:00Leo Neufcourt, Expansion of filtration and value of information
  • Keynote Presentation

    1:00 - 2:00Professor Persi Diaconis, Stanford University
    There's stuff to do
  • Afternoon Session I

    Chair: Professor Peter Orbanz

    2:15 - 2:30Adji Dieng, The chi-divergence for approximate inference
    2:30 - 2:45Morgane Austern, Concentration, asymptotic normality and Berry-Esseen rates for group actions and exchangeable structures
    2:45 - 3:00Shuaiwen Wang, Which regularizer is optimal for variable selection?
    3:00 - 3:15Yuanjun Gao, A structured matrix factorization for calcium imaging data analysis and beyond
  • Afternoon Session II

    Chair: Professor Michael Sobel

    3:45 - 4:00David Hirshberg, Optimizing for efficiency in average treatment effect
    4:00 - 4:15Feihan Lu, A bayesian hierarchical sparse VAR model for multiple subject multiple-session resting state functional connectivity
    4:15 - 4:30Kashif Yousuf, Variable screening for high-dimensional time series
    4:30 - 4:50Jon Auerbach and Robin Winstanley, No child left behind


If you would like to attend any of the talks, please email Wenda Zhou.


The Faculty House is located at the intersection of 116th street and Morningside drive. The conference will be held in Garden Room 2.