Columbia University Department of Statistics
2018 Minghui Yu Memorial Conference

About Minghui Memorial Conference

The 2018 Minghui Yu Memorial Conference, organized by doctoral students at Statistics Department of Columbia University, will take place on Saturday, April 28th at the Faculty House in the Presidential Ballroom. 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 excited to have Ed George as our keynote speaker this year. Prof. George is currently Universal Furniture professor of Statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He started his education as an undergraduate at Cornell University and later earned his PhD in Statistics at Stanford University before becoming a Professor at the University of Chicago. He also held positions at UT Austin over the course of his career. His broad contribution to statistical research has been recognized by numerous professional organizations, namely he is an elected fellow of IMS, ASA and ISBA.

Program Schedule

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

  • 9:00 - 9:25Breakfast
    9:25 - 9:30Opening remarks by Richard Davis
  • Morning Session I

    Chair: Peter Orbanz

    9:30 - 9:45Rishabh Dudeja, High Dimensional Optimization Landscape of the Regularized MLE for a Symmetric Mixture of two Gaussians.
    9:45 - 10:00Wenda Zhou, Compressibility and Generalization in Large-scale Deep Learning
    10:00 - 10:15Timothy Jones, Aggregated Relational Counts for Citation Networks
    10:15 - 10:30Jing Wu, Modeling Sporadic Event Dynamics with Markov-Modulated Hawkes Processes
    10:30 - 10:45Morgane Austern, TBD
  • Morning Session II

    Chair: Yang Feng

    11:00 - 11:15Milad Bakshizadeh, Compressive Phase Retrieval of Structured Signal
    11:15 - 11:30Sihan Huang, Pairwise Covariates-adjusted Block Model for Community Detection
    11:30 - 11:45David Hirshberg, Augmented Linear Minimax Estimation
    11:45 - 12:00Florian Stebegg, Robust Pricing and Hedging around the Globe
  • Keynote Presentation

    1:00 - 2:00Professor Ed George, The Wharton School
  • Afternoon Session I

    Chair: Jingchen Liu

    2:15 - 2:30Gabriel Loiza, Dimensionality Reduction for Point Process Data
    2:30 - 2:45Guanhua Fang, Latent Class Models for Finding Co-occurent Patterns in Process Data
    2:45 - 3:00Hok Kan Ling, A Proportional Intensity Model with Random Effects for Process Data
    3:00 - 3:15Zhi Wang, Improving Approximation via Adaptive Weighting
    3:15 - 3:30Peter Lee, Challenges in Spike Sorting and YASS: Yet Another Spike Sorter
  • Afternoon Session II

    Chair: Cynthia Rush

    3:45 - 4:00Adji Bousso Dieng, Augment and Reduce: Stochastic Inference for Large Categorical Distributions
    4:00 - 4:15Yixin Wang, Frequentist Consistency of Variational Bayes
    4:15 - 4:30Yuling Yao, Yes, but Did it Work? Evaluating Variational Inference
    4:30 - 4:45Lydia Hsu, Variable Selection in Graphical Models
    4:45 - 5:00Jonathan Auerbach, Will Buildings Join the Mile-High-Club


If you would like to attend any of the talks, please email Florian Stebegg.


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