Texas A&M University statistician Dr. Clifford H. Spiegelman has been recognized by the Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society, with one of its primary annual awards celebrating scientific excellence and advancement — the 2019 Outstanding Science Communicator Award.
Spiegelman was presented with a commemorative plaque and a $750 cash prize at the annual Sigma Xi Awards and Welcome Reception, held May 7 at the University Club on the Texas A&M campus. Dr. Virender K. Sharma, professor and director of the Program for the Environment and Sustainability in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health within the School of Public Health, also was honored with the 2019 Sigma Xi Outstanding Distinguished Scientist Award recognizing faculty members who have demonstrated research and teaching excellence as well as significant contributions to their profession and general science.
Spiegelman, a member of the Texas A&M Department of Statistics since 1987 who was appointed as a distinguished professor of statistics in 2009, was celebrated for his career contributions and commitment toward using statistics and related communication of its application and societal impact to increase and enhance public education and awareness.
“The Texas A&M Chapter of Sigma Xi is pleased to recognize these outstanding scientists for their achievements in research excellence and in the critical mission of outreach and communication of science to the community,” said Dr. Dana Gaddy, chapter president and professor of veterinary integrative biosciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
In a recent episode of I Am Texas A&M Science, Spiegelman discusses experts in his field who had the biggest influence on his early career and what it takes to be a great statistician:
Spiegelman, also a senior research scientist with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, is an expert in statistical and environmental forensics. He is a founder of the field of chemometrics, the science of using data to extract information from chemical systems by data-driven means to investigate and address problems in chemistry, biochemistry and chemical engineering. In addition, Spiegelman is a leader in the field of statistical forensics and was instrumental in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) decision to stop using compositional bullet lead analysis after he demonstrated it to be flawed. He routinely testifies in criminal matters related to various aspects of statistics, flawed forensic science, probability and the law and serves as the key statistical advisor to the City of Houston’s crime lab.
Beyond traditional research achievements, Spiegelman is driven by societal service, as evidenced by his body of work focused on problems of local, state, national and international importance, along with his desire to communicate the results to help audiences at all levels better understand its broader significance. He was one of the four founders of the journal Chemometrics and Intelligent Laboratory Systems, which in 2017 celebrated his 30-plus years of service to both the publication and the discipline he helped create with a virtual special issue in his honor. He has been quoted in many contexts by national media, most notably with regard to his research showing that some of the forensic techniques commonly presented as evidence in the justice system, such as bullet fragment analysis, are flawed from a statistical point of view. He also works with the Innocence Project, the national non-profit legal clinic dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA test and other post-verdict methods.
In addition to being regularly featured by a variety of media outlets, Spiegelman writes occasional opinion pieces for outlets including the Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle and Pittsburg Post-Gazette and typically aimed at conveying the importance of establishing a stronger scientific foundation for forensic science. He also works with judges and attorneys to broaden their understanding of statistics and the critical effect it often has on case outcomes, not to mention the people involved and the bigger issues at hand.
In November 2017, Spiegelman was one of a handful of world-renowned John F. Kennedy assassination experts who offered their pro bono services for a two-day mock trial, State of Texas v. Lee Harvey Oswald, held on the campus of Houston’s oldest law school, South Texas College of Law Houston. Earlier that year, he was appointed as the inaugural Official Statistician of the Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission as well as the statistical advisor to the Texas Forensic Science Commission.
Spiegelman is a fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS) as well as an elected member of the International Statistical Institute (ISI). A two-time recipient of the ASA Statistics in Chemistry Award for best paper, Spiegelman also has received the 2007 Jerome Sacks Award for Outstanding Cross-Disciplinary Research recognizing innovation in statistical science and the San Antonio Chapter of the ASA’s 2016 Don Owen Award for excellence in research, contributions to editorial activities and service to the statistical community.
Spiegelman joins a lengthy list of notable past recipients of Sigma Xi’s top communicator award from the Texas A&M College of Science, including mathematician Philip B. Yasskin (2018) and physicists Dr. Tatiana Erukhimova (2014), Dr. David Toback (2012), Dr. Marlan O. Scully (2000) and Dr. Peter M. McIntyre (1999).
Founded in 1886 at Cornell University, Sigma Xi is an international, chapter-based organization dedicated to nurturing the research enterprise in all fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Unique among scientific honor societies, Sigma Xi has a broad outlook that scans the spectrum of science and technology and is committed to the core values that unite across disciplinary boundaries.
The Texas A&M chapter of Sigma Xi was chartered July 1, 1951, with a mission “to recognize, encourage and promote scientific research at Texas A&M University and to honor the community of science scholars.”
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About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi is an international, chapter-based organization dedicated to nurturing the research enterprise in all fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Unique among scientific honor societies, Sigma Xi has a broad outlook that spans the spectrum of science and technology and is committed to the core values that unite across disciplinary boundaries. For more information, visit sigmaxi.tamu.edu.
About Research at Texas A&M University: As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is at the forefront in making significant contributions to scholarship and discovery, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represented annual expenditures of more than $922 million in fiscal year 2018. Texas A&M ranked in the top 20 of the National Science Foundation’s Higher Education Research and Development survey (2017), based on expenditures of more than $905.4 million in fiscal year 2017. Texas A&M’s research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting, in many cases, in economic benefits to the state, nation and world. To learn more, visit http://research.tamu.edu/.
Contact: Dr. Dana Gaddy, (979) 862-9134 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Clifford H. Spiegelman, (979) 845-3141 or email@example.com