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Talking with … Bob Wharton

Interviews | Apr 07, 2017 |

Each installment of “Talking with…” introduces you to a different Gabelli School faculty member, administrator, or staff member. This week, we’re speaking with Bob Wharton, professor of management systems and program director for the MS in Applied Statistics and Decision-Making.

What are you researching?
My main research focus is financial forecasting models and distribution theory. In addition, I have been collaborating with my good friend Professor Albert Greco in the marketing area for many years, providing research on industry analysis in the publishing industry. Over that time, we co-authored two books and numerous papers on the subject. A study of the demographics of the scholarly publishing industry has just been completed.

Is there anything you find surprising about how e-books have affected the publishing industry in the past ten years?
E-books have dramatically changed the landscape of the publishing industry. It is currently dominating the professional segment of the industry which caters to medicine, law, and accounting. This is also true in the sciences, where rapid changes alter the field and, as a result, cause a print book to be outdated by the time it could be distributed.

One thing that does surprise me is the number of school districts replacing print textbooks by providing their students with tablets and exclusively using e-books.

How has big data changed the field of statistics over the past five years?
Historically in statistics, the main problem involved in making inferences was a lack of reliable data, necessitating the use of small sample sizes. Due to the advent of “big data,” we now have the opposite problem: namely, how to deal with massive data sets. Currently, a great deal of research in statistics is directed toward the development of software to deal with these data sets and methods for effectively summarizing data.

Is there a way we witness big data affecting our lives on a daily basis?
Every inquiry we make on the internet and virtually any transaction we are involved in, whether it is a purchase such as a television or dining out, is recorded in numerous databases that are being developed for virtually every person in the developed world. This information can be beneficial in that marketers can determine your preferences and offer you things you likely will desire. There is, however, a dark side to this information-gathering in that it makes it easier for “scammers” to target people and can be used by unscrupulous organizations to the disadvantage of the target of the data collection.

What is one thing you’d like prospective graduate students to know about the MS in Applied Statistics and Decision-Making program?
The MS in Applied Statistics and Decision-Making program is a professionally oriented curriculum that gives students a strong background in the fundamentals of statistics but, through electives, also allows them to develop expertise in the field where they may wish to professionally apply statistics, such as finance or data science. Also, the program was ranked among the top 50 graduate statistics programs in the United States by Great Value Colleges. Oops, that was two things—but I couldn’t resist.


Fun questions

Two books you’d take with you to a desert island:
The complete works of Shakespeare and the Bible

Last place you visited outside of New York City:
Brandywine Valley in Chester County, Pennsylvania. We saw the Brandywine River Museum, which contains the largest collection of Wyeth paintings in the world, and the spectacular orchid display in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory.

Recommended day trip from New York City:
Ocean Grove, New Jersey. It is a quaint Victorian town on the North Jersey coast. It contains interesting shops and restaurants along with a great beach.

Song you could listen to every day:
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone”

Song you wouldn’t mind never hearing again:
“We Are the Champions”

How did you spend last month’s spring break?
Unfortunately, we had a break, but no spring, and thus I spent much of the break shoveling snow and chopping ice. We did, however, go to a great Saint Patrick’s Day celebration entitled “Celebrate the Green” which benefited organizations promoting sustainability, renewables, and conservation of our land and water resources.


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