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VanderPlas Featured in Celebrating Women in Statistics and Data Science

Susan VanderPlas

In honor of Women’s History Month, the American Statistical Association (ASA) highlighted the stories of 12 women who work in statistics or data science. One of the statisticians honored was Susan VanderPlas, assistant professor of statistics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Center for Statistics and Applications in Forensic Evidence (CSAFE) researcher.

According to ASA, the women were selected because they are leaders, mentors and influencers. ASA included each statistician’s story that described why they chose statistics, who influences them and what they have accomplished.

At CSAFE, VanderPlas is involved in footwear impression analysis and firearms and toolmarks analysis research projects. Read an excerpt from VanderPlas’ story below or read her full story at

An excerpt from VanderPlas’ story:

After my Ph.D., I went into industry for a few years, working at Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) as a statistical analyst. The work was interesting, the data was plentiful (and messy!), but I was still interested in research at the end of the day. I had the chance to teach a series of R workshops at NPPD, which was really fun. I realized I should probably reconsider going into academia if I missed research and liked teaching, so I applied for a position at the Center for Statistical Applications in Forensic Evidence at Iowa State.

I spent the next two years developing statistical methods and data pipelines for forensics data—matching bullets and shoe prints with the hope of being able to quantify the similarity between two pieces of evidence in an objective, numerical fashion.