Open Access
May 2020 A Conversation with Grace Wahba
Douglas Nychka, Ping Ma, Douglas Bates
Statist. Sci. 35(2): 308-320 (May 2020). DOI: 10.1214/19-STS734


Grace Wahba (née Goldsmith, born August 3, 1934), I. J. Schoenberg-Hilldale Professor of Statistics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Emerita), is a pioneer in methods for smoothing noisy data. Her research combines theoretical analysis, computation and methodology motivated by innovative scientific applications. Best known for the development of generalized cross-validation (GCV), the connection between splines and Bayesian posterior estimates, and “Wahba’s problem,” she has developed methods with applications in demographic studies, machine learning, DNA microarrays, risk modeling, medical imaging and climate prediction.

Grace grew up in the Washington, DC area and New Jersey, and graduated from Montclair High School. She was educated at Cornell (B.A. 1956), University of Maryland, College Park (M.A. 1962) and Stanford (Ph.D. 1966), and worked in industry for several years before receiving her doctorate in 1966 and settling in Madison in 1967. Although holding several visiting appointments, she has made Madison her home for over 50 years. She is the author of Spline Models for Observational Data which has garnered more than 8000 citations. Grace is treasured as an academic advisor and has mentored 39 Ph.D. students that have resulted in more than 330 academic descendants. She was elected to the United States National Academy of Sciences in 2000 and received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Chicago in 2007. Wahba is a Fellow of several academic societies including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Statistical Association and the Institute of Mathematical Statistics. Over the years, she has received a selection of notable awards in the statistics community: R. A. Fisher Lectureship (2014), Gottfried E. Noether Senior Researcher Award (2009), Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies Elizabeth Scott Award (1996) and the first Emanuel and Carol Parzen Prize for Statistical Innovation (1994).


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Douglas Nychka. Ping Ma. Douglas Bates. "A Conversation with Grace Wahba." Statist. Sci. 35 (2) 308 - 320, May 2020.


Published: May 2020
First available in Project Euclid: 3 June 2020

MathSciNet: MR4106607
Digital Object Identifier: 10.1214/19-STS734

Keywords: cross-validation , generalized cross-validation , reproducing kernel Hilbert spaces , RKHS , Spline , Support vector machines , Wahba’s problem

Rights: Copyright © 2020 Institute of Mathematical Statistics

Vol.35 • No. 2 • May 2020
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