New to the department as of 2018, Dr. Snigdha Panigrahi is an assistant professor of statistics. She received her Bachelor of Statistics (Honors) and Master of Statistics degrees from the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. She later completed her Ph.D. in Statistics in June 2018 under the supervision of Professor Jonathan Taylor at Stanford University.

When Snigdha sat for her college entrance exams in India, she wasn’t yet sold on the idea of studying statistics. With math being her forte, she knew that she wanted to pursue some form of mathematics but wasn’t sure that statistics was right for her. To Snigdha, the whole discipline of Statistics is rarely as black and white as in Mathematics, as it doesn’t lend itself to crisp, clean and rigorous frameworks. While it took her some time to appreciate this form of science, she feels that the joy of finding structure and making sense of the same in messy real data is what motivates all her work today.

Today, Snigdha’s research interests, broadly directed towards substantiating inferential pipelines in contemporary and well-adopted practices in data science, lie at the intersection between developments in machine learning and statistical methods with guarantees. Her work spans across selective inference, causal inference, random fields, and statistical genomics. Her focus in each of these areas is to develop statistical methodologies with solid theoretical understanding, and to provide effective algorithms for users of those methodologies. She strives to advance new methodologies that are directly motivated by cutting-edge data and translational applications. One of her current scientific goals is to identify biological underpinnings and their complex relationships with phenotypes across many disease domains while taking an integrative approach to analyzing complex, multi-modal data.

According to Snigdha, one of the biggest challenges of a new area of research is motivating people in the field to see that there is a need to take an interest in the new topic. “When you bring a new method to the table, you are often questioning the status quo and it can be demanding at times to equip everyone around with novel tools and techniques for implementations of the same,” said Snigdha. “That is the reason I came to academia. Even though it is a challenge, it really motivates you to put your best foot forward to demonstrate that what you are doing is useful and you not are not just writing another paper.”

Fun Fact: Snigdha is very passionate about food. Coming from eastern India, fish is a staple food that is consumed in all possible combinations and forms. Snigdha is open to trying all sorts of cuisine, just nothing too spicy because her spice level falls below the average IST (Indian Standard Threshold).