The Statistical life

About the Department


Jerzy Neyman came to the Department of Mathematics at Berkeley from University College, London, in 1938. He founded the Statistical Laboratory, which combined research with an extensive instructional program in Probability and Statistics. This program offered M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Statistics. In 1955 the Statistical Laboratory became the Department of Statistics with the following faculty: E. Barankin, David Blackwell, Evelyn Fix, J.L. Hodges, Charles H. Kraft, W. Kruskal, Lucien Le Cam, Erich Lehmann, Michel Loève, Jerzy Neyman (chair), Henry Scheffé and Elizabeth L. Scott. Professors Blackwell and Lehmann still come into the the department regularly.

From 1955 until 1981 the Statistical Laboratory functioned as a research unit under the direction of Jerzy Neyman. The Laboratory supported research in statistical theory and applications to such fields as astronomy, biology, communications theory, problems of health, and weather modification.

In 1981 Leo Breiman was appointed Director of the Statistical Laboratory. Under his direction the Departmental computer facilities greatly improved and expanded, and in 1986 the Statistical Computing Facility (SCF) was founded as a separate unit.

The present

The Department of Statistics offers higher degrees which emphasize theoretical or applied areas in probability and statistics. The Group in Biostatistics, which includes faculty from Public Health and Statistics, offers the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in biostatistics. This program is appropriate for people with strong interests in both statistics and the biological sciences.

The programs in statistics and biostatistics bring together students from diverse academic backgrounds. Currently there are around fifty PhD and forty MA students, including students from Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Korea, and the United States.

As well as being friendly toward international students, the department has been supportive of women since its inception, thanks in no small part to pioneers like Betty Scott and Evelyn Fix. The number of women on the faculty compares very favorably to other top-ranked departments.

The department maintains a full listing of graduate students and faculty.


The SGSA is the official organization for graduate students in the Department of Statistics. The SGSA exists to look after student needs, to represent student interests, and to function as the formal channel for communication between graduate students and faculty. All graduate students in the Department of Statistics and the Group in Biostatistics are automatically members of the SGSA.

The SGSA is in contact with the Graduate Assembly (GA) and the Association of Graduate Student Employees (AGSE) to discuss topics of concern to all graduate students. SGSA officers occasionally meet with the department chair and department committees to discuss topics of interest to students. The SGSA has representatives on some of the department committees. The SGSA also organizes a number of social events (see below.)

If you ever need advice on classes, research or fashion, we encourage you to talk to a senior member of the SGSA.


Seminars are announced via email. The usual location is the Neyman Room, 1011 Evans, which has a magnificent view of the bay.

  • Statistics Colloquium: 4pm Tuesday. Researchers in probability or statistics present current work.
  • Probability Seminar: 3pm Wednesday. Researchers in probability present current work.
  • Neyman Seminar: 4pm Wednesday. Guests give general-interest seminars that raise some statistical questions.
  • Student Seminar: 4pm Tuesday. A student presents his or her work to other students. There are snacks.

Research groups within the department often hold their own seminar series. These usually aren't announced. Ask around to find out when and where they are.

The Berkeley-Stanford Colloquium and Berkeley-Davis Colloquium occur once every semester, alternating between the campuses. A talk by a member of the visiting campus is followed by socialising.

Social Events

Stat Department events are covered in all the nation's leading society pages. Such events include:

Department-organized activities

  • Welcome party: usually on the third Friday of the Fall semester.
  • Cookies time: in the department lounge, every Tuesday at 3:00.
  • Holiday Party: potluck on the last day of classes in the Fall semester.
  • Commencement: in May.

SGSA-organized activities

  • New Student Welcome Picnic: the first Friday of classes.
  • Fall Party: at Albatross Pub before Thanksgiving.
  • Spring Picnic: near the end of classes.
  • Friday Wind Downs: Eating and drinking at local restaurants / bars each Friday.
  • Foosball tournaments: once per semester.