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Ken Kingery
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, May 19, 2008

IU statistics professor earns international award

May 19, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- One of Indiana University's most decorated faculty members has added another prestigious award to his impressive collection. Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Scholar Madan Puri has been named the recipient of the 2008 Gottfried E. Noether Senior Scholar Award.

According to the American Statistical Association's (ASA) Web site, the award is based on, "outstanding contributions to the methodology and/or theory and teaching of nonparametric statistics that have had substantial, sustained impact on the subject, its practical applications and its pedagogy."

Madan Puri

Emeritus Professor of Mathematics and College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Research Scholar Madan Puri was recently named the recipient of the 2008 Gottfried E. Noether Senior Scholar Award, an annual, international prize honoring the outstanding statisticians across the globe.

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Besides being an international award that is only given to one senior scholar per year, the award holds special significance to Puri.

"Professor Noether was a deep-rooted scholar, professional and an old-fashioned gentleman," said Puri of the award's namesake, who died in 1991. "I received a lot of help from him in my youth. I was very fortunate to have him as my mentor soon after I received my Ph.D."

Strong letters of support and congratulations have poured in for Puri. IU President Michael McRobbie wrote, "Congratulations on being honored with the 2008 Noether Senior Scholar Award for your contributions to the field of nonparametric statistics. This is yet another wonderful recognition of your achievements to the field during your career."

IU Chancellor Ken Gros Louis added, "What a wonderful tribute to you and your contributions to scholarship. The fact that the previous winners are so very distinguished should make you and IU very proud indeed."

And further, IU Provost Karen Hanson wrote, "I was thrilled to learn that this prestigious award was to be bestowed on Professor Puri. The contributions he has made to the field of statistics over the course of his illustrious career are unparalleled. He has been a versatile researcher, an incredibly prolific publisher, and many of his former students are now among the top statisticians in the world. His success brings a reflected sense of pride to the entire Indiana University community."

Puri will receive his award during the ASA Presidential Address and Awards Session during the annual meeting of the ASA in Denver, Colo. on Aug. 5. Also, as part of the award, he will present a lecture providing a general summary of nonparametric statistics that will include some of its problems and applications.

Even though Puri will be faced by 5,000 of his colleagues when he receives his award and will present a lecture to a room full of experts in the field, he says he is not nervous.

"I've given over 300 lectures with over 175 of them outside of the United States," said Puri, who retired from teaching a few years ago but still presents several lectures every year. "I'm certainly used to it by now."

Puri has been an influential and prolific contributor to theoretical statistics for more than three decades, particularly driving forward the field of rank-based methods. The methods he introduced analyzing dependent data have fundamentally changed the subject's direction of evolution since the mid-1980's, a trend that continues today in statistics and time series. Further, methodology he developed in the statistical design and analysis of experiments has paved the way for the development of clinical designs, epidemiological investigations and environmental studies.

According to Stephen Stigler, the Ernest Burton Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, Puri is responsible for the creation of several subfields, and has done more for the field of rank statistics than anyone since Jaroslav Hájek's work in the late 1960's. Hájek was the Czech mathematician widely considered one of history's most important figures in statistics.

"Dr. Puri has made remarkable contributions to statistics and probability theory over more than 40 years," wrote Peter Hall, Fellow of the Royal Society of London and last year's award winner. "His name is internationally known for his highly influential work on rank-test methods, for both random data and time series; and for his work on probability theory for fuzzy sets. He strongly deserves the Noether Senior Scholar Award."

The Noether Senior Scholar Award is being given to Puri as a way of honoring a lifetime of achievements, but he is no stranger to such honors.

Three such honors are among his most revered. Puri has been presented with three Festschriften, or volumes of scientific articles written by peers in the subject's honor. The first came in 1996, followed by two more in 1999 and 2007, respectively. For the first Festschrift, 52 colleagues from around the world wrote articles, followed by 43 contributors for the second. The third appeared as a special issue of the Journal of Statistical Planning and Inference, and included contributions from 68 of his peers.

In fact, the nomination application for the Noether Award was a sort of mini Festschrift. Compiled by Subir Ghosh, professor and chair of the University of California, Riverside's Statistics Department, the application included glowing letters of support from 16 of the world's leading statisticians.

The letter from Marvin Zelen, the Lemuel Shattuck Research Professor of Statistical Science at Harvard University, stated, "Professor Puri has an international reputation for being one of the leading statisticians in the world in nonparametric inference. Actually, he has published in so many different areas that I would regard him as being one of the world's leading researchers in statistics. His research productivity is phenomenal and many of his contributions have been fundamental."

In two other of his proudest moments of the past decade, Puri was ranked the fourth most prolific contributor in the world to top statistics journals, and was listed among 231 of the most cited mathematics researchers in the world.

But according to Puri, his greatest honor came in 2003 when the International Science Publishers published, "Selected Collected Works of Madan L. Puri," a series of three volumes, each nearly 800 pages thick.

Joe Gani of the Australian National University summed up this honor best in his letter of support for Puri's award when he wrote, "It is a rare honor for statisticians of note to have their works collected and published in their own lifetimes."

To speak with Puri, contact Ken Kingery, 812-855-0074 and