SDS Student Spotlight: Brian Knab

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22 March 2017—Meet Brian Knab, a student in the MS in Statistics program in the Department of Statistics and Data Science.

Tell us a little bit about yourself—educational background, previous work experience, etc. 

In 2010, I graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder, where I double majored in philosophy and math. In 2012, I moved to Austin to join the PhD program in philosophy at UT, and in 2014 I began concurrently pursuing an MS in statistics.

I’ve worked as a short order cook, as a tv salesman, and as a software engineer.

What attracted you to the MS in Statistics program at UT? 

My PhD research is in the philosophy of science, and to contribute meaningfully to that subfield you have to know probability and statistics. (The geneticist and statistician Oscar Kempthorne called statistics “applied philosophy of science.”) 

I only planned to take a few classes, but each of the classes I initially took were so enjoyable and useful for my PhD research that I decided to continue and pursue the MS.

How would you describe your area of study/specific research to someone outside your field?

For my masters project in statistics, I worked on disease mapping — I built statistical models of infectious disease across the state of Texas.

In philosophy, my research is focused on questions at the foundations of science, e.g., why do some improbable data seem to require scientific explanation, while other equally improbable (or perhaps even more improbable) data do not? 

I also work on questions at the foundations of statistics, e.g., can statistical inference proceed in the absence of a prior probability distribution? What did Fisher mean by ‘fiducial probability’? etc.

Fun Facts 

A talent you have always wanted: 

I bought a piano approximately 8 years ago; never learned how to play it. 

Favorite book: 

Here’s three: Tim O’Brien The Things They Carried, Teju Cole Open City, David Albert Time and Chance.

Role model: 

I am trying to cop the style of too many amazing people to list them all here. I will say that I want to write my academic papers the way Raymond Carver writes short stories.

Favorite vacation destination: 

The Pacific Northwest. I love it there.

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