Student Spotlight: David C. Stenning

Q&A with David C. Stenning
5th-year Ph.D. student in Statistics

From its earliest days, UC Irvine has built a reputation for cultivating collaboration, a commitment shared by Department of Statistics leadership, faculty and students. We believe in working across disciplines, and we enable students like David Stenning to access a range of opportunities limited only by their own imagination.

photo: David C. Stenning

Where are you from?
I grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island, and lived in New York City before moving to Irvine.

What are your previous academic degrees?
B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Columbia University.

Why did you choose to pursue graduate studies at UCI?
I’ve always had an amateur interest in astronomy and was a research assistant in the Columbia Astrophysics Laboratory after undergrad, but I planned on pursuing graduate studies in statistics. UCI is one of only a few institutions where I could focus on Astrostatistics, an emerging field that nicely combines my background and interests. Having the Department of Statistics housed within the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences was also appealing since it provides opportunities for fruitful interaction with students and researchers in important complementary fields, such as Machine Learning.

What is your current research focus? Why did you choose to go into this field of study?
My primary area of interest is Astrostatistics. Specifically, I am working on Bayesian analysis of physics-based computer models of stellar evolution, which involves combining predictions from computer simulations with observational data obtained using instruments such as the Hubble Space Telescope. I wanted to go into this field of study because current astronomical surveys are producing a wealth of massive and complex datasets that require state-of-the-art statistical methods to analyze and comprehend.

What are your future plans?
I enjoy teaching and would like to stay in academia, but I'll be happy at any institution with challenging scientific and statistical problems.

How do you like to spend your time outside of school?
I’m lucky to have made some wonderful friends while at UCI, especially since I don't own a car and need to rely on others if I wish to leave campus. I spend most of my free time with them, exploring the many restaurants, beaches and cultural opportunities available in Los Angeles and Orange County.

Any words of wisdom for prospective grad students looking to study at UCI?
In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of grad school is finding a good advisor who will mentor you in how to perform research and direct you towards interesting and important topics.