Ping Ma


M.S. 2001, Ph.D. 2003

Assistant Professor of Statistics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Written by: Meghan Honerlaw, M.S. candidate in Statistics

Ping Ma began his statistical career in China with an undergraduate degree in Economical Mathematics. His undergraduate studies included some statistics courses, but he found that mathematical finance piqued his interest more. Ma chose to continue his education at Purdue University in the Mathematical Finance program, but after his first year, he realized he was more interested in statistics.

After his realization Ma became a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Statistics. "The Department of Statistics offered very solid training in both theoretical and applied statistics," Ma commented. As a student looking for a niche in the statistical world, he found the seminars offered by the department enlightening. "Several series of seminars provided a channel for students to access the most current research topics and practice in the statistics community. I remember that we had Graduate Student Organization meetings each month, which consisted of a talk given by a faculty member and a student. It helped me choose my thesis advisor and find my research topic."

He chose to study non-parametric mixed-effect models with an application to longitudinal data with Prof. Chong Gu. It was another seminar series, this time given by statisticians from Eli Lilly, that helped Ma decide that he wanted to pursue a career in academia. After hearing the statisticians’ job descriptions, Ma realized that he was better suited to academia than industry.

After graduating in 2003 with his Ph.D. in Statistics from Purdue, he continued on for post-doc training at Harvard University for two years. "My post-doc training at Harvard University substantially broadened my research vision and scope," commented Ma.

After his post-doc training, he received several job offers from universities across the country. After comparing all of the offers, he decided to go to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he has been a successful assistant professor in both research and teaching. "I designed and taught two new courses: (1.) Statistics for Biologists, and (2.) Bioinformatics. I was also awarded an Illinois Informatics Initiative Grant for doing that." Ma is also a faculty member at the Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has published nearly twenty papers in top statistics journals, including Annals of Statistics and Journal of the American Statistical Association, and general science journals, including Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Science. He is also the principle investigator of two major National Science Foundation grants.

His final words of encouragement to students are "The Department of Statistics offers tons of opportunities which are not available at other institutes; take them seriously and wisely." More information about Ping Ma and his accomplishments can be found at

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