Keynote by AutoTrader Group executive highlights “R Day” mini-conference and student poster presentations

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KSU students present posters of work in applied statistics during “R Day” on Nov. 8 in the Carmichael Student Center. 

Photo credit: David Casseli

 

There are approximately 150 students minoring in applied statistics and 80 graduate students at Kennesaw State, and all of them have a good chance of finding jobs upon graduation.

That’s the message gleaned from "KSU R Day," a regional meeting for the analytics and “R” community that links the statistics program at KSU with businesses and organizations that use analytics and statistics.

“R” refers to the popular open-source statistical software used by many organizations around the world.

The Second Annual “KSU R Day” featured a mini-conference that gave applied statistics students a chance to present samples of their work to representatives from local and regional businesses.

Scott Hernalsteen, senior director, Enterprise Analytics at AutoTrader Group, explained how data analysis drives sales for savvy car dealers.

“Pricing transparency attracts buyers,” Hernalsteen said. “Dealers who listed cars for sale at prices below MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) sold on average 20 percent more cars.”

Behind AutoTrader’s highly successful website operations are teams of employees who understand the power of “R” and how to use thousands of bits of information gathered from consumers interacting with the site to help them purchase the car of their dreams.

Hernalsteen said he was glad to see so many students in the audience, and he encouraged them to pursue careers utilizing statistics.

All told, about 350 KSU students are studying statistics during the school year. Future psychologists and epidemiologists, for example, need to know how to interpret data in various health tables.

John Painter, DVM, MS, epidemiology team lead at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discussed the future of “R” in public health and the CDC.

The former veterinarian said the CDC uses statistics to combat infectious diseases by calculating disease rate trends.

“How can we learn to control TB (tuberculosis) better?” he said. “That’s the kind of analytics we all have to perform. ‘R’ was able to do the data very quickly.”

The event provided an opportunity for the regional “R” community to network. Company representatives also met with students and viewed poster presentations of projects they created using “R.”

This year’s sponsor, AutoTrader, awarded a cash prize for the top winners of the student poster contest.

— Robert S. Godlewski