Olin Professor Talks About His Research

By Ariana Chae '15


Allen Downey is highly regarded as an innovative Computer
Science Professor at Olin, teaching classes on physical modeling, statistics,
and scientific computation.  He is also well known for writing textbooks
and conducting research. Allen's work covers a wide range of topics, mostly
related to computer science. He recently won the Undergraduate Computational Engineering and Sciences (UCES)
. According to the official UCES website, "the UCES Award recognizes
undergraduate faculty who have recently developed courses, programs and/or
curricular material." Allen was recognized for his Complexity Science and
Computational Modeling Class, based on his textbook Think Complexity.


Allen's research recently has concentrated on statistics, and he maintains a
blog to keep people up to date on his progress. He is using his research to
write and improve his textbooks Think Stats and Think Bayes.
Allen likes to share his quick, quirky projects on his blog, as well as his
materials for public presentations. He thinks it is important to post details
about his research because he values transparent science. Allen says that
blogging is like "putting my lab notebook in public" because "everything about
my research is public." By doing so, he avoids the file drawer effect, where
researchers often neglect to include negative results in their papers, thus
misrepresenting their work.


As you can see, Allen's interests lie at the intersection of teaching,
conducting research, and writing textbooks. The examples he posts on his blog
are often a result of his research, and they are developed to become chapters
in his textbooks, and ultimately lessons in the classroom. Check out the first
of his most recent series of blog posts on the statistics behind belly button diversity
(!)  here.

Posted in: Because I Wanted To, Fun @ Olin, Research