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Steven J. Schwager

Steven Schwager

Professor Emeritus

1188 Comstock Hall

I joined the Cornell faculty in 1978 as a member of the Biometrics Unit in the Department of Plant Breeding and Biometry; this became the Department of Biometrics, and subsequently the Department of Biological Statistics and Computational Biology. I am also a faculty member in the Department of Statistical Science. I was the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Biometry and Statistics program from 1991 to 2009. I retired from active faculty status in December 2011.

My professional activities are centered on the application of statistical methodology to research questions from a wide range of areas in the biological, physical, and social sciences and business. This can involve the use of existing methods and techniques, the development of new methods better suited to the questions of interest, or a combination of the two. I am interested in statistical approaches and techniques for collecting the proper data, including experiment design and sampling design, and for analyzing data in order to draw appropriate conclusions through statistical inference.

Research Interests

My research interests include ecological statistics, epidemiology, experiment design, modeling, multivariate analysis, sampling design, statistical computing, and statistical data analysis. I have done collaborative research in a variety of fields, including a paper in Science on organic contaminants in farmed salmon that received international attention.

My research is primarily concerned with statistical methods and theory applicable to processes from a wide range of situations in the biological, physical, and social sciences, engineering, and occasionally other areas (e.g., the humanities). Existing methods often address the subject matter questions of major importance; when this is the case, the proper research questions must be stated and formulated statistically, suitable analyses must be performed, and the results must be interpreted in both statistical and subject matter terms. When the primary questions cannot be answered fully by existing methods, new statistical techniques must be developed to address them. My recent work has applied and developed statistical methods for data from a variety of studies. Statistical sampling methods were applied and analyses performed to determine the presence and nutritional effects of persistent organic pollutants in farmed and wild salmon. A series of papers has examined the spread, early detection, and control of disease epidemics in animal populations. New methods have been developed to test for competition in presence-absence matrices, a common form of ecological data. Canine data have been analyzed in an investigation of osteoarthritis and developmental dysplasia of the hip. Work is in progress in additional areas.

Teaching Focus

In my teaching, I use examples to motivate the development of applicable statistical methods and the underlying theory that establishes their efficacy. The methods and theory provide informative analyses of data from the examples; these help us to understand the process that generated the data. Tools from mathematics and computing are of fundamental importance in this process.

Courses I have taught recently include:

  • BTRY 6010, Statistical Methods I (Fall 2010)
  • BTRY 4100, Multivariate Analysis (Spring 2009)
  • BTRY 3010, Biological Statistics I (Fall 2008)
  • BTRY 4080, Theory of Probability (Fall 2005, Fall 2006, and Fall 2007)
  • BTRY 4090, Theory of Statistics (Spring 2007, Spring 2008, and Spring 2011)
  • BTRY 4950, Statistical Consulting
  • BTRY 6040, Statistical Methods IV: Applied Design
  • BTRY 3100, Statistical Sampling