Faculty Feature: Dr. Susan Simmons

Dr. Susan Simmons joined the Institute for Advanced Analytics faculty in August 2016.

She learned about the Institute a few years earlier, when she was a professor in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. Kathy Green, associate director for the Institute for Advanced Analytics, held a Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) information session on UNC-Wilmington’s campus, and Simmons attended with many of her students. Simmons was impressed by what she heard about the NC State MSA’s practical, hands-on approach to analytics education.

“I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds like a great idea!’” she recalls.

When the Institute announced an opening for a statistician on its faculty, Dr. Aric LaBarr encouraged Simmons to consider the opportunity. She applied, and became even more interested upon meeting other members of the Institute’s faculty and seeing their collaborative work style firsthand.

“We do what we preach,” Simmons said of the MSA program’s heavy emphasis on teamwork, “and I think that propagates to the students.”

As a self-described “stat geek,” Simmons enjoys teaching subjects such as time series analysis, logistic regression, survival, simulation and risk analysis, data mining, and R programming. She also loves seeing students’ “amazing growth” from the time they begin the MSA program in June to their final practicum project presentations the following April.

“I think what the Institute is doing is incredible,” Simmons said. “It’s creating a skill set for jobs that are desperately needed. We don’t dwell on the theory, but instead focus on an understanding of the techniques. When our students get out there they might not be able to tell you how to actually derive a maximum likelihood estimate, but they could tell you when should you use it and when should you not use it.”

Simmons strives to stay abreast of new techniques and industry trends through her active involvement in several professional organizations. She currently serves as secretary for the Southern Research Council of Statistics (SRCoS), an officer for the American Statistical Association (ASA)’s Risk Analysis Section, and an associate editor for the journal Environmetrics.

“It’s good to keep your feet planted in your discipline to know what’s going on out there,” said Simmons. She encourages MSA students to be proactive in their journey to becoming outstanding analytics professionals by delving deeper into topics that pique their curiosity.

While Simmons’ focus during the week is on work, she dedicates her weekends to her family. Her husband, Kirk, an executive for a healthcare analytics solutions provider; her son, Donavan, is currently completing an internship in Pennsylvania and will enroll as a freshman at NC State in the spring; and her daughter, Sierra, is a high school senior who plays softball on both school and travel teams.

Simmons holds a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of South Carolina, an M.S. in statistics from West Virginia University, and a B.S. in applied mathematics from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.