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Stéphanie van der Pas wins C.J. Kok Jury Award for the best doctoral thesis of 2017

The jury of the C.J. Kok Award selected Stéphanie van der Pas' dissertation as the Faculty of Science's best dissertation of 2017. This was announced by rector Carel Stolker during the faculty’s New Year's reception on 9 January.

Van der Pas' dissertation, titled ‘Topics in mathematical and applied statistics’ and supervised by professor Aad van der Vaart, has already been the basis for seven published or accepted articles, where two are average in the field of mathematics. According to the nomination, this abundance was brought about by her extraordinary excellence and goal orientation. Van der Pas' thesis concerns, among other things, the estimation of parameters under sparsity constraints. These are models in which many actors may contribute to the modeled effect, but only a few actors actually do. Such models are used in many fields, including genetics and astronomy. Van der Pas proves that the so-called horseshoe method is optimal for separating the true signals from the noise. Besides the horseshoe method, she deals with three very different, very diverse subjects in her thesis.

The jury's comments

The thesis is exceptional, because of its scientific depth, its variety in topics, the relevance of the topics, and the quantity of results. More exceptional yet is the recognition from the field. An article based on chapter 3 corrects a commonly accepted wrong idea in Bayesian statistics. This article has just appeared in the top journal in this field, and even as a discussion article, meaning that six groups of experts have been invited to give their opinions on it. Stéphanie's work has a direct influence on how statistical analyses are performed and interpreted. The seven published or accepted articles deal with several areas of statistics, varying from fundamental and theoretical to the development of models for deciding when to place a hip prosthesis.

Biographical note

In six and a half years, Stéphanie van der Pas completed a 1st year degree in Medicine, a bachelor and master in Mathematics and a bachelor and master in Classics. Four years later, she obtained a PhD in Mathematics. She is currently an assistant professor at the Mathematical Institute and at the Medical Statistics section of the Department of Biomedical Data Sciences at the Leiden University Medical Center.