Sallie Keller headshot
Biocomplexity Institute News

University of Virginia Distinguished Institute Professor Sallie A. Keller Receives Prestigious Samuel S. Wilks Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions to Statistics

The University of Virginia Biocomplexity Institute is excited to announce Dr. Sallie A. Keller was named the 2021 Samuel S. Wilks Memorial Award recipient by the American Statistical Association (ASA) in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the field of statistics. 

One of ASA’s most prestigious awards, the Samuel S. Wilks Memorial Award was established in 1964 in memory of Samuel S. Wilks, a notable mathematician and academic who played an important role in the development of mathematical statistics, especially in regard to practical applications. The award is given annually to an individual who has made statistical contributions to the advancement of scientific or technical knowledge, ingenious application of existing knowledge, or successful activity in the fostering of cooperative scientific efforts that have been directly involved in matters of national defense or public interest.

Nominated by her peers, Keller was recognized for her significant contributions to scientific knowledge and cooperative applications advancing national defense and the public interest. She has been a leader in applying statistical thinking to complex societal problems, both through research and policy. Keller also has been steadfast in supporting efforts to modernize federal statistics and ensure that federal statistical agencies remain trusted providers of unbiased information in the public interest.

In describing Keller’s accomplishments, Dr. Alicia Carriquiry, Chair of the Samuel S. Wilks Memorial Award Committee, said: “Her contributions to scientific knowledge, her ability to creatively synthesize and connect ideas, and her skill in communicating and working collaboratively made her a superb nominee, and ultimately, the ideal recipient for this prestigious award.”

“Sallie embodies the spirit of this award and we look forward to her continued contributions for many years to come.”

In a multi-faceted career that has taken her from Professor of Statistics at Kansas State University to Head of the Statistical Sciences group at Los Alamos National Laboratory to Dean of Engineering at Rice University to her current role of Director of the Social and Decision Analytics division at UVA’s Biocomplexity Institute, a hallmark of Keller’s success has been her ability to build transdisciplinary teams and collaboration to focus on critical research aimed at addressing large-scale world problems. She is known for bringing statisticians, physical scientists, engineers, computer scientists, and health and social scientists, just to name a few, together in a variety of contexts to work on important problems.

Keller is a visionary and leading voice in the emerging and rapidly growing field of data science, and applies innovative and critical thinking toward research to shape how federal agencies, state government, cities, counties, and towns are combining their local data and with traditional survey data to bring evidence to their decision-making.

“I’m humbled and honored by this award from ASA,” Keller said. “Achievement isn’t a singular activity but one that results from a team effort, and I have been fortunate to work alongside and be surrounded by amazing colleagues who have inspired and motivated me throughout my career. My heartfelt thanks to these former and current colleagues and collaborators, and to ASA for this award.”

The Samuel S. Wilks Memorial Award joins a long list of awards and distinctions Keller has received throughout her career. Last year, Keller was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. She is a National Associate of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and is recognized as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) and the American Statistical Association, is an elected member of the International Statistics Institute, and former Chair of the National Academies’ Committee on Applied and Theoretical Statistics and member of the Committee on National Statistics, among involvement with numerous other advisory boards and professional organizations.