The Fulbright Scholar Program, STEM, and Scholars

November 17, 2016

By Catherine Matto, STEM Discipline Lead, Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program AMSTAT

hayter-anthony

Professor Anthony Hayter was featured in the American Statistical Association membership magazine regarding his Fulbright Scholar experience. 

 

Where you spent your scholarship year: Chulalongkorn University, Thailand
Period you were abroad: 2011–2012 and 2014
Anthony Hayter is a full professor in the department of business information and analytics at the University of Denver and former department chair. He earned an MA in mathematics from Cambridge University, England, and a PhD in statistics from Cornell University. He is the author of the textbook Probability and Statistics for Engineers and Scientists.

Tell us about your time as a Fulbright Scholar, including a brief description of your project and what you accomplished.

I visited the department of statistics at Chulalongkorn Business School, hosted by Seksan Kiatsupaibul. Chulalongkorn University is the oldest university in Thailand and has long been considered the country’s most prestigious university. I was able to participate in several research projects the university is conducting.

First, I participated in a national survey of the effectiveness of microfinance loans from the government to rural communities. These short-term loans are vital for the country’s farming communities, and the survey is an important tool for improving their management.

I also helped analyze credit risk ratings of Thai businesses. The purpose of this project is to develop a model to predict these international credit ratings based only on basic well-known accounting ratios. This is part of a larger project to provide an alternative framework to calculate default correlations and “credit value at risk” measures with a credit-scoring model.

Furthermore, I was able to work on a risk management study for Thailand’s rural social security program. The objective of this project is to develop statistical tools to manage the risks that arise in micro-financial systems operated by local communities in rural areas of Thailand.

Finally, I collaborated on the analysis of data concerning the inter-arrival times of abnormal internet connections for a statistical research team’s server. A web server is often subjected to attacks by hackers, which can deteriorate the service or bring down the server. It is therefore common for a server to protect itself with a security system, and our task was to develop a protection system with an algorithm that identifies abnormal connections from external servers in order to bar them from entering the system.

What or who inspired you to apply for the scholarship?

I was greatly inspired to pursue this Fulbright by the quality of the faculty at Chulalongkorn University and the various opportunities the university provides to participate in Thailand’s statistical community. For example, the department of statistics at Chulalongkorn University has agreements with the National Statistical Office of Thailand to conduct joint research projects. This office is responsible for the overall collection and assimilation of statistics in Thailand. Personally, I have always felt that research and statistical work are much more rewarding when conducted in collaboration with colleagues, and the Fulbright allowed me to benefit from exposure to new problems and the expertise of new colleagues.

Describe the biggest challenge and reward (or most memorable experience or impression) during your time as a scholar.

The enduring impressions of my work in Thailand are the hospitality provided by my Thai colleagues, together with their good-natured cheerfulness. I was also impressed by the vibrant statistical community and the quality of its work. Driving through rural Thailand in a minivan with my colleagues, in order to meet and interview the local community leaders as part of our data-collection efforts, was a happy and unique experience. Meeting in the local temples, our student team busily transferred the data from the stacks of handwritten account books to their computers. Perhaps one of the most rewarding aspects of my Fulbright was working with the incredibly accomplished students at Chulalongkorn University, writing research papers with them, and advising and helping them to apply for doctorate programs in the west. Though my visits to Thailand were short, the connections I made are long term.

How has the experience changed your research, teaching, and other professional or personal activities?

My connections with Chulalongkorn University have been particularly productive for research publications due to the assimilation of our different skills and experiences. In addition, my Fulbright experiences have provided a wealth of interesting experiences and examples for classroom teaching. It is so rewarding to realize how mutual interests in Big Data analysis and theoretical concepts can unite people from otherwise different cultural backgrounds and experiences.

What advice do you have for statisticians thinking about applying? (What was the biggest obstacle for you when applying for the Fulbright Scholarship?)

The opportunities to become involved in data collection and analysis in different parts of the world are immense. The Fulbright offers particularly good opportunities for applied statistical work. Applications have a great chance of success if they can demonstrate how the visitor can become involved in statistical projects in the host country, rather than be limited only to theoretical work, which could be done anywhere.