2016 Mosaic Lecture

The third annual Mosaic Lecture took place on March 30, 2016. A video of the lecture can be found on YouTube.

Dr. Talithia Williams

Harvey Mudd College

Lies, Deceit, and Misrepresentation: The Distortion of Statistics in America

H.G. Wells once said "Statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write." The widespread use of statistics plays an influential role in persuading public opinion. As such, statistical literacy is necessary for members of society to critically evaluate the bombardment of charts, polls, graphs, and data that are presented on a daily basis. However, what often passes for "statistical" calculations and discoveries need to be taken with a grain of salt. This talk will examine the applications of statistics in American media and give examples of where statistics has been grossly misused.

About Dr. Talithia Williams

Dr. Talithia Williams takes sophisticated numerical concepts and makes them understandable and relatable to everyone. As illustrated in her popular Ted Talk, "Own Your Body's Data," she demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways, using statistics as a way of seeing the world in a new light and transforming our future through the bold new possibilities inherent in the STEM fields. As an Associate Professor of Mathematics at Harvey Mudd College, she has made it her life's work to get people—students, parents, educators and community members—more excited about the possibilities inherent in a STEM education.

In her present capacity as a faculty member, she exemplifies the role of teacher and scholar through outstanding research, with a passion for integrating and motivating the educational process with real world statistical applications. Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Spelman College, Masters' degrees in both Mathematics from Howard University and Statistics from Rice University, and a Ph.D. in Statistics from Rice University. Her professional experiences include research appointments at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the National Security Agency (NSA), and NASA.

Dr. Williams develops statistical models which emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and has partnered with the World Health Organization in developing a cataract model used to predict the cataract surgical rate for countries in Africa. Through her research and work in the community at large, she is helping change the collective mindset regarding STEM in general and math in particular—rebranding the field of mathematics as anything but dry, technical or male-dominated but instead a logical, productive career path that is crucial to the future of the country. She is active in her faith community and serves with her husband as a Christian marriage mentor couple, all while being the mom of three amazing boys.

The 2016 Mosaic Lecture was co-sponsored by the Department of Statistics, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Frederik Meijer Honors College.

Page last modified January 31, 2017