A Brief History

The Department of Statistics was initially formed as a graduate department in 1977 and it began operating as a full independent department in 1979 under the inaugural chairmanship of DAS Fraser, FRSC. The formation of the Department was the culmination of a rich history in statistical science at the University of Toronto. The University has produced a surprising number of great leaders in the discipline including Art Dempster, Rudy Beran, David Brillinger, John Chambers, Steve Feinberg, Daryl Pregibon, Mary Thompson, Ross Prentice, Rob Tibshirani, and Larry Wasserman.  In actuarial science, the department has the oldest undergraduate program in North America with courses dating back to 1875.

Faculty and programs of research within the department developed many important innovations in statistical science.  These include advances in conditional/structural inference and asymptotics; the development of flexible methods in statistical learning including generalized additive models, multivariate analysis, robust estimation, Bayesian nets; designing efficient Monte Carlo algorithms. The importance of these innovations is reflected in the number of significant awards bestowed on the Department’s faculty including the prestigious COPSS Award. This highest international research honour in statistics has only been awarded three times to Canadian faculty and each of these was at the University of Toronto. In addition, three of our alumni have been awarded this distinction.

Currently the Department is comprised of 20 faculty, 5 staff members and approximately 50 graduate students.

Research in the Department

The department’s research strength is centered on excellence in theory and methods. In addition, many faculty members in the department have very successful collaborative research programs.  Active research areas involve overlapping clusters of faculty and include actuarial science and mathematical finance (Badescu, Broverman, Jaimungal, Lin), applied statistics (Andrews, Brunner, Lou), statistical genomics and genetics (Craiu, Bull, Evans, Kustra, Neal, Stafford, Sun), statistical foundations (Brenner, Evans, Feurverger, Fraser, Knight, Reid, Srivastava), probability (Quastel, Rosenthal, Virag), spatial/temporal modelling and functional data analysis (Brown, Knight, Stafford, Yao, Zhou), MCMC methods and statistical learning (Brown, Craiu, Escobar, Neal, Kustra, Rosenthal). Central to our vision for the next five years is to strengthen our national and international reputation in collaborative scientific activity, without compromising our core strengths.  We also aim to further strengthen our graduate research program in actuarial science.

Our Faculty

Currently the Department is comprised of 20 faculty. Over the past five years we have enhanced our strength in research through continued hiring of outstanding junior faculty, and we have at least two junior faculty members on career trajectories that will potentially lead to COPSS Award nominations.  We share with Waterloo the largest number of gold medalists (5) of the Statistical Society of Canada and our leading senior researchers regularly receive disciplinary awards, are active in public lectures as well as leading international conferences. Our research faculty are well supported by NSERC and have been successful in obtaining additional funds from various sources, including the Networks of Centers of Excellence and the new ACCELERATE Internship program. A review of NSERC data indicates that statisticians at the University of Toronto receive more research funding than any other institution in Canada.

Our Students

Graduates of our undergraduate program in actuarial science are found at the highest levels of management in industry. We have recently graduated several PhD students whose research was in actuarial science and finance: five of these hold academic actuarial appointments in Canada and others hold high level positions in the finance and insurance industry. Our undergraduate statistics specialists have been exceptionally strong in recent years, with the best of them continuing to graduate study at the University of Chicago, Stanford University, and elsewhere. Our graduate students have also been in demand for both academic and professional positions. It is well known throughout North America that graduates in statistical science are highly sought after and our students ultimately pursue careers in academia, research institutes and industry. The Department hosts an undergraduate student union SASSU, an undergraduate actuarial science student’s club, and a graduate student’s union SGSU.

Our Staff

A critical component to achieving our priorities, and the foundation of any successful department, is our staff. The Department is fortunate in having outstanding staff including a Department Manager, an Undergraduate and Graduate Coordinator, a Department Secretary, a Systems Administrator and a Statistical Consultant.


The Department has strong ties to the Division of Biostatistics in the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, the Artificial Intelligence group in the Department of Computer Science, the Probability group in the Department of Mathematics, the Masters of Mathematical Finance Program and Engineering Science in the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering.

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