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New Faces: Jessica Jaynes

Statistics professor looks for the connections between medicine and the innovative design of experiments.
People  |  Sep 11, 2013  |  By UNLV News Center
Statistics professor Jessica Jaynes. (R. Marsh Starks/UNLV Photo Services)

Jessica Jaynes grew up in Huntington Beach, Calif., but rarely made time to hit the sand and surf even though she lived only a few miles from the beach. Now a professor of statistics, Jaynes hopes to dispel the myth that statisticians are only number-crunchers. She is continuing her research to develop new methodologies for experiments to help cure illness. The first-generation college graduate received her bachelor's degree at California State University, Fullerton, where she was one of a few females to earn a degree in mathematics, and a Ph.D. from UCLA.


I had always visited Las Vegas as a tourist, but never thought about living here. After my interview at UNLV, I knew that this was the place for me. I found that the university offered a diverse setting, with a multitude of course offerings for a successful education. Additionally, the faculty is very supportive of both teaching and research.

What is your area of research?

My primary research interests include statistical methods and applications, experimental design, and discrete choice experiments. I concentrate on the close connection between statistics and medicine. As science and technology progress, this often calls for innovation in methodological and theoretical development of statistical experimental design.

Statistics is essential in the development of novel experiments to maximize efficiency, while minimizing time and costs. New developments in statistical methods pertaining to medical research can provide higher efficiency designs, more in-depth analyses, and require a shorter time to run. In particular, there is a growing demand for identifying drug combinations for particular illnesses. Through statistics, we can help identify drug combinations and dosages that will yield the highest potential in curing the illness.

What drew you to your profession?

I chose to become a statistician to be able to have an impact on various fields. By combining my skill set with others, my hope is that we can work together to have a lasting impact on the scientific community, leading to advancements in research in a gamut of different studies.

As a professor, I have a strong passion to promote research and encourage students to collaborate, by exploring various new areas, and thus preparing them to be efficient researchers and contributors to higher education.

What is the biggest misconception about your field?

That statisticians are purely number crunchers. People often do not realize that statistics, almost unknowingly, are used in everyday life.

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

Having the correct tools to be able to analyze the ample amount of data generated on a daily basis.

Why do statistics seems so scary?

I believe that many students/people fear statistics because they missed the real-world applications of the subject and only focused on their fear of math. When I introduce myself as a statistician, most people give me some horror story of the one and only statistics course they had to take in college. My goal is to change this through teaching and exposing statistics as a real-world application course, rather than a mathematics course.

What is the proudest moment in your life?

My proudest moments in my life come from being able to be a role model for my five siblings as well as my students.

If you could fix one thing in the world, what would it be?

Eradicating misconceptions and judgment.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I am the first in my immediate and extended family to graduate from college, let alone to continue on to earn a Ph.D.

What kind of professor do you want to be known as?

My goal is to share my enthusiasm for statistics, and have each and every student succeed in both understanding and application of the subject. I hope to be a mentor and someone to whom my students can always turn.

What can't you work without?

Natural light. I am always the most productive when I have natural light surrounding me.

Who is your hero?

My dad. He not only is a father and parent, but also a best friend, role model, and inspiration for everything I do.

Do you have any hobbies?

I enjoy being surrounded by my family. Otherwise, you can find me in the garden.

--compiled by Shane Bevell, communications director for the College of Sciences