Amelia McNamara

Photo courtesy Mark Brown

Amelia McNamara

University of St Thomas, Assistant Professor, Department of Computer & Information Sciences.

Statistics PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles.

My work is focused on creating better tools for novices to use for data analysis. I have a theory about what the future of statistical programming should look like, and am working on next steps toward those tools. For more on that, see my dissertation.

My research interests include statistics education, statistical computing, data visualization, and spatial statistics.

At the moment, I am very interested in the effects of parameter choices on data analysis, particularly data visualizations. My collaborator Aran Lunzer and I have produced an interactive essay on histograms, and an initial foray into the effects of spatial aggregation. I talked more about spatial aggregation in my 2017 OpenVisConf talk, How Spatial Polygons Shape Our World.

My undergraduate research assistants have been helping me with my work on spatial statistics, the change of support problem, and the Modifiable Areal Unit Problem. I am always willing to work with students on research projects, so whether you have something in mind already or want to work on one of my current projects, please let me know.


My dissertation was officially co-advised by Rob Gould and Rick Schoenberg, although I worked closely with Mark Hansen for many years. As a graduate student, I also worked with with the Viewpoints Research Institute (VPRI), directed by Alan Kay (another member of my dissertation committee). A full list of my committee members and abstract of my dissertation is available here. Towards my vision of statistical programming, I worked with Aran Lunzer at VPRI to explore the effects of aggregation on data, both in one dimension (histograms) and in two dimensions (spatial patterns).

Over the years, my educational career has included elements typically associated with the right brain (design foundations, college English major) as well as the left brain (math was my other undergraduate major, and my PhD is in statistics with a focus on computation).

However, I dislike the tendency to pigeonhole projects and people by the dichotomy of the right and left brain. Instead, I prefer to focus on projects that use a more holistic approach. In both my research and my teaching, I try to balance quantitative rigor with excellent communication.

For a more detailed look at my recent work, see my writings and presentations, or look at some of my other recent projects. Or, look at my dissertation committee members and dissertation abstract, and read my theory about the future of statistical programming.


At the University of St Thomas, I am teaching Statistics I (introduction to statistics) and Statistics II (multiple regression).

At Smith, I taught Multiple Regression (Spring 2016, Fall 2016) and Introduction to Probability and Statistics (Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2017), Communicating with Data (Fall 2017), and Data Journalism.

As a graduate student at UCLA, I had the opportunity to develop and teach a data visualization course. I was given the opportunity to develop this course as part of the Collegium of University Teaching Fellows program at UCLA. During my time at UCLA, I also served as a Teaching Fellow. I taught discussion sections for three upper-division statistics classes (101a, 102b and 101c).

For three years, I was also a graduate student researcher on the Mobilize project, which brings data science to high school students in the LA area. The curriculum includes participatory sensing and computational analysis in R and RStudio. My work with Mobilize is discussed here, and has been a source of inspiration for my ongoing research into computational tools for novices.

Curriculum vitae

My CV is available here, and if you're curious about how I TeXed it up, view the code.