Students Meet with Seminar Series Speakers

With Dr. Mentch’s coordination, we invite local and national speakers to present in the Seminar Series every semester. In some cases, the speakers are available to meet with studnets. The following are thoughts from students, Nico Gabriel and Ryan Kelly, who were able to attend the meetings.

Q: What seminar speaker did you meet with? And, what was their area of research?

N: Nico had the opportunity to meet with Sam Ventura, the Director of Hockey Research for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Kostas Pelechrinis, Associate Professor at School of Computing and Information. Each speaker’s area of expertise was in Sports Analytics – he is very familiar with the sports they were talking about and finds it interesting. He said “subject matter expertise matters a lot when coming up with new ways to quantify values. Sometimes you can get lost in the weeds when dealing with overly theoretical research and being able to relate and it bring it back to concrete things is a way to create an understanding to something I didn’t understand before.

R: This semester, I met with Dr. Donald Richards, who is studying goodness-of-fit tests for the gamma distribution.

Q: What was the most interesting thing that you’ve learned in your meeting?

N: The models that they used were not what I was expecting. They used model designs that originated from medicine to model sports predictions – I think it’s a really cool and an interesting way to extend that idea.

R: We mainly discussed his thoughts on a related problem I was working on for my GSR work. So while I wouldn’t say I learned many concrete facts, I did get valuable insight on potential new ways to approach the analysis.

Q: Will you meet with more speakers if the opportunity is there? And do you recommend other students in joining?

N: I absolutely will meet with speakers again – students should definitely attend meetings if it’s something they are familiar with. It creates a great understanding to different theories.

R: I will probably meet with more speakers who have knowledge in a field which is relevant or interesting to me. Students could likely benefit from meeting with speakers related to their research (or other areas of interest), but really should prepare some topics for discussion to fully benefit.

Q: What is one thing that you feel that you have gained meeting with a seminar speaker?

N: I gained more of an understanding how sports analytics works and the way you can think about problems. The ability to generalize theories across different disciplines is very cool and to see applications in areas they were originally intended to be used for something else, is not what I expected. It’s always important to find new ways to think about things.

R: My meeting with Dr. Richards was the most in-depth conversation I’ve had with a professor from outside the university. It has made me more comfortable to speak in the future with experts I don’t already know and work with.