An interview with Jamie Nunnelly, Communications Director of National Institute of Statistical Sciences
Ajay– What does NISS do? And What does SAMSI do?
Jamie– The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) was established in 1990 by the national statistics societies and the Research Triangle universities and organizations, with the mission to identify, catalyze and foster high-impact, cross-disciplinary and cross-sector research involving the statistical sciences.
NISS is dedicated to strengthening and serving the national statistics community, most notably by catalyzing community members’ participation in applied research driven by challenges facing government and industry. NISS also provides career development opportunities for statisticians and scientists, especially those in the formative stages of their careers.
The Institute identifies emerging issues to which members of the statistics community can make key contributions, and then catalyzes the right combinations of researchers from multiple disciplines and sectors to tackle each problem. More than 300 researchers from over 100 institutions have worked on our projects.
The Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute (SAMSI) is a partnership of Duke University, North Carolina State University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and NISS in collaboration with the William Kenan Jr. Institute for Engineering, Technology and Science and is part of the Mathematical Sciences Institutes of the NSF.
SAMSI focuses on 1-2 programs of research interest in the statistical and/or applied mathematical area and visitors from around the world are involved with the programs and come from a variety of disciplines in addition to mathematics and statistics.
Many come to SAMSI to attend workshops, and also participate in working groups throughout the academic year. Many of the working groups communicate via WebEx so people can be involved with the research remotely. SAMSI also has a robust education and outreach program to help undergraduate and graduate students learn about cutting edge research in applied mathematics and statistics.
Ajay– What successes have you had in 2010- and what do you need to succeed in 2011. Whats planned for 2011 anyway
Jamie– NISS has had a very successful collaboration with the National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) over the past two years that was just renewed for the next two years. NISS & NASS had three teams consisting of a faculty researcher in statistics, a NASS researcher, a NISS mentor, a postdoctoral fellow and a graduate student working on statistical modeling and other areas of research for NASS.
NISS is also working on a syndromic surveillance project with Clemson University, Duke University, The University of Georgia, The University of South Carolina. The group is currently working with some hospitals to test out a model they have been developing to help predict disease outbreak.
SAMSI had a very successful year with two programs ending this past summer, which were the Stochastic Dynamics program and the Space-time Analysis for Environmental Mapping, Epidemiology and Climate Change. Several papers were written and published and many presentations have been made at various conferences around the world regarding the work that was conducted as SAMSI last year.
Next year’s program is so big that the institute has decided to devote all it’s time and energy around it, which is uncertainty quantification. The opening workshop, in addition to the main methodological theme, will be broken down into three areas of interest under this broad umbrella of research: climate change, engineering and renewable energy, and geosciences.
Ajay– Describe your career in science and communication.
Jamie– I have been in communications since 1985, working for large Fortune 500 companies such as General Motors and Tropicana Products. I moved to the Research Triangle region of North Carolina after graduate school and got into economic development and science communications first working for the Research Triangle Regional Partnership in 1994.
From 1996-2005 I was the communications director for the Research Triangle Park, working for the Research Triangle Foundation of NC. I published a quarterly magazine called The Park Guide for awhile, then came to work for NISS and SAMSI in 2008.
I really enjoy working with the mathematicians and statisticians. I always joke that I am the least educated person working here and that is not far from the truth! I am honored to help get the message out about all of the important research that is conducted here each day that is helping to improve the lives of so many people out there.
Ajay– Research Triangle or Silicon Valley– Which is better for tech people and why? Your opinion
Jamie– Both the Silicon Valley and Research Triangle are great regions for tech people to locate, but of course, I have to be biased and choose Research Triangle!
Really any place in the world that you find many universities working together with businesses and government, you have an area that will grow and thrive, because the collaborations help all of us generate new ideas, many of which blossom into new businesses, or new endeavors of research.
The quality of life in places such as the Research Triangle is great because you have people from around the world moving to a place, each bringing his/her culture, food, and uniqueness to this place, and enriching everyone else as a result.
Two advantages the Research Triangle has over Silicon Valley are that the Research Triangle has a bigger diversity of industries, so when the telecommunications industry busted back in 2001-02, the region took a hit, but the biotechnology industry was still growing, so unemployment rose, but not to the extent that other areas might have experienced.
The latest recession has hit us all very hard, so even this strategy has not made us immune to having high unemployment, but the Research Triangle region has been pegged by experts to be one of the first regions to emerge out of the Great Recession.
The other advantage I think we have is that our cost of living is still much more reasonable than Silicon Valley. It’s still possible to get a nice sized home, some land and not break the bank!
Ajay– How do you manage an active online social media presence, your job and your family. How important is balance in professional life and when young professional should realize this?
Jamie– Balance is everything, isn’t it? When I leave the office, I turn off my iPhone and disconnect from Twitter/Facebook etc.
I know that is not recommended by some folks, but I am a one person communications department and I love my family and friends and feel its important to devote time to them as well as to my career.
I think it is very important for young people to establish this early in their careers because if they don’t they will fall victim to working way too many hours and really, who loves you at the end of the day?
Your company may appreciate all you do for them, but if you leave, or you get sick and cannot work for them, you will be replaced
. Lee Iacocca, former CEO of Chrystler, said, “No matter what you’ve done for yourself or for humanity, if you can’t look back on having given love and attention to your own family, what have you really accomplished?” I think that is what is really most important in life.
Jamie Nunnelly has been in communications for 25 years. She is currently on the board of directors for Chatham County Economic Development Corporation and Leadership Triangle & is a member of the International Association of Business Communicators and the Public Relations Society of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal and public communications at Bowling Green State University and a master’s degree in mass communications at the University of South Florida.
You can contact Jamie at http://niss.org/content/jamie-nunnelly or on twitter at