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Department of Statistics selects student marshals for Spring 2020
7 May 2020

Anna Zhang and Jeffery Cao will be honored as student marshals for the Department of Statistics during Penn State’s virtual spring commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 9.



Anna Zhang

Anna Zhang

Zhang’s faculty escort for the commencement exercises will be Lingzhou Xue, Associate Professor of Statistics.

Zhang will graduate with a 3.96 grade point average and a bachelor’s degree in Statistics. She has been honored with numerous awards and grants. She was an Erickson Discovery Grant Recipient in 2019. Zhang received the ECoS Grant for Undergraduate Research from Penn State for the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 academic years. She was awarded the Matthew Rosenshine Fund for Excellence in Statistics and the President Sparks Award in 2018, and The President’s Freshman Award in 2017.

“It is definitely an honor and I feel so lucky! I honestly did not expect it to be me: I have other friends in Statistics I think are way more qualified than me.”

While at Penn State, Zhang worked with Lingzhou Xue on Clustering of Bipartite Network, developing methodology and algorithms to cluster dynamic bipartite networks based on existing literature. Two years ago, she worked with Dr. Dennis Pearl, Research Professor of Statistics, writing Shiny apps to teach Statistics. Zhang developed two apps on Chi-Square Test and Data Science. Zhang and two other team members designed an experiment to test out the efficacy of apps developed in an introductory Statistics class. In Summer, 2019, she worked as the peer mentor for the BOAST program. In Educational Psychology, Zhang worked with Dr. Brian Belland, Associate Professor of Education, designing scaffolding prototypes for preservice teachers in STEM and running statistical analysis.

About her most important lessons learned at Penn State, Zhang says, “Always be kind to others is I think the most important thing. People I met in the past four years have largely shaped what kind of person I want to become. Many professors are very accomplished in the field but are so kind and patient with their students. Undergraduate training and research in Statistics has taught me to respect all disciplines and to fully give myself to whatever I do.”

After graduation, Zhang will join the doctoral program in Educational Psychology at Penn State this fall. She is from Nanjing, China, and attended the Xianlin Campus of the Nanjing Foreign Language School.



Jeffery Cao

Jeffery Cao

Cao’s faculty escort for the commencement exercises will be Dennis Lin, Distinguished Professor of Statistics.

Cao will graduate with a 3.95 grade point average and a bachelor’s degree in Data Science Statistical Modeling Option/Computer Science. Cao received the DataFest 2018 Overall Winner and Best Insight Award, as well as the DataFest 2019 Best Insight Award.

While at Penn State, Cao performed research with Dr. Tom La Porta, Director, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Evan Pugh Professor, and William E. Leonhard Professor, Computer Science and Engineering and Electrical Engineering. They are researching the possibility of using only text descriptions of objects to generate images which can act as training data for classifier. They are using Generative Adversarial Networks (GAN) to generate data and building a classifier using many zero-shot learning (unseen class) approaches. Cao is currently working on how to alter GAN to create valuable training data. He plans to complete his master’s in computer science then work at Microsoft as a software engineer in Seattle.

Cao says he was “pretty surprised and proud” to be selected as student marshal. “Penn State taught me the value of hard work but also making sure to take time to enjoy hobbies and non-computer stuff. It also taught me that taking the initiative is important and to search for opportunities.”

Cao’s plans after graduation include completing a master’s in computer science and work at Microsoft as a software engineer in Seattle.

Cao is from State College and graduated from State College Area High School.