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Bridge in winter

Aleksandra (Seša) Slavković named associate dean for research in the Eberly College of Science

6 December 2023
Aleksandra (Sesa) Slavkovic

Aleksandra (Seša) Slavković, Dorothy Foehr Huck and J. Lloyd Huck Chair in Data Privacy and Confidentiality, professor of statistics and of public health sciences, and associate dean for graduate education in the Penn State Eberly College of Science, has been named the associate dean for research in the college, effective Dec. 1, 2023. In this role, Slavković will support research and research innovation by facilitating collaborations, funding, and engagement opportunities; highlighting the societal impact of innovations developed in the college; and supporting the mentoring and training of researchers. She succeeds Miguel Mostafá, who has served in the position since 2022.

Slavković joined Penn State in 2004 and has served as associate dean for graduate education since 2018. She previously served as the associate head for diversity and equity, associate head for graduate studies, and co-director of online programs in the Department of Statistics. 

“Sesa is a connected leader who brings college and University-level experience and connections to this position,” said Tracy Langkilde, Verne M. Willaman Dean of the Eberly College of Science. “Her solution-oriented approach and strong track record of exceptional research will allow her to identify opportunities and continue to elevate the college in this space.”

As associate dean for research, Slavković will supervise the college’s Research Administration Office, which is responsible for grant administration and funding opportunities for faculty, staff, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students. She will also oversee the college’s Office for Innovation, which works together with the University’s Office of Technology Management, the Office of Entrepreneurship & Commercialization, and the Corporate Engagement Center as well as the college’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations to assist researchers in capturing intellectual property, providing resources and support to entrepreneurs, and connecting with industrial networks to increase societal impact of innovations developed in the college.

“I am excited about this new opportunity to partner with world-class faculty, staff, postdocs and students in our college, across Penn State and beyond,” said Slavković. “My goal is to advance new and ongoing college efforts to build a diverse, strong, and vibrant community, and a premier place of innovative research that will have a meaningful impact. In fiscal year 2023, our college achieved an impressive $128 million in research expenditures. Complementary to this, we need to increase focus on supporting sustainable growth of our diverse research portfolio, enhancing research visibility and impact, and enriching the postdoctoral experience in our college.”

Slavković’s research focuses on developing and applying statistical methods for issues of data privacy and data confidentiality around sensitive information about individuals and groups from small- and large-scale surveys and from census, health, genomic, and network data. She uses tools from both statistics and computer science to provide formal privacy protection, such as differential privacy—which provides a framework for mathematically provable privacy guarantees—while supporting broad data access that allows for the accurate statistical inference needed to support reliable science and policy. Her other research interests include development of methods to evaluate human performance in virtual environments, statistical data mining, application of statistical methods to information sciences and social sciences, algebraic statistics, and causal inference.

Slavković has affiliate appointments in the Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, the Department of Public Health Sciences, and the Penn State College of Medicine. She has also held visiting scholar positions at Cornell University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Minnesota; and Utrecht University. In 2018, Slavković was recognized with the Penn State Graduate School Alumni Society Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award. She was named a fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics in 2021, a fellow of the American Statistical Association in 2018, and an elected member of the International Statistical Institute in 2012.

Slavković is currently the editor of Statistics and Public Policy and associate editor of the Annals of Applied Statistics and the Journal of Privacy and Confidentiality. She previously served as a data-privacy column editor for CHANCE magazine, associate editor of the Journal of Statistical Computation and Simulation, and chair of the American Statistical Association Privacy and Confidentiality committee and the Social Statistics Section. She currently serves on the NORC Advisory Committee on Statistics at the University of Chicago, OpenDP Advisory Board at Harvard University, and Validation Server Advisory Board at Urban Institute, and she has served on a number of National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council committees. 

Slavković received a bachelor's degree in psychology at Duquesne University in 1996, a master's degree in human-computer interaction in 1999, and master's and doctoral degrees in statistics, in 2001 and 2004, respectively, from Carnegie Mellon University.

The college will begin a search for the open graduate leadership position in early 2024. Slavković will serve as interim associate dean for graduate education until the position has been filled.