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Dennis Pearl

Research Professor, Director of CAUSE
Dennis Pearl


Dennis Pearl is a Research Professor of Statistics at Penn State.

Pearl received his Ph.D. in Applied Statistics from University of California, Berkeley in 1984. He also received his M.A. (1975) and A.B. (1972) degrees from UC Berkeley.

His research is in the area of Statistical Phylogenetics and Statistics Education. Phylogenetics deals with estimating the evolutionary history of a group of organisms using molecular data as well was modeling the mechanisms underpinning the tree of life. His work focuses on Bayesian methods that seek to find the distribution of possible evolutionary trees that explain a set of molecular sequence data – rather then just trying to find the single best tree. Dr. Pearl's education work centers on building a national infrastructure to support instructors of statistics, developing resources for instructors in both statistics and probability education, and developing and testing new pedagogical methods.

He has been the Director of the Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education (CAUSE: see since 2002. He joined the Penn State faculty in 2014.


Honors and Awards

Pearl is a Fellow of the ASA, a winner of the Evelyn Fix Prize (1985), the Sloan Consortium award for effective teaching practice (2006), and the We are Mathematics video competition (2019) and has been awarded more than 50 national research grants.



  • Libet B, Gleason CA, Wright EW and Pearl DK. (1983). Time of conscious intention to act, in relation to onset of cerebral activity before the act.  Brain  106, 623-642.
  • Li S, Pearl DK, and Doss H. (2000) Phylogenetic tree construction using Markov chain Monte Carlo.  JASA.  95, 493-508.
  • Edwards, S.V., Liu, L., and D.K. Pearl.  (2007) High resolution species trees without concatenation.  PNAS 104: 5936-5941.
  • Lesser LM and DK Pearl. (2008) Functional Fun in Statistics Teaching: Resources, Research, and Recommendations. Journal of Statistics Education v.16 (3) (on-line journal).
  • Pearl DK, Garfield JB, delMas R, Groth RE, Kaplan JJ, McGowan H, and Lee HS. (2012). Connecting Research to Practice in a Culture of Assessment for Introductory College-level Statistics. Published on-line at
  • Federer MR, Nehm RH, Opfer JE, and Pearl DK, (2015). Using a Constructed-Response Instrument to Explore the Effects of Item Position and Item Features on the Assessment of Students’ Written Scientific Explanations. Research in Science Education. 45: 527-553.
  • Lesser LM, Pearl, DK, and JJ Weber (2016). Assessing Fun Items’ Effectiveness in Increasing Learning of College Introductory Statistics Students: Results of a Randomized Experiment. Journal of Statistics Education v.24 (on-line journal).
  • Pollack JD, Gerard D, Makhatadze GI, and Pearl DK (2019) Evolutionary conservation and structural localizations suggest a physical trace of metabolism’s progressive geochronological emergence.  Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics. DOI: 10.1080/07391102.2019.1679666.
  • Lesser LM and Pearl DK (2019)Statistical edutainment: Reversing Comparisons. Teaching Statistics An International Journal for Teachers. 41: 118-122.
  • Pearl, DK and Lesser LM (2020) Statistics Edutainment with Confidence. Teaching Statistics An International Journal for Teachers. 42: 23-27.



STAT 100 - Introductory statistical concepts

STAT 400 - Upper division probability

STAT 597 - Statistics Education seminar