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Francisco Beltran: Alumnus

Degree Program: P.h.D., Statistics

Graduate Institution: UC Santa Cruz

Undergraduate Institution: Cal-State Bakersfield

Department: Applied Mathematics and Statistics (2014)

Hometown: Buttonwillow, California

Francisco Beltran: Alumnus

“The skills and lessons I learned at UC Santa Cruz have largely influenced the manner in which I approach my current research on a daily basis. The high standards for rigorous statistical analysis have carried forth into all aspects of my work.”

Who/what inspired to choose statistics?

My undergraduate advisor Professor Sam Behseta planted the seed of studying statistics in graduate school. Upon meeting the UC Santa Cruz statistics faculty (Sansó, Lee, Kottas, Prado) during my visit to campus, I knew Bayesian statistics at UCSC is what I wanted to study.

Tell us a bit about your research during your time at UCSC, and how that has influenced you afterwards?

My research involved spatio-temporal models for large datasets with an application on climate research and prediction using parallel computing. Under the supervision of Professor Bruno Sansó, we developed sophisticated spatio-temporal models for multi-resolution sea-surface temperature (SST) using parallel computing. By incorporating long-term coarse resolution SST and high resolution over a smaller time period and area, we were able to predict SST over a span of 50 years at a high resolution. Using parallel computing we developed an efficient sampling scheme that partitioned the problem across processors, thus allowing us to model long-term temporal behaviors.

The skills and lessons I learned while conducting research and studying at UC Santa Cruz have largely influenced the manner in which I approach my current research on a daily basis. The high standards for rigorous statistical analysis, set by the faculty and my advisor, have carried forth into all aspects of my work.

Where are you now? What are you up to?  

I currently work as a statistician at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. I work on ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ and it’s really fun. I am married with no kids, but we’re thinking about getting a cat. I currently live in the Bay Area.

How did your experience in the Baskin School of Engineering prepare you for your future?

In Baskin you’re surrounded by other graduate students from different departments. You learn how to communicate with experts in different fields of study. Being able to communicate statistical methodologies to colleagues with no statistical background is a valuable tool that Baskin School of Engineering provided.

What was your favorite course as a student in the Baskin School of Engineering and why?

My favorite course is probably the 207 class (Intermediate Bayesian Statistical Modeling). 207 was an early class (8:00 am) in which we were all barely lucid and it was taught by Professor Sansó. It was an entertaining class with many notable quotes that I still use to this day. It was also the class that solidified my interest in Bayesian statistics.

Who were the most influential professors for you and why?

My advisor Professor Sansó. He was a great mentor both academically and personally. He had a way of making you think outside the box and would push you to bring out the best in yourself. Plus he’s hilarious.

Professor Prado initiated my interest in time-series analysis. Her door was always open and she was willing to help me even though I was not her graduate student.

What did you do for fun while at UC Santa Cruz?

There were a lot of fun things to do in Santa Cruz. We would play soccer (with professors) on Sundays up on campus. Three times a week we’d go to the climbing gym on Seabright Ave. Walking on the beach, hiking in the redwood forest, having a drink or two at the yacht club, and playing air hockey and skee-ball at the boardwalk.

What do you miss most about Santa Cruz?

The people and the ocean. I met the best friends I have in Santa Cruz. I also miss the faculty, it was a great group of people and I miss interacting and hanging out with them.

What advice do you have for current Statistics grad students?

Work really hard, you have an amazing faculty at your disposal. Ask them questions and develop your curiosity. Work together with your fellow grad students and learn from each other. And don’t shy away from contacting alumni, we are usually pretty nice and sometimes helpful.

Do you have a funny story to share from your time as a grad student?

One that comes to mind is the time we had a foosball tournament against the professors. We brought snacks, desserts, and our game faces to face the faculty in a 2v2 foosball extravaganza. I don’t remember who won, so it’s fair to assume that the faculty won.

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