The College of Physical and Mathematical welcomes Matthew Heaton as an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics.
Heaton received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in statistics from BYU in 2006 and 2007. For his PhD from Duke University (2011), Heaton studied kernel averaged predictors for space and space-time processes.
Following the completion of his doctorate degree, Heaton worked as a post-doctoral scientist for the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado.
Heaton became interested in statistics through what could be called an accident, but what Heaton describes as divine intervention. Because of a new job he got his sophomore year at BYU, he was forced to rearrange his class schedule.
“In this rearranging, I had time to take one more class, and the Introduction to Statistics class was the only one that would simultaneously fit in my schedule and help me progress towards graduation, so I signed up,” he said. “From there, I like to say that it was ‘love at first t-test.’”
Heaton loved the idea of using data to answer difficult questions and believes strongly that education should be used to make society a better place. Because of this ideal, he sought to find a research area that would reflect that goal.
“During my second year of graduate school, I got involved in a research study looking at drug abuse patterns across the United States. As part of this project, it was our goal to identify regions of high drug abuse in order to establish intervention programs. From this project, I saw firsthand how statistics can be used to answer questions that lead to an improved society,” he said.
As a teacher, Heaton hopes to change negative attitudes toward statistics and teach his students that being able to learn from data is an invaluable skill that will aid them in any field of study and throughout their lives.
“Whenever I tell people that I am a statistician, the usual response is ‘I hated that class’ or ‘That was the hardest class I ever took.’ I hope to show my students that statistics is fun because it is challenging,” he said.
Heaton and his wife have been married for nine years and have three children, ages six, three, and three months. They enjoy swimming, hiking, and spending time together at home. When he is not with his family, Heaton enjoys playing tennis and skiing.
Having been a student at BYU, Heaton looks forward to once again enjoying the spirit of this university.
“Through graduate school and a post-doctoral research fellowship, I have had the chance to work with students and faculty from all over the world,” he said. “While there are wonderful people everywhere, BYU has a remarkably high concentration of some of the best students and faculty that I know.”