2021 Distinguished Achievement Award and Lectureship Winner

Wing Hung Wong
Stanford University


The 2021 Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) Distinguished Achievement Award and Lectureship Committee selected Wing Hung Wong, Stanford University to deliver the COPSS Lecture at the Joint Statistical Meetings in 2021. The citation for Dr. Wong's plaque reads:

"For his groundbreaking and fundamental contributions to statistical theory and applications, particularly in likelihood inference, Monte Carlo computation, Bayesian statistics,and computational biology."

Dr. Wong's talk is titled "Understanding human trait variation from the gene regulatory systems perspective". 


By analyzing the correlation between phenotypic and genotypic variation in human populations, Genome-Wide Association Studies have been successful in identifying numerous genetic loci relevant to human traits such as disease susceptibilities and anthropometric features. However, such direct statistical associations provide limited information on the underlying biological processes relevant to the trait. I believe that the integration of gene regulatory information will be a key step in achieving better understanding of these genotype-phenotype relations. In this lecture I will review research by my lab and others on the inference of context-specific gene regulatory relations based on bulk or single cell data from diverse cell type, tissue type and developmental contexts. I will also describe our effort to exploit this information to build multi-layer statistical models capable of providing a more mechanistic understanding of human trait variation.

Biography of Dr. Wong

Professor Wing Hung Wong serves on the faculty of Stanford University where he is currently Professor of Statistics, Professor of Biomedical Data Science, and holder of the Stephen R. Pierce Family Goldman Sachs Professorship in Science & Human Health. Before joining Stanford at 2004, he had held teaching positions at the University of Chicago, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, UCLA and Harvard University. He chaired the Stanford Department of Statistics from 2009 to 2012.

His research contributions include 1) mathematical statistics, where he clarified the large sample properties of sieve maximum likelihood estimates in general spaces; 2) Bayesian statistics, where he introduced sampling-based algorithms into Bayesian computational inference; and 3) computational biology, where he developed tools for the analysis of microarrays and sequencing data, and applied them to study gene regulatory systems. Technologies from his group had led to the formation of several companies in the space of genomic data management and genomic medicine.

Professor Wong was the winner of the COPSS Presidents’ Award in 1993. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2009 and the Academia Sinica in 2010. He was a founding member of the Hong Kong Academy of Sciences in 2015.