Statistical Science Welcomes New Master's Program Director, Funda Gunes

Funda Gunes

The Department of Statistical Science is excited that Dr. Funda Gunes has joined the department as the new Master's Program Director.  Previously, she worked at SAS Research and Development as a Principal Machine Learning Developer.  At SAS, she built end-to-end predictive modeling pipelines for SAS Visual Data Mining and Machine Learning Software by researching and implementing new machine learning techniques and data science best practices. In addition, Funda was involved in many exciting projects with computer scientists, consultants, operational research and optimization specialists, and domain experts on a wide variety of predictive modeling problems. Funda received her Ph.D. in Statistics from North Carolina State University in 2010.  Her dissertation topic focused on confidence region based hyperparameter tuning for penalized regression methods.

“My research interests include using well-established statistical techniques in data-driven decision making alongside machine learning modeling. Having spent ten years in industry building end-to-end predictive modeling pipelines with a strong statistics background made me realize that algorithm-based modeling can be significantly enhanced by using traditional statistical techniques. Some examples include using confidence regions for hyperparameter tuning, best linear unbiased predictors for efficient feature engineering, and generalized additive models for intelligible machine learning models.”

Funda also is the co-founder of the North Carolina chapter of Women in Machine Learning and Data Science.  She promotes and supports women in the data science community by creating learning and networking opportunities through partnerships with leading companies and accomplished professionals in the area. She enjoys interacting with others who want to enter the fields of statistics and data science and helping them develop a sense of excitement by sharing knowledge, skills, and experiences.

In addition to her leadership role at WiMLDS, she has actively mentored students from high school to the Ph.D. level through various programs such as serving as a SAS intern ambassador, advising students directly on research projects, co-organizing SAS networking events for students in the Summer Institute for Biostatistics program, collaborating with Women in Data Science at Stanford University, being an artificial intelligence committee member at the Grace Hopper Celebration, and being a mentor for Broadening Participation in Data Mining workshops at KDD conferences and the AI4ALL program at Stanford University. As an applied statistician and dedicated mentor, Funda will leverage her experiences in industry and leading NC WiMLDS as MS Director. 

“I am passionate about mentoring and advising students and supporting women in the data science community. As the Director of the Master’s Program, I look forward to supporting students by collaborating with other organizations within the university, building partnerships with outside industry and professional organizations, and expanding opportunities for all students in the Statistical Science Department. I am excited about the next phase of my career and how I may help shape the next generation of statisticians and data scientists."

For more information on the MS program in Statistical Science, please go to the program home page.