Giuseppe Vinci makes statistical models of complex systems that probe the very limits of scientific knowledge, from the evolution of the entire universe to the circuits within the human nervous system. This semester, he has joined the Department of Applied and Computational Mathematics and Statistics (ACMS) as an assistant professor, where he hopes to keep exploring these complicated topics and make challenging statistical theory accessible to students.
Vinci’s recent research focuses on functional neuronal connectivity graphs, which describe how networks of neurons work together. With the “adjusted regularization” methodology he invented, scientists will better understand the ways in which neurons communicate in different conditions, which has significant implications for the study of brain disorders. He further developed novel methods to study brain networks, when the activity of thousands of pairs of neurons cannot be recorded simultaneously.
In addition to neuroscience, Vinci’s models for large-scale graph estimation have contributed to other fields of study, such as RNA sequencing in genomics. He has also created methods for the study of galaxy shapes via geometric data analysis and investigated the effects of climate change on financial markets.
Vinci has earned degrees in a vast range of subjects, too. He received his bachelor’s in economics at the University of Catania, his hometown in Italy, and then his master’s in economics and social sciences at Bocconi University. Next, Vinci finished a master’s and a PhD in statistics at Carnegie Mellon University, before completing his postdoctoral work at Rice University.
Even in the frigid Indiana winter, Notre Dame made a positive impression on Vinci the first time he visited in January 2020. “I fell in love with the campus,” Vinci remembered. “All of the people in the ACMS department were very kind with me. I felt, and still feel, very welcomed in this department.”
Furthermore, Vinci is excited about his future here at Notre Dame. “The ACMS department is a wonderful place for career development,” Vinci explained.
As thrilled as he feels about advancing his own research and career interests, Vinci is also passionate about helping students develop their statistical understanding. He makes sure to present clear information through lectures and slides, and he promotes mastery of topics with weekly quizzes and homework assignments in his mathematical statistics class.
“It is a very challenging course, but my students are doing very well,” Vinci said, applauding both his students’ intellect and sense of respect.
Even as he teaches them complicated topics, Vinci hopes that his students see the big picture, which he also keeps in mind when he tackles complex neuroscientific, astronomic, genomic, and geometric statistics problems.
“Statistics is not only about the calculus of probability. It is also about developing strong critical thinking skills and a rigorous scientific attitude towards the investigation of any phenomenon happening in the world, and more generally, in our universe,” he said.