UMBC receives $900K from Maryland E-nnovation Initiative Fund to bolster Sinha Professorship in Statistics

Professor Bimal Sinha, who founded UMBC’s statistics department in 1985, is a beloved and decorated faculty member who has helped transform UMBC into a national leader in statistics education. He’s also transformed the lives of countless students, some of whom have gone on to become leading statisticians around the globe.

After more than 30 years at UMBC, in 2015, Sinha and his family decided to take their commitment to the university even further. Sinha and his sons, Jit and Shomo Sinha, pledged $750,000 to create the Dr. Bimal Sinha Professorship in Statistics at UMBC. The professorship will permanently fund a new statistics faculty position at UMBC. The family was joined in their commitment by 40 alumni and friends of the university. This summer the total endowment stood at $900,000.

This week, the Maryland E-nnovation Initiative Fund (MEIF), administered by the Maryland Department of Commerce, announced that it would match the amount currently pledged to the endowment with an additional $900,000. That will bring the total endowment of the professorship to $1.8 million. The fund is still open to receiving additional contributions to optimize the MEIF match and strengthen the endowment long into the future.

“Bringing the MEIF to UMBC will further enhance the university’s statistics program and its reputation, increasing our ability to recruit talented faculty and students from diverse backgrounds,” shared President Freeman Hrabowski.

Bimal Sinha (left) and Yehenew Kifle, assistant professor of statistics at UMBC (center), with N.M. Mokgalongs, president of University of Limpopo, South Africa, at the 4th African International Conference on Statistics. Photo courtesy Yehenew Kifle.

Statisticians in demand

The department’s researchers specialize in many areas, including machine learning and big data analysis. The work of statisticians is often behind the scenes of headlines about other fields, such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, genomics, and drug development. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, statistics is one of the fastest growing career fields in the nation.

By supporting the Sinha Endowed Professorship, “MEIF is playing a crucial role in connecting philanthropy to the economic development mission of Maryland’s research universities,” shares Greg Simmons, vice president for institutional advancement. “MEIF is a compelling resource to universities and research parks like bwtech@UMBC as we work to build Maryland’s innovation economy.” 

Teamwork delivers

Putting together the proposal for the MEIF funding demonstrated the teamwork ethos at UMBC. New Associate Vice President for Alumni Engagement and Development Stacey Sickels Locke, who assumed her role in May, spearheaded the effort. With close collaboration from the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences and the mathematics and statistics department, the team was able to rapidly develop a compelling proposal ahead of a tight deadline.

Bimal Sinha (foreground, right) speaks with young scholars at the 4th African International Conference on Statistics in Limpopo, South Africa. Photo courtesy Yehenew Kifle.

In addition to thanking Locke, Simmons, and Dean Bill LaCourse of the College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, “I would like to thank and applaud the entire statistics faculty for springing into action and making this grant application possible,” shared Animikh Biswas, professor and chair of mathematics and statistics. “Their strong effort resulted in our proposal being funded.”

“Finding out that the MEIF grant had been funded was wonderful news, which is desperately needed in these difficult times,” LaCourse says. “I’m proud of the outstanding efforts of the faculty in statistics and Animikh’s leadership. The endowed professorship is an honor Bimal richly deserves after decades of meaningful contributions to UMBC.”

Supporting scholars of the future

The UMBC community also values this grant as a chance to recognize the impact Sinha has had on the university, his field, and students around the world.

“Kudos to Dean Bill LaCourse for his leadership, and to Professor Bimal Sinha for his amazing body of work,” Hrabowski shares. “Bimal has not only engaged in groundbreaking research for decades, but has also produced and championed an impressive number of influential Black statisticians throughout Africa.” 

Sinha has spearheaded the African International Conference on Statistics, held in a different African country each year since 2014. In 2018, UMBC signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Limpopo in South Africa to foster collaboration and exchange. A number of graduate students from African countries have also flourished with Sinha’s mentorship.

Bimal Sinha gives the opening address at the 4th African International Conference on Statistics at the University of Limpopo, South Africa, in 2017. Photo courtesy Yehenew Kifle.

Sinha’s sons remember that beyond his academic accolades, the way their father has always interacted with his mentees is what made the deepest impression—whether meeting international students at the airport or inviting groups of students to their family home for dinner.

“We are proud of the contributions our father has made to the Department of Mathematics and Statistics,” Jit and Shomo shared in a statement. “Equally importantly, we believe that now more than ever, the health and growth of public higher education institutions such as UMBC play a pivotal role in advancing opportunities for the next generation of students.”

Leaving a legacy

Today, Sinha finds himself in the enviable position of approaching the sunset of his career knowing that he has made a significant positive impact on the lives of countless people, from his students and colleagues to his family. The results of his compassion, his leadership, and his generosity will ripple even farther than his impressive contributions to the field of statistics.

“When I joined UMBC in 1985, I could not have imagined the growth and success the university would go on to experience over the subsequent 35 years. I feel honored and fortunate to have played a small role in the evolution of this beloved institution,” Sinha says. “I am grateful to my colleagues, students, collaborators, friends and administrators for their partnership. Through this gift, I want to ensure that future generations of leading scholars will view UMBC as an attractive home to advance their contributions to the field of statistics.”

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Banner image: President Freeman Hrabowski (pointing), Bimal Sinha (foreground), and Duguma Adugna, President of Aris University in Ethiopia, take in the view from the roof of the UMBC Administration Building in October 2019. Photo courtesy Yehenew Kifle.