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Statistician Laber Named Goodnight Distinguished Professor

Eric Laber talks with a student

The College of Sciences has named Eric Laber of the Department of Statistics as a Goodnight Distinguished Professor in Statistics.

Laber is an accomplished statistician who joined the NC State faculty in 2011. His work focuses on data-driven decision making to advance areas like precision medicine, artificial intelligence and management of infectious diseases. His lab uses innovative methods that apply data science to video games, including both building new games with artificial intelligence algorithms and analyzing data from the popular video game League of Legends.

“Eric Laber has distinguished himself as a rising star in the field of statistics,” said Chris McGahan, dean of the College of Sciences. “The generosity of the Goodnights will help him continue to innovate in research and teaching.”

Laber has been awarded more than $12 million in research grants over the course of his career, including funding from the Gates Foundation, National Institutes of Health and U.S. Department of Defense. He has authored or coauthored more than 65 scientific publications and delivered more than 100 invited research presentations.

Laber has earned a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, a Noether Young Scholar Award from the American Statistical Association and the Raymond J. Carroll Young Investigator Award from Texas A&M University. He is also an NC State University Faculty Scholar. In addition to his research and teaching, he is a faculty scholar in the core artificial intelligence group at Amazon.

He received his B.S. in mathematics from UCLA in 2005 and his M.S. and Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Michigan in 2007 and 2011, respectively.

The professorship was made possible by a gift from longtime NC State supporters Dr. Jim and Mrs. Ann Goodnight.

The Goodnights are NC State alumni and co-chairs of the Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign. Dr. Goodnight — the CEO and founder of SAS — earned his B.S. in applied mathematics in 1965, his M.S. and doctorate in statistics in 1968 and 1972, respectively, and the university conferred an honorary degree to him in 2002. Mrs. Goodnight earned her B.A. in political science in 1968 and works as the senior director of community relations at SAS.

In addition to supporting 245 North Carolina students each year through the Goodnight Scholars Program, established in 2008, the Goodnights have generously strengthened centers, programs and additional scholarships across NC State. Their commitment to faculty excellence has resulted in the creation of 15 named faculty positions across several colleges at NC State.

Increasing the number of named and endowed professorships is a key priority of the Think and Do the Extraordinary Campaign. Since the launch of the Campaign, generous supporters have endowed an additional 83 faculty positions, bringing the total of endowed professorships and chairs to 235. The Goodnight Distinguished Professorship in Statistics further strengthens NC State’s commitment to attracting, retaining and supporting outstanding faculty.