Ihaka banner 2018

Department of Statistics

Ihaka Lecture Series

In March 2017 the Department of Statistics launched a new, annual lecture series named after Associate Professor Ross Ihaka in honour of his contributions to the field. Find out about the 2018 lecture series below.

The Ihaka lectures

The series is named after Ross Ihaka, Associate Professor in the Department of Statistics at the University of Auckland. Ross, along with Robert Gentleman, co-created R – a statistical programming language now used by the majority of the world’s practicing statisticians. It is hard to over-emphasise the importance of Ross’s contribution to our field. We named this lecture series in his honour to recognise his work and contributions to our field in perpetuity.

Following on from the success of last year's inaugural series, the theme of the 2018 Ihaka lectures is A thousand words: visualising statistical data. The series will run from 7-21 March; find out more below.


2018 series

A thousand words: visualising statistical data

A picture is worth a thousand words – or perhaps that should be a million numbers. The distillation of data into an honest and compelling graphic is essential component of modern (data) science. This year’s Ihaka Lecture Series displays the contributions of three experts across different facets of data visualisation.

Everyone is welcome to attend our lectures in person, but if you cannot make it along on the day don't worry - each lecture will be live streamed via our website (follow the links below for details), and uploaded as videos to watch at a later date. For any technical help regarding the live streaming, please contact webmaster@stat.auckland.ac.nz



Each of our lectures will begin at 6.30pm in the Large Chemistry Lecture Theatre, Building 301, 23 Symonds Street, Central Auckland, 1010.

Time: 6.30 pm - 7.30pm

Room: 301.G050  - Large Chemistry Lecture Theatre (050), Ground floor, University Building 301

Venue: 23 Symonds Street, Central Auckland, 1010.

Please join us for refreshments from 6pm outside the lecture theatre.


Photograph of Associate Professor Paul Murrell

Wednesday 14 March – Making colour accessible

Associate Professor Paul Murrell
Department of Statistics, The University of Auckland

Watch the lecture

Photograph of Alberto Cairo

Wednesday 21 March –  Visual trumpery: How charts lie — and how they make us smarter

Alberto Cairo
Knight Chair in Visual Journalism, University of Miami

Watch the lecture



Live screenings in New Zealand, Australia and the UK

(For organising enterprise grade live screenings at your locations in 2019 please contact - office@stat.auckland.ac.nz)


New for 2018, if you are unable to attend our lectures in Auckland, we have set up a number of live screenings in other parts of New Zealand, Australia and England, UK, where you can watch live with a network of likeminded individuals.

Canterbury, New Zealand: Room 031, Erskine Building, University of Canterbury

Lectures begin at 6.30pm. Join us for refreshments from 6pm.

For information, please email: baa33@uclive.ac.nz

Palmerston North, New Zealand: Aston 1, Massey University, Palmerston North

Lectures begin at 6.30pm. Join us for refreshments from 6pm.

For information, please email: g.frigerio.porta@massey.ac.nz

Otago, New Zealand:

Room MA241 in ScIII, University of Otago

Lectures begin at 6.30pm. Join us for refreshments from 6pm.

For information, please email: Timothy.Bilton@agresearch.co.nz

Brisbane, Australia

Flight Centre's HQ in Brisbane, 275 Grey Street, South Bank, Brisbane

For information, please email: sandra_johnson@flightcentre.com

Exeter, England, UK

As lectures will be live streamed at 5.30am UK time, a delayed screening in the morning is proposed.

Please contact Dr Mark Kelson (M.J.Kelson@exeter.ac.uk) to book your place at this screening.


Archived lectures

2017 Ihaka Lecture Series

Statistical Computing in the Data Age

Statistics has become essential in the data age. We have increasing ability to collect vast quantities of data, but often still struggle to make sense of it. The 2017 Ihaka lectures aimed to highlight the important role that both statistics and computing play in this endeavour.

Learn about each of our guest speakers and watch videos from their lectures below.


Photograph of Hadley Wickham

Wednesday 8 March – Expressing yourself with R

Hadley Wickham 
Chief Scientist, RStudio
Honorary Associate Professor, Department of Statistics, University of Auckland

Watch the lecture

Photograph of Genevera Allen

Wednesday 22 March – Interactive visualisation and fast computation of the solution path for convex clustering and biclustering

Genevera Allen
Dobelman Family Junior Chair
Departments of Statistics and Electrical and Computer Engineering, Rice University

Watch the lecture

Photograph of Ross Ihaka

Wednesday 29 March – Statistical computing in a (more) static environment

Ross Ihaka
Associate Professor, Department of Statistics, University of Auckland

Watch the lecture


Ross Ihaka

Photograph of Associate Professor Ross Ihaka
Associate Professor Ross Ihaka

Associate Professor Ross Ihaka was born in South Auckland and received his education in a variety of small country schools in the Cook Islands and the northern North Island. He completed his BSc(Hons) and MSc Mathematics degrees at the University of Auckland before undertaking his doctoral study in statistical aspects of seismology at the University of California at Berkeley. After completing his PhD he held positions at Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before taking up his current position at the University of Auckland.

Associate Professor Ihaka’s first experience with computing was in an Applied Mathematics course taught by Garry Tee, John Butcher and F D K Roberts. His next serious exposure to computing was in a group of Berkeley students working on a local variant of the Princeton ISP system under the guidance of Jim Reeds. He also learned about computational statistics and graphics under the guidance of Dan Asimov, Leo Breiman, David Brillinger, Louis Jaekal and Jim Reeds.

During his student career, Associate Professor Ihaka honed his computing skills by developing two of his own interactive systems for statistical computing and added a further two soon after graduating (with some input from John Hartigan). At the University of Auckland he developed the R statistical system with Robert Gentleman. Initially R was a platform for computing experiments, but it was given a superficial veneer to make it look like the Bell Laboratories’ S system. The rationale for imposing this similarity was to get access to the large amount of ‘free’ code available for S. The R system has gone on to achieve significant success.

R is now widely used all over the world, and Associate Professor Ross Ihaka continues to work on various other statistical computing systems.