The US National Academy of Sciences has announced the election of 120 members — 59 of whom are women, the most elected in a single year — and 30 international members in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Among them is IMS Fellow Kenneth Lange.
Kenneth Lange is the Maxine and Eugene Rosenfeld Professor of Computational Genetics and Chair of the Department of Human Genetics, at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a professor of statistics and of biomathematics. He previously served as chair of the Department of Biomathematics for nine years and has held permanent or visiting appointments at the University of New Hampshire, University of Michigan, University of Helsinki, MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. He has authored four advanced textbooks and published nearly 200 scientific papers.
Two themes dominate Lange’s research. One is the development of novel mathematical methods in optimization theory, applied probability, and computational statistics. The other is a devotion to realistic biological modeling. Although there is bound to be a tension between these two poles, the advancement of the biomedical sciences depends on bridging the gap. His contributions to genetic epidemiology, population genetics, membrane physiology, demography, oncology, and medical imaging highlight some of the connections. Many of his landmark papers predate by a decade or more the current flood of biological applications of hidden Markov chains, Markov chain Monte Carlo, and high-dimensional optimization.
Lange has also made important software contributions to the human genetics community. His program Mendel is the “Swiss army knife” of statistical genetics packages. He and faculty colleague Eric Sobel are constantly adding new utilities, with a recent emphasis on special handling of the enormous data sets generated by SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) association studies.
Neil Risch, Michael Boehnke, Daniel Weeks, Eric Sobel, Eric Schadt, and Laura Lazzeroni are among his former graduate students. This list constitutes a Who’s Who of statistical genetics. He continues to mentor and inspire bright students who combine mathematical talent with biological curiosity.
Lange was elected a Fellow of IMS in 2012, for “groundbreaking developments in statistical computing and statistical genetics as a prolific and rigorous scholar and mentor.” He was awarded the COPSS George W. Snedecor Award in 1993.