Head shot of Dr Boris Beranger

Dr Boris Beranger


140821-UNSW-Staff Portrait-Scott Sisson

Professor Scott Sisson


We talk to Dr Boris Beranger and Professor Scott Sission about what makes them passionate about statistics, their hidden talents and why coming to AMSI Summer School is such a unique opportunity.

1. What drives your interest in this field?

Boris: I believe that, if well informed, Statistics can be very helpful to society and in particular to Science. I am interested in the study of extremes and particularly in those major environmental events such as storms, floods, heat waves, that have a major impact on the planet. Even if one’s contribution might only have a small impact for society, as a whole there are some great innovations.

Scott: Much of mathematical and statistical modelling is concerned with predictions that are within the range of existing data – we all know that extrapolation beyond the observed data is very risky. Extreme value theory is interesting to me as it is explicitly designed for predictions and extrapolation far beyond the range of the observed data, and it is able to do this in a coherent and mathematically justified way. This does seem like magic at times – how can we possibly have any credulity about predictions that we make for 500 years in the future when we only have 50 years of observed data? That extreme value theory can even attempt this seemingly impossible task makes it very exciting!

2. If not mathematics research, what would have been?

Boris: Architect or Carpenter. I did a year of Medicine but realised that I cannot bare the sight of blood!

Scott: Since I was young I variously wanted to be a Space Adventurer, receiving unemployment benefit and not having a job, and being a rock star in a band. So working in mathematics and statistics has turned out to be my 4th choice of career.

3. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Boris: To travel at the speed of light, how cool would that be!

4. Rock star scientist, master chef, closet artist, what is something about you that might surprise people?

Boris: I play tenor saxophone in a big band. I don’t play very well but I enjoy it!

Scott: I’ve been trying to learn Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue on the piano for the past 4 years, and I still can’t play it all the way through (nor very well)!

5. Deepening field knowledge and providing a networking platform, why are opportunities such as AMSI Summer School so valuable? What do you hope attendees take from your lectures?

Boris: AMSI Summer School offers the opportunity to take courses that students would not otherwise have access to, and it brings together like-minded people from everywhere in the country. I hope that those attending my course will see the potential of extreme value theory and develop an interest for it. There are so many interesting questions that can tackled in this field, and applied to many different areas.

Scott: Once you’ve chosen your degree and university, you are locked into the courses that they provide. Through opportunities like the AMSI Summer School, there is the opportunity to experience a whole range of courses and ideas that you wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. You will also meet many new people with the same interests as you. I am willing to bet that very few students had seriously considered doing research or a PhD in extreme value theory before taking this course. Now is your chance!

6. If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?

Scott: In the AMSI Summer School!

Dr Boris Beranger and  Professor Scott Sisson will be presenting the topic A Modern Introduction to Extreme Value Theory at the 2022 Summer School hosted by University of Technology Sydney in January.

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