The statistics bug hit Dr. Fotios Kokkotos in his senior year as an undergraduate at Wright State University. “I was a math major,” he says, “and one elective in statistics did the trick.” Kokkotos fell in love.
After earning his Bachelor’s degree, Kokkotos went on to earn his Master’s at Wright State and Ph.D. in statistics at American University in Washington, DC.
From there, a career in and life-long passion for statistics was born. Kokkotos is currently the Professor of Practice, Data Science & Analytics and a founding member of the faculty committee for the creation of the Data Science Undergraduate Program at Merrimack College.
His 25-year career includes stints at Battelle Memorial Institute as a Statistical Research Intern and Senior Statistician with PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2002, Dr. Kokkotos established the statistics and data science department for Trinity Partners, LLC, where he is still a shareholder. His specialty is analyzing large sets of health care data.
Dr. Kokkotos is one of about 300 people in the world who is an accredited professional statistician. He is also a board member of the American Statistical Association Accreditation Committee.
However, a thread that weaves throughout his career is teaching.
A Passion for Statistics and Teaching
For Kokkotos, teaching is an amalgam of his love of statistics and his desire to reveal the fascinating world of data science to his students.
“My passion for statistics and data science inspires me to share my knowledge with our students,” Kokkotos says. After 25 years in the field, he offers a wealth of experience. His theoretical knowledge is the foundation for what he loves most, exposing his students to statistical analysis and data science in the real world.
“I don’t just teach the key aspects of data science and statistics,” he says, “but also their practical applications. Students need to apply theoretical concepts to understand the classroom content fully.” This approach aligns with Merrimack’s data science program philosophy – theory in application.
A capstone project Kokkotos organized is a case in point. With his healthcare analytics and Big Data expertise, Dr. Kokkotos partnered with Lawrence General Hospital to help analyze COVID-19 data.
“In these difficult economic times, the hospital administration was interested in some extra help with data analytics,” he explains. “My students were able to quickly provide that help.”
The project was a win-win for Kokkotos’ students and Lawrence General. His students presented data visualization and models with the hospital team using tools they learned in class. The capstone allowed students to “learn first-hand the hospital data environment and how different departments operate. More importantly,” he adds, “how important data-driven decisions are for different stakeholders.”
“Data are the foundation of everyday business actions.” More than that, he adds, “it is impossible to make any decisions in life without data analysis and statistics.”
Statistics is an Art: Data Science in the Real World
For the uninitiated, data science and statistical analysis can feel arcane, cryptic, inscrutable. It needn’t be that way because “data science is everywhere,” says Dr. Kokkotos.
“From the basic routine decisions of daily life to the business decisions of major corporations and governments,” he says, we use “statistics, data analytics, and data science to make the right decisions.”
Data tell the stories of the world around us. Statistics allows us to shape those stories. “Statistics is not just numbers,” Kokkotos says. “It is a form of art where the individual can visualize, present, and explain patterns across many different disciplines.”
Merrimack College Data Science: The Teacher is Always a Student
“Curiosity is its own reason,” Albert Einstein once said.
In the case of Dr. Fotios Kokkotos, curiosity underpins his success as a scientist, analyst, entrepreneur, and teacher. “I will continue to learn, improve my skills, and always stay current with the latest technological advances,” he says.
It is a testament to his passion for statistics, his insight into what it tells us about the world, and his mission for sharing that passion and insight with his students.