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  • William Meeker earns top prize from the American Society for Quality.

  • William Meeker, Distinguished Professor of liberal arts and sciences and professor of statistics, considers himself to be a statistician first and foremost.

    So why is the American Society for Quality honoring him?

    "I'm a statistician who just happens to have an interest in reliability and quality," he said. "I've had exposure to these areas for a number of years."

    So it should come as no surprise to those familiar with his work that Meeker is the latest recipient of the Shewhart Medal from the American Society for Quality. At the same time he has also been named a Fellow by that organization.

    The Shewhart Medal is awarded for technical leadership to an individual "who is deemed to have demonstrated the most outstanding technical leadership in the field of modern quality control, especially through the development of its theory, principles and techniques."

    "This is one of the important awards in the field of quality," Meeker said. "I believe it's an acknowledgement by my peers of the work I've done in this area."

    Meeker has long been a leader in the fields of quality and product reliability. In addition to his faculty responsibilities at Iowa State, he spent his summers at Bell Laboratories from 1978-92. He has also worked with General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, 3M and other companies on developing statistical models and methods for reliability.

    The long-time Iowa State faculty member feels there are several reasons why he was named the recipient of the Shewhart Medal. He is continually collaborating with his colleagues and students on a series of technical papers that have appeared in quality engineering and statistical journals. For a time, he served as the editor of the journal Technometrics, which is published jointly by the American Society of Quality and the American Statistical Association.

    He is also the co-author of two books related to product reliability including Statistical Intervals: A Guide for Practitioners (1991) and Statistical Methods for Reliability Data (1998).

    "These books have several topics with lots of applications that can be used by engineers and quality professionals, as well as statisticians," Meeker said.

    Throughout his career, Meeker says he and his colleagues have continually developed new ideas and technology, often building on past work. He parlayed that into software that is used for planning and analyzing data from reliability studies.

    Many of the statistical methods and software Meeker has developed were motivated by his summers spent at Bell Laboratories and his work with other corporations.

    "My experience in industry was extremely valuable," he said. "All the things I've done since wouldn't have happened without that experience. It gave me exposure to real problems important to the areas that I worked in."

    While at Bell Laboratories, Meeker had access to the latest graphics hardware and software. When he returned to campus, he was forced to look at statistics the way statisticians had for centuries - glancing at the numbers. By developing software, he was able to present the information into a more useful graphical form.

    "For most of us (statisticians), statistics has changed dramatically," he said, "not only with computer power but how we are able to take information and display it in a graphical way.

    "We developed our own software because it takes years for what industry is using to become available on the commercial market. It has been interesting to see the type of programs we've developed eventually be integrated into commercial software."

Bill Meeker
William Meeker

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April 23 to May 6, 2007