I'm really grateful that Bucknell gives you the opportunity to shape your own academic path.

Greg Miller '18
Photo by Tim Sofranko

"Bucknell stood out to me because it provided the chance to do one-on-one research with a professor, which I knew was an opportunity I wasn't going to get at larger schools I was considering. I really liked the idea of picking your own topic and diving into it. 

"I came in as an interdisciplinary economics and math major, but I soon learned that Bucknell has an interdepartmental option. I created an interdepartmental major in public policy, which is a mesh of economics, geography and one or two civil engineering courses. The major started with an economics base, but when I took Applied GIS (Geographic Information Systems), I really got interested in geography. I found the course through a lab we did in my foundation seminar within the Society & Technology Residential College, and I feel like that one lab set up a whole chain of events that got me to where I am today. I'm really grateful that Bucknell gives you the opportunity to shape your own academic path.

"Now, I'm minoring in statistics and doing related research as a Presidential Fellow. During my sophomore year, I reached out to my first year foundation seminar professor and asked her for any leads on statistics-based research. She pointed me in the direction of Professor Abby Flynt, who was about to dive into researching win probability models for NFL teams. I immediately agreed to come on board.

"Surprisingly, there aren't as many analytics in the world of football as there are for hockey and baseball. This is mainly because football is the kind of team sport where it is hard to gauge success on an individual level. The research deals with trying to attribute how many wins a certain player is 'worth', which we found is a new but effective currency for performance evaluation.  

"I hope this introduction of hard data into the world of football will influence coaching staffs less on a play-by-play basis, but more on big-picture strategies. For example, most coaches tend to be conservative and punt or kick a field goal on a fourth down instead of going for it. One of our findings was that in many fourth-down situations, especially toward the red zone, the model returned on average a higher win probability for running and passing plays as opposed to field goals. Coaches could perhaps use this type of result to optimize their play call in a given situation.    

"We put together a presentation for a conference called the Joint Statistical Meeting (JSM), which took place in Chicago this year. After our talk, I had the chance to receive feedback from people ranging from general statisticians to ESPN analysts.  

"We are now working on incorporating the feedback we received at the JSM conference into the model and making final adjustments. After winding that project down this semester, I hope to begin preparing to write an honors thesis involving GIS and urban planning."

Greg is from West Chester, Pa.

Meet more students at Bucknell Student Stories.

Posted 12/13/2016 

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