Sam Chiu

Sam Chiu

Associate Professor,
Management Science and Engineering

Office: Terman 410
Phone: 650.776.7721
Fax: 650.723.1614
Email: samchiu @

Probability Clinics

What are Probability Clinics and Why?

Conducting Probability Clinics is our way to bridge the proficiency in the mechanics of probabilistic analysis to actually modeling and solving real world problems. In our experience of teaching applied probabilistic analysis for ten plus years, excellence in the mechanics of manipulating probabilistic quantities does not necessarily translate into the ability to frame a real world problem. The mechanical nature of text book type problems does not help to stimulate student interest beyond the classroom environment.

Probability Clinics will be conducted throughout the quarter. Each clinic will cover selected topics which are drawn from our daily experiences and/or that they match student interests. They will generally be structured to achieve the following objectives:

  • Understand the issues and gain domain knowledge relevant to the selected topic.
  • Ask relevant questions.
  • Construct model: contemplate problem structure and information needs.
  • Extract relevant information from the model: ask the right questions.
  • Generalize model, run sensitivity analysis.
  • Abstract the mathematical structure of the model and relate to other problem situations.
  • Consolidate general techniques and/or solution approaches to fill your tool bag.
We bring our tool bag to complete a project, not a hammer looking for a nail.

The following table contains selected topics for Probability Clinics. Most of them are covered to some extent in the text book. The clinics will include "war stories", anecdotes, extensions and related concepts. Many of the problems first appeared as student projects, later expanded and sometimes corrected. We want to interest the students in appreciating the probabilistic environment around them: open your eyes and make sense of uncertainty. Talk to your friends, talk to your family about the clinics. When you start sharing with people outside of the class, we know we have done something right.

Sample Probability Clinics

  • Choosing the Best Candidate
  • Tissue Typing in Kidney Transplant
  • HOPE and FEAR at the Luggage Carousel: the Discrete Hazard Function
  • O.J. Trial
  • Strategic Tennis Game
  • Spinning Wheel of Fortune: the n-Players Case
  • A Missing Person Presumed Dead and Life Insurance
  • Window of Three: Strategic Consideration and Markov Chains
  • The NBA Draft Pick Lottery
  • Hazardous Materials Transportation Risk
  • False Positive or False Negative?
  • The GoodDay Tire Company: Inspection Policy and Quality Control

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