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44 years of teaching, the stats don’t lie

Photo of Pierre Carbonnier
Pierre Carbonnier has been teaching here at LUSEM for 44 years straight. Photo: Oleksandra Panashenko

A former student had heard that our senior lecturer in statistics, Pierre Carbonnier was about to retire after this semester. Would we do a feature on him? The student remembered him fondly and added that his mother had also had Pierre as a teacher and thought he was pretty awesome.

Few, if any statistics teachers can claim to have reached and inspired more students than Pierre Carbonnier, who has been teaching here at LUSEM for 44 years straight.

It all started in the late seventies when he was studying at the economy programme and started to run out of funds by mid semester. Luckily he got a chance as a substitute teacher at a junior high school, and when cash was low the next year he took a similar opportunity. 

Studies were going fairly well even though he was away teaching quite a bit, but he had an exam in statistics that he had to retake and it just so happened that his professor, Svante Körner, was looking to hire a teaching assistant för next semester. 

“I passed my exam for Svante Körner and shortly after got a positive reply on the assistant position. So, I started in September of 1980 and just never stopped,” says Pierre Carbonnier with a smile.

He stuck to teaching from then on, never really plunging too deep into the research end of the pool. It seems like a good choice too as he has been awarded the teacher of the year award three times (1996, 2009, and 2019) at LUSEM and once for the whole university (2010). 

Computers since 1982

He admits to being a numbers guy, but even so, if he was to go into research he thinks it would probably have been in social sciences or business administration rather than statistics. 

“We were about ten people starting at about the same time, all of us really interested in teaching and I got full responsibility for a group of students right from the start. As I said, I like numbers and I found that I liked teaching just as much,” Pierre ads.

Looking back at the development of statistics as a subject he highlights that the department was among the early adopters when it came to computers, using them as early as 1982. One key change that Pierre mentions is that there used to be seven or eight courses at the basic level up to 1993. Some were oriented towards students with a strong background in math and others were more elementary. These courses were bundled up to one at that time, making it fairly tough for students coming from high school programmes with less emphasis on natural sciences, while the latter could basically cruise through the first semester. 

“Now there is of course mathematic statistics, and then us here at LUSEM. Another big difference was that statistics belonged to the faculty of social sciences and transferred to LUSEM in 2004, and lastly I’d have to say that we have shifted our main focus a bit from education in favor of research,” says Pierre Carbonnier.

So what’s next, what are you going to do when you retire?

“It’s been fun and I have really loved teaching and seeing when something clicks with the students,” says Pierre Carbonnier.

Then he laughs and explains that finding things to keep him occupied has never been a problem. He has been playing floor ball (innebandy) several times a week since the late seventies and is also among the higher ranked bridge players in Sweden.