He goes on to say, "You were taught how to perform an F-test, use a T-table, etc., with no idea of how or why any of it works. advisor from Clemson University, Colin Gallagher, was proud to see Robbins transform from a student to an independent researcher while at Clemson.
It wasn’t until I took mathematical statistics in grad school and learned the underpinnings of all the methodology that I really started to enjoy statistics." Robbins owes his successes to his mentors who he says played an important role guiding him all through his career. Sharing his experiences working with Robbins, Gallagher says that Robbins showed up for research meetings with a candy bar and a soda, and he was always ready to dig in and talk mathematics.
As Robbins’ mentor for four years, Gallagher remembers listening to Robbins practice research talks and guiding him through the process.
As a Postdoc at NISS, Robbins developed an imputation algorithm for the USDA's Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS).
ARMS are a high-dimensional survey of more than 1000-2000 questions asked to 30,000-40,000 respondents who in this project were farmers from Iowa, Illinois, and other agricultural producing states.
An imputation method is used to address the missing values because respondents don't usually answer all questions in the survey.
He didn't have that background, but he worked hard, picked up the literature, read it thoroughly, and not only that, he came up and shared some creative research ideas too.
He has the capability of picking up a topic and working on it, even if he has no background in the subject." Speaking about the challenges of moving from school to a real-job at NISS, Robbins says, "You’re accustomed to working under heavy guidance in school and now have to adapt to working largely on your own.
“If he didn't understand or know something he would go study it until he mastered it, then come back and explain it in a research meeting,” says Gallagher.
Gallagher guided his mentees on how to formulate and attack a research problem, how to write a research paper, and how to give a research talk.