Sam Wang (neuroscientist)

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Samuel "Sam" Sheng-Hung Wang (born 1967) is an American professor, neuroscientist, psephologist and author.[1] He is known for the books Welcome to Your Brain and Welcome to Your Child's Brain, as well as for the Princeton Election Consortium psephology website.[2][3] Wang also gives talks about child brain development, autism, politics, and gerrymandering on television and radio, to academic audiences, and for the general public.

Early life[edit]

Wang was raised in Riverside, California. His parents emigrated from Taiwan to the United States in the 1960s.[4] He attended the California Institute of Technology and graduated in 1986 with a B.S. in physics with honors at the age of 19, making him the youngest member of his graduating class.[5][6] He went on to earn a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Stanford University.


After receiving his Ph.D., Wang worked at Duke University as a postdoctoral fellow, for the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, and as a postdoctoral member of technical staff at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, New Jersey. There, he used pulsed lasers and two-photon microscopy to study brain signaling.

In 2006, Wang became an Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at Princeton University; in 2015, he was promoted to Professor.[7] His current research program addresses learning and plasticity in the brain, with a focus on the cerebellum, a major brain structure that processes sensory information, and guides movement and cognitive/emotional processing. He has a major interest in autism, a disorder often correlated with disruption of the cerebellum's structure.[8]

Wang has published over sixty articles on the brain in leading scientific journals and has received numerous awards. He gives public lectures on a regular basis and has been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and the Fox News Channel.[9]

Wang has been widely honored for his scholarship and his advances in neuroscience. He has received the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Rita Allen Foundation Young Scholars Fellowship, a Distinguished Young Investigator Award from the W. M. Keck Foundation, and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. He was also selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow. In 2015, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appointed him to the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and the Treatment of Autism.

Wang is also a faculty associate with Princeton's Program in Law and Public Affairs.[10] In 2017, he founded the Princeton Gerrymandering Project, a website that allows users to check for gerrymandering in the districts of their choice using three statistical tests: Student's t-test, the Median test, and the Monte Carlo method.[11] He also co-authored an amicus brief for Gill v. Whitford with Heather K. Gerken, Jonathan N. Katz, Gary King (political scientist), and Larry Sabato in favor of partisan symmetry tests for gerrymandering.[12]

Election predictions[edit]

In 2004, Wang was among the first to aggregate US presidential polls using probabilistic methods.[13] The method's applications included correct election-eve predictions, high-resolution tracking of the race during the campaign, and identification of targets for resource allocation. Wang's calculation missed the final result by a wide margin, as he predicted that John Kerry would defeat George W. Bush by 311–227 in the electoral college, corresponding to a 98% probability of a Kerry victory. One of his alternate models did precisely predict the actual electoral outcome: Bush 286, Kerry 252.[14]

In 2008, Wang and Andrew Ferguson founded the Princeton Election Consortium blog, which analyzes U.S. national election polling.[15][16] His statistical analysis in 2012 correctly predicted the presidential vote outcome in 49 of 50 states and the popular vote outcome of Barack Obama's 51.1% to Mitt Romney's 48.9%.[17] That year, the Princeton Election Consortium also correctly called 10 out of 10 close Senate races and came within a few seats of the final House outcome.

In 2016, PEC predicted both a 93% chance of Clinton victory in one model, and a greater than 99% chance of a Clinton victory in his Bayesian model,[18][19] as seen in Wang's election morning blog post titled "Final Projections: Clinton 323 EV, 51 Democratic Senate seats, GOP House".[20][21] There was a dispute in the forecasting world about how to interpret the pre-election polls. Wang believed that the polls were reliable and errors were unlikely to be correlated. Friendly rival Nate Silver predicted a much more chaotic election: he pointed to the comparatively large number of undecided voters in 2016 vs. 2012, and believed that errors in state-level polling would likely be correlated (e.g. if one state's true vote favored a candidate by 2 points compared to the polling estimate, it is likely that many other states will also favor the same candidate by around 2 points).[22] Clinton narrowly lost the 2016 election, and Wang said that "In addition to the enormous polling error, I did not correctly estimate the size of the correlated error – by a factor of five."[23] In response to Trump's victory, Wang subsequently ate a cricket on CNN, fulfilling a promise that he would "eat a bug" if Trump won more than 240 electoral votes.[24][25]


Wang’s first book, Welcome To Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How To Drive,[26] was a best-seller. It was named 2009 Young Adult Science Book of the Year by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and has been translated into more than 20 languages.[27] His second book, Welcome To Your Child's Brain: How The Mind Develops From Conception To College,[28] has been translated into 15 languages. Both books were co-authored by Dr. Sandra Aamodt.

Personal life[edit]

Wang and his wife, a physician, live in Princeton, New Jersey.[29]


  1. ^ MacPherson, Kitta (2009-03-02). "Princeton University - Brain science matters: Wang engages public through book, lectures, op-eds, website". Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  2. ^ "Number crunchers were right about Obama despite what pundits said". Los Angeles Times. 2012-11-08. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
  3. ^ Adam Gopnik (2012-11-06). "Our Moneyball Election". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2012-11-09.
  4. ^ "华裔王声宏获凯克基金会杰出青年医学研究奖". Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  5. ^ "Sam Wang: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle". Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  6. ^ "Spotlights and Top Stories Archive". California Institute of Technology. 2010-03-23. Retrieved 2012-11-02.
  7. ^ "Sam Wang - Audio & Video Lectures | The Great Courses速". Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  8. ^ "The Wang Lab at Princeton University速". Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  9. ^ "Sam Wang, Princeton Univ, Welcome to Your Brain". 2008-04-06. Retrieved 2012-03-13.
  10. ^ "Samuel S.-H. Wang". Princeton University Program in Law and Public Affairs. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  11. ^ "The Princeton Gerrymandering Project". Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  12. ^ "Gill V. Whitford". Brennan Center for Justice. Retrieved 2017-10-12.
  13. ^ "Meta-Analysis of State Polls". Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  14. ^ "Final Prediction: Kerry 311 EV, Bush 227 EV". Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  15. ^ "About the Princeton Election Consortium". Retrieved November 4, 2012.
  16. ^ "Election Forecaster Sam Wang On The Future Of Polling And Punditry". Forbes. November 7, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2012.
  17. ^ "Presidential prediction 2012 – final". Retrieved 2012-11-07.
  18. ^ "Final Projections: Clinton 323 EV, 51 Democratic Senate seats, GOP House". Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  19. ^ "Five Reasons Nate Silver is Wrong & Sam Wang is Right: Hillary Is 99%+ Likely to Win". Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "Final Projections: Clinton 323 EV, 51 Democratic Senate seats, GOP House". Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  21. ^ "Grading The 2016 Election Forecasts". Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  22. ^ "Final Election Update: There's A Wide Range Of Outcomes, And Most Of Them Come Up Clinton". November 8, 2016. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  23. ^ "Looking ahead". Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  24. ^ Wang, Sam. "Why I Had to Eat a Bug on CNN". The New York Times, November 18, 2016.
  25. ^ Morin, Rebecca. "Poll expert eats bug after Trump win". Politico, November 12, 2016.
  26. ^ "Welcome to Your Brain". Bloomsbury USA. Retrieved 2012-09-11.
  27. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (2010-02-09). "A Neuroscientist Studying the Structure of Dog Brains". The New York Times.
  28. ^ "Welcome To Your Brain". Welcome To Your Child's Brain. 2012-11-25. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  29. ^ "WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS - Rebecca Moss, Samuel Wang -". New York Times. 2006-09-03. Retrieved March 13, 2012.

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