Sam Wang (neuroscientist)

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Samuel "Sam" Sheng-Hung Wang (born 1967) is an American professor, neuroscientist, psiphologist and author.[1] He's known for the books Welcome to Your Brain and Welcome to Your Child's Brain, as well as for the Princeton Election Consortium psephology web site.[2][3]

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, in the United States Senate, and as a postdoctoral member of technical staff at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. In the last position he learned to use pulsed lasers and two-photon microscopy to study brain signaling before coming to Princeton as Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology.

In 2006, Wang became Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at Princeton University.[7] His current research program addresses learning and plasticity in the brain, with a focus on the cerebellum, a major brain structure that processes unexpected sensory and other information, and guides movement and cognitive/emotional processing. He has a major interest in autism, a disorder in which the cerebellum has disrupted structure more often than any other brain region.[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 been the recipient of an 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, and he served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

Election Predictions[edit]

In 2004, Wang was one of the first to aggregate US Presidential polls using probabilistic methods.[10] 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.[11]

In 2008, Wang and Andrew Ferguson founded the Princeton Election Consortium blog, in which he analyzes U.S. national election polling.[12][13] His statistical analysis in 2012 correctly predicted the presidential vote outcome in 49 of 50 states and even the popular vote outcome of Barack Obama's 51.1% to Mitt Romney's 48.9%.[14] 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,[15][16] as seen in Wang's election morning blog post titled "Final Projections: Clinton 323 EV, 51 Democratic Senate seats, GOP House".[17][18] 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 indicated a much more chaotic election due to the comparatively large number of undecided voters in 2016 vs. 2012 as well as believing 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).[19] 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."[20] 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.[21][22]


Wang’s first book, Welcome To Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How To Drive,[23] 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.[24] His second book, Welcome To Your Child's Brain: How The Mind Develops From Conception To College,[25] will be translated into 16 languages. Both books were co-authored by Dr. Sandra Aamodt.

Personal life[edit]

Wang and his wife, a physician, live in Princeton, New Jersey with their daughter.[26]


  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. ^ "Meta-Analysis of State Polls". Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  11. ^ ref=""
  12. ^ "About the Princeton Election Consortium". Retrieved 2012-11-04. 
  13. ^ "Election Forecaster Sam Wang On The Future Of Polling And Punditry". Forbes. 2012-11-07. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  14. ^ "Presidential prediction 2012 – final". Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  15. ^ Final Projections: Clinton 323 EV, 51 Democratic Senate seats, GOP House
  16. ^ Five Reasons Nate Silver is Wrong & Sam Wang is Right: Hillary Is 99%+ Likely to Win
  17. ^ "Final Projections: Clinton 323 EV, 51 Democratic Senate seats, GOP House". Retrieved 2017-01-05. 
  18. ^ Grading The 2016 Election Forecasts
  19. ^ Final Election Update: There’s A Wide Range Of Outcomes, And Most Of Them Come Up Clinton
  20. ^ Looking Ahead
  21. ^ Wang, Sam. "Why I Had to Eat a Bug on CNN". The New York Times, Nov. 18, 2016.
  22. ^ Morin, Rebecca. "Poll expert eats bug after Trump win". Politico, Nov. 12, 2016.
  23. ^ "Welcome to Your Brain". Bloomsbury USA. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  24. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (2010-02-09). "A Neuroscientist Studying the Structure of Dog Brains". The New York Times. 
  25. ^ "Welcome To Your Brain". Welcome To Your Child's Brain. 2012-11-25. Retrieved 2012-11-25. 
  26. ^ "WEDDINGS/CELEBRATIONS - Rebecca Moss, Samuel Wang -". New York Times. 2006-09-03. Retrieved 2012-03-13. 

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