Takintayo "Tayo" Akinbiyi 

The community of Hyde Park mourns the tragic loss of Takintayo “Tayo” Akinbiyi, a recent PhD graduate in statistics from the University of Chicago and a gifted improvisational actor who frequently performed at the historic Revival theater. Tayo was not only a talented young researcher, but a warm and charismatic presence who enriched the lives of so many around him. In October 2021, at the age of 38, Tayo died of unknown causes in his home in New Haven, Connecticut, where he was currently a postdoctoral associate in Biostatistics at Yale School of Public Health.

Born in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1982 to a Nigerian (Yoruba) father and Trinidadian mother, Tayo came to Ontario, Canada, at the age of three, where he spent his childhood and early adulthood. After graduating with Honors from the University of Toronto in 2006 with BA degrees in Statistics and Computer Science, he came to the US to begin his MSc in Statistics at UChicago. Tayo transitioned to the PhD program in 2008, specializing in machine learning and working with David McAllester, with whom he published an article on Pac-Bayes in 2013. Shortly thereafter, Tayo left the PhD program to work in the corporate sector, applying his skills to develop complex statistical frameworks for Enova Financials and Mission Measurement.

He then officially re-entered the PhD program in early 2019, pursuing research in statistical genetics with Mary Sara McPeek and Mark Abney. His dissertation, Equal Local Levels: A Global Testing Approach with Application to Trans eQTL Detection, involved development methods for detecting genetic variants associated with the regulation of multiple genes, with application to mouse gene expression data. Tayo then joined Hongyu Zhao's statistical genetics group at Yale School of Public Health as a postdoctoral associate. At the time of his death, Tayo, together with his UChicago collaborators, was preparing a second manuscript for publication.

His former PhD thesis advisor, UChicago Statistics professor Mary Sara McPeek, recalled, "Tayo was a kind, gentle person with a powerful intellect. I recall posing a challenging problem to Tayo, one that I thought might take him months, and he came back within a week or two with the problem solved and coded up in Python, seemingly not even realizing that he had done something impressive."

Tayo’s talent for improvisational theater was known to many in Hyde Park community, as he performed both at the Revival and on the University of Chicago campus. He was a founding member of two theater troupes in Hyde Park: The Hutchins Plan, begun in 2016, and The Excited State, begun in 2018. In the words of UChicago Law professor Randal Picker, who performed alongside Tayo throughout the years, “Part of great improv is a willingness to push yourself and the scene to unexpected spots and Tayo always did that with great intelligence and verve.” Another co-performer, Dr. Marshall Chin of the UChicago Department of Medicine, recalled that "Tayo was hilarious and had a wonderful ability to capture the human essence of a scene or situation."

Tayo also had a great passion for music and was an avid bass guitar player. He strove to integrate this passion with his expertise in statistics by investigating the mechanisms of sound production and technology. At the time of his death, Tayo was in the midst of designing a music technology product, entitled Ayo (meaning “joy” in the Yoruba language).

Tayo was a generous soul, whose combination of intelligence, compassion, and warmth was truly extraordinary. He was at once deeply cerebral, emotionally astute, and exuberantly funny. Tayo also never hesitated to listen to the struggles of others, taking great joy in helping his friends through difficult times.

In addition to his friends and colleagues, Tayo leaves behind his parents, Dr. Takintope and Norma Akinbiyi; his wife, Hilary Akinbiyi, née Leithauser; his brother and sister-in-law, Dr. Takintope Akinbiyi, Jr., and Dr. Rachel Hadler; his two nephews, Malcolm and Nathaniel; and his beloved pets, Pi, Louie, and Humphrey.

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