PhD (Mathematics and Statistics), 1997

To most Okanagan locals, it’s just a chunk of pavement. However, for world renowned mathematician, Dr. Heinz Bauschke, the 25-kilometer stretch of road between Kelowna and Vernon is one of his greatest career achievements.

Bauschke is a professor of mathematics at UBC Okanagan and a Canada Research Chair in Convex Analysis and Optimization. He completed a PhD in Mathematics at SFU in 1996 and was awarded the Governor General's Gold Medal for achieving the highest academic standing among SFU graduate students in his year.

Bauschke’s research explores how to use algorithms to address real world problems.

“I look at conditions subject to constraints, such as time or resources, and design and analyze algorithms for finding the most efficient solutions possible. For example, if we want to build a new road it can’t be too steep or too curved. As well, we want to minimize soil movement as that can be very costly. By running my formulas I can find ways to save the government millions of dollars,” he says.

Bauschke is helping to solve problems ranging from road design to radiation therapy treatment to optical imagery. He also helps others tap into the power of math by producing resources such as his book, Convex Analysis and Monotone Operator Theory in Hilbert Spaces. Cowritten with Patrick Combettes, the book has over 500 Google Scholar citations.

“We wrote it in a language that was appealing to people that weren’t math experts, like physicists, engineers and chemists. I feel it’s important to communicate math in a way that is accessible to a larger audience so they can see how math can be useful,” he says.

One of Bauschke's most surprising math converts so far: his father-in-law.

“One of my students and I designed a program to solve Sudoku puzzles. After 15 years of hearing me talk about math at the dinner table, it was the first time he got really excited about what it could do,” says Bauschke.

Bauschke credits his SFU graduate degree experience for helping shape his practice in mathematics application and dissemination. “My degree shaped my use of computers and visualization that I still use today,” he says.

In addition to opportunities to meet the world’s leading mathematicians, he notes SFU’s innovative application of computers and big data—as exemplified by the department’s Centre for Experimental and Constructive Mathematics.

“The centre provided a useful link between the world of math and the real world. The approach to use computers as tools in math wasn’t being done elsewhere. It was cutting edge then and still is today,” he says.

- Written by Jackie Amsden and the Offices of Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows

Published in 2015

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