Juraj Stacho

Dean’s medal follows string of coincidences

May 29, 2008

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By Julie Ovenell-Carter

A mathematician and computing scientist with a newly minted PhD, Juraj Stacho knows a thing or two about odds. So he is more than a little bemused by the series of coincidences that led him to SFU — and the 2008 Dean of Graduate Studies Medal in the Faculty of Applied Sciences.

In 2005, after completing a graduate-level degree in Slovakia, Stacho was surfing the Net in search of a suitable doctoral program when he idly googled his own name.

"Ladislav Stacho came up — he’s in the math department here — and that was how I first learned about SFU," he says. "Then I started browsing the computing science site and discovered there was a faculty member named Pavol Hell whose research interests were similar to mine. So I e-mailed him and introduced myself and Pavol replied to me — in Slovak. And that was the beginning."

Stacho arrived in Vancouver on August 23 (his 23rd birthday) when Hell was on sabbatical. While he awaited his return, Stacho
took a course in logic and decided to alter his academic course to study in that field.

"But on the actual day I decided to approach the logic guy to ask if he would be my advisor, he wasn’t in his office. A couple of days later, Dr. Hell came back and after talking to him in person for the first time, I decided after all to give him a chance. This later proved to be an invaluable decision."

The son of mathematicians, Juraj achieved a 4.17 grade point average at SFU and says he "couldn’t imagine being where I am today without Dr. Hell. He was the person who introduced me to the wonderful world of algorithmic graph theory and allowed me to realize my full potential. He is my role model: I envision my future career based on his."

Stacho will move closer to that vision this fall when takes up a math and computer science post-doctoral position in Europe awarded by the Mathematical Sciences of Paris Foundation.

His goal is "to solve some long-standing open question," he says. "But first I have to find one that can actually be solved. That," he laughs, "is the difficult part."

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