Simon Fraser University

Gold medal winner returns

Nov 28, 2002 , vol. 25, no. 7

By Carol Thorbes
Derek Bingham (left), a Simon Fraser University graduate, who went south with a doctoral degree and the Governor General's gold medal three years ago, is coming back as a Canada Research Chair.

Each year, less than a handful of researchers awarded the prestigious Canada Research Chair wind up working at their alma mater.

Until now, none has received the award to return to a university from which they graduated as recently as Bingham.

But Bingham, who convocated as SFU's top graduate in 1999, is proving to be a one-of-a-kind academic in his field.

After obtaining his doctoral degree in industrial design of experiments at SFU, Bingham took up a tenure-track position as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, one of the world's best facilities in industrial statistics research.

“To be honest, I was very happy at the University of Michigan and was not looking to move,” reveals Bingham, who has been appointed a Canada Research Chair in industrial statistics. “SFU's department of statistics and actuarial science approached me, and the opportunity to go back was one I could not pass up.”

Bingham will help develop a one-of-a-kind lab dedicated to industrial statistics research.

It will combine high-performance computing equipment and interactive statistical design and visualization software tools to facilitate collaborative research on honing industrial design experiments.

The lab will help various industries in B.C. develop more effective experiments for determining which factors are most important and which are irrelevant in creating and testing product prototypes.

“Continuous and fast product improvement is the mantra of today's society. That's what drove our department to create this new lab,” says Carl Schwarz, the chair of SFU's department of statistics and actuarial science. Schwarz helped lure Bingham back to the fold. “We needed a dynamic individual who is at home in number crunching, and in reaching out to and working with industry and other academics. We found such an individual in Bingham.”

The SFU graduate is already internationally known for his development of more efficient experiment designs for processes that take place in multiple stages of a manufacturing system.