Seary knows how things work

October 20, 2005, vol. 34, no. 4
By Kate Hildebrandt

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Andrew Seary, 61, is a study in contrasts. A mathematician, physicist and researcher, he specializes in software development for data analysis applications.

Seary is also a communicator who builds complex, visually stunning, three-dimensional computer graphics which reveal stories all their own. “I'm like that 10-year-old who never lost his love of 3-D comics,” says Seary. “I like to know how things work.”

Playful, curious and academically determined, Seary has achieved many things in his 30-year relationship with SFU. While his route to securing a degree might appear circuitous, Seary had no regrets as he prepared to graduate from the special arrangements doctoral program in October.

He came to SFU in 1973 with a BSc in mathematics and physics from McGill University, hoping to further challenge himself in the interdisciplinary study of communication and computing science. A sequence of events, limited finances and many work-study relationships would lead him to focus on social network theory not as a registered student but as a paid researcher-programmer.

“I never felt that I had to fight against anything at SFU. Their policies were flexible and creative which made a tremendous difference in my experience.”

While working for professor Bill Richards in the school of communication, Seary developed a software program called MultiNet, which graphs and analyzes relationships between large groups of statistics and people.

For example, MultiNet has been used to analyze indicators of corporate influence by finding patterns among CEO salaries and board friendships in U.S. public companies.
Seary makes his living as a consultant, using MultiNet to conduct research projects for a host of clients, public and private. He is currently working with a database of more than a million people from four partnering nations to assess patterns of disease co-occurrence among cancer patients and their families.

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