Choosing a more certain path

Jun 13, 2002, vol. 24, no. 4
By Marianne Meadahl

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When James Balfour (left) finished high school, he stuck his best artwork into a portfolio and set his sights on art school.

But after a little advice from family and friends, he weighed his paintings and sketches against his other interests - computers, programming and electronics - and opted for a more certain career.

Engineering proved fruitful. Balfour leaves SFU this spring with a bachelor's degree in applied sciences in one hand and the faculty's dean's medal in the other.

Balfour's cumulative grade point average of 4.19 makes him the top student graduating from the school of engineering science.

Despite the program's typically heavy workload, none of his grades were lower than A.

When he's not reading publications like Scientific American, Business Week or The Economist, Balfour likes to design his own personal projects, including stock market analysis tools or small network-based multi-player games.

But Balfour is far from being a narrow technophile. Consider the five to 10 hours a week he spends joyriding on his skateboard.

“That's my wind down time,” says Balfour, a self-taught musician and composer who plays guitar, bass, and piano. He also sings and records his music using computer-based recording and composition software.

When he hits the pavement this summer, it'll be on his board. Balfour has no need to pound it looking for work.

He has already put in a year at West Bay Semiconductors Inc., a young Vancouver company that hired him to work as a product design engineer.

He loves the job. Still, he is certain to return to university one day. Balfour is eyeing philosophy or economics. “It'll be something different,” he insists.

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