> Silver medalist math whiz dazzles profs

Silver medalist math whiz dazzles profs

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Marianne Meadahl or Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3210

June 15, 2010

Asif Zaman blushes with embarrassment when he hears that his professors call him “the perfect student.”

But the winner of one of SFU’s two Governor General’s silver medals for undergraduate academic excellence this year can’t escape the label.

Lauded by his professors for his application of mathematics to health-care scheduling problems and his stellar scoring in tough math competitions, Zaman is graduating with a B.Sc. in mathematics and a near-perfect 4.24 cumulative grade point average.

His proposed development of a queue network model for booked elective admissions to hospitals caught the eye of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, earning him a $6,000 undergraduate student research award.

“I studied a hospital waitlist for surgeries and the total effect of rebooking cancelled surgeries,” says Zaman, whose Bangladeshi-born mother Habiba Zaman is an SFU professor in the department of gender, sexuality and women’s studies.

“As hospital resources are scarce, one needs to allocate them efficiently,” explains the young mathematician in a math-student recruitment video describing his model on YouTube.

“My research aimed to determine the optimal number of beds so as to minimize an individual patient’s wait time. I used a combination of computational simulations and analytical techniques to study the system.”

In both 2008 and 2009, Zaman placed comfortably among the top 350 individual participants in the annual Putnam mathematical competition, which attracts thousands of entrants from North American universities and colleges. He also helped power SFU to a 47th place finish out of 405 in the 2008 team competition.

How good is he is with numbers? Well, do the math: The most common individual score in a Putnam competition is at best two out of 120; Zaman scored 40 in 2008 and 30 in 2009.

For a listing of students graduating from communities throughout B.C. see: http://at.sfu.ca/LJEIFo


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