Nine researchers honoured as 2022 Distinguished SFU Professors

July 26, 2022
The university honoured nine SFU researchers as our latest Distinguished SFU Professors, bringing the total to 31 awarded scholars since the program’s inception in 2019. Top row, from left, George Nicholas, Alanaise Ferguson, John Bechhoefer, Jodi Viljoen. Bottom row, from left, Angela Kaida, Judith Zaichkowsky, Isabelle Côté, Gary Wang, Maite Taboada.

From protecting our planet by challenging conventional notions about ecosystem resiliency, to dismantling social and structural factors that limit our sexual and mental health, Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) 2022 Distinguished SFU Professors are tackling some of the most pressing issues impacting our local, national and global communities.

The university honoured nine SFU researchers as our latest Distinguished SFU Professors, bringing the total to 31 awarded scholars since the program’s inception in 2019.   

“Congratulations to all of our 2022 Distinguished SFU Professors,” says Wade Parkhouse, SFU’s provost and vice-president, academic, pro tem. “Your outstanding research and achievements are pushing the boundaries of knowledge, delivering real-world results."

Recognized for their exceptional performance and distinguished accomplishments relative to their rank and years of service, the 2022 recipients fuel research discoveries, drive social innovation and seek sustainable solutions to help change our world.  

“These nine professors’ outstanding research performances have made them groundbreaking leaders in their diverse fields,” says Dugan O’Neil, SFU’s vice-president, research and international. “They all should be incredibly proud of the impact their work is making to advance knowledge and create a more innovative, inclusive and sustainable society.”  

The program is a joint initiative of the Provost and Vice-President Academic and the Vice-President, Research and International. The Distinguished SFU Professor title comes with a special requirement for members to share their work with the public through events such as lectures, panels and presentations.

2022 Distinguished SFU Professors

John Bechhoefer

John Bechhoefer, Faculty of Science, Physics

John Bechhoefer is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the American Physical Society. His research is at the intersection of thermodynamics, statistical physics, control theory, and information theory, and his scientific contributions have ranged over pattern formation, liquid crystals and biological physics. His work creatively applies paradigm-shifting theoretical physics to test fundamental principles that link information and feedback with thermodynamics and statistical physics, at scales that are appropriate to bacteria and cells.

Isabelle Côté

Isabelle Côté, Faculty of Science, Marine Ecology and Conservation

Isabelle Côté is a marine ecologist whose research focuses on biodiversity and coral reef conservation. She has pioneered the use of meta-analysis to identify long-term patterns of ecological change on coral reefs. Her studies of Caribbean reefs have resulted in the most in-depth picture of coral loss and declining fish abundance for any region of the globe, as well as an understanding of the impacts of invasive, predatory species on reef ecosystems. Her work challenges conventional notions about ecosystem resilience and marine management.

Alanaise Ferguson

Alanaise Ferguson, Faculty of Education, Counselling Psychology

Alanaise Ferguson is an Indigenous scientist-practitioner and educator in counselling psychology. Her work aims to decolonize mental health practices by addressing serious manifestations of colonial violence such as gang and gender-based violence. As one of very few Indigenous registered psychologists in British Columbia, she maintains active service within several Indigenous communities.

Ferguson produces work considered meaningful to psychological practice in the areas of identity reclamation, collective healing and restitution from damaging colonial processes including Indian Residential schools. Her work attracted the attention of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, The National Parole Board of Canada, and the National Headstart Association of Canada.

Angela Kaida

Angela Kaida, Faculty of Health Sciences, Global Health

Angela Kaida holds a Canada Research Chair Tier II in global perspectives in HIV and sexual and reproductive health. In collaboration with communities, she works to advance inter-disciplinary scholarship to address the social and structural forces that compromise (or protect) sexual and reproductive health and rights of HIV-affected women and youth, in global and Canadian contexts. She was recently honoured with the Canadian Association for HIV Research and the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research Excellence in HIV Research Award.

Kaida holds health leadership roles with several organizations including the National Scientific Advisory Committee on Global Health, the sub-Saharan African Network of TB and HIV research Excellence, and the Women’s Health Research Institute.

George Nicholas

George Nicholas, Faculty of Environment, Archaeology

George Nicholas studies the evolving relationship between archaeology and Indigenous communities, intellectual property and intangible heritage, and the archaeology and human ecology of wetlands. He advances Indigenous heritage protection, social justice and decolonization. He developed and directed SFU’s Indigenous Archaeology Program on the Tk’emlups Reserve in Kamloops—the first of its kind in North America.

Nicholas’ commitment to reconciliation and decolonization is evidenced in his work with the SFU-Aboriginal Reconciliation Council, the Indigenous Research Institute’s advisory board and the First Peoples Cultural Council. He directed the international Intellectual Property in Cultural Heritage (IPinCH) project (2008-2016). In 2021, he received the Warren Gill Award for Community Impact.

Maite Taboada

Maite Taboada, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Linguistics

Maite Taboada is a professor in the Department of Linguistics and an associate member in the School of Computing Science. She is a linguist working at the intersection of discourse analysis and computational linguistics. Her research interests within linguistics include discourse relations and evaluative language. In computational linguistics, she has worked on sentiment analysis, automatic moderation of online comments and the language of misinformation. Her lab, the Discourse Processing Lab, built the Gender Gap Tracker powered by SFU—an online tool to track the number of men and women quoted in Canadian news media.

Gary Wang

Gary Wang, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Mechatronic Systems Engineering

Gary Wang’s research is focused in the area of design and advanced manufacturing, which combines design processes with artificial intelligence-driven optimization. Published in top journals in his field, Wang is the most cited scholar worldwide in the area of intelligent optimization and his lab is recognized as one of the world’s top facilities in the field of engineering optimization. Wang is also known for his deep commitment of mentorship to the next generation of learners and researchers. He is the recipient of several awards, including the 2015 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2015 FAS Award of Excellence for Teaching.

Jodi Viljoen

Jodi Viljoen, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Psychology

Jodi Viljoen’s research focused on improving mental health and treatment services for adolescents in the justice system and the prevention of violence and offending. During her career, Viljoen worked closely with youth justice and mental health systems in Canada and other countries to implement evidence-based practices. She created a strength-based risk assessment and treatment-planning tool that has been adopted in over 10 countries and translated into four languages. In 2020, Viljoen was inducted into the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. Her commitment to social justice was far-reaching and impactful.

Judith Zaichkowsky

Judith Zaichkowsky, Beedie School of Business, Marketing and Consumer Behaviour

Judith Zaichkowsky is a professor and researcher in the field of marketing and consumer behaviour, whose expertise on the role of involvement in consumer researcher has made a major impact on the field of marketing. She has written books on counterfeiting, brand imitation and trademark infringement, serving as an expert witness for global companies. Her work also examines the effect of having women on boards of directors. More recent work entailed neuroscience of decision-making and AI and bot decision-making. Currently she is working to capture fast fashion and sustainability issues through helping PhD students with their publications.

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