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Q&A: Talking with the new executive director of the Big Data Initiative

December 07, 2016
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Simon Fraser University’s Big Data Initiative builds our strengths in the field and makes our capabilities accessible to all stakeholders. To continue to build on the momentum of this University-wide initiative, we officially welcome Fred Popowich to the big-data team here at SFU. He will serve as the inaugural executive director of the Big Data Initiative.

Fred Popowich

Popowich brings a wealth of expertise to this new and exciting role. As SFU’s representative for Canada’s Big Data Consortium, he works with industry and university partners to help Canada address the greatest challenges and opportunities in big data. 

As a computing science professor, he has an impressive academic record, and has collaborated with researchers from many of the faculties at SFU. He is a seasoned administrator and serves as the associate director of research and industrial relations in the School of Computing Science and director of the Professional Masters in Big Data. Popowich is an engaged leader who supports the needs of diverse stakeholders in visual analytics through his roles as the president of the Canadian Network for Visual Analytics (CANVAC) and founding director of the Vancouver Institute for Visual Analytics. His expertise, engagement across all sectors and disciplines, and enthusiasm make Popowich an ideal leader for the Big Data Initiative.

Popowich answers a few questions and shares about his passion for big data:

Why is big data important to you?

Because it has linkages to so many different areas of the University, and can have an impact on so many different parts of society. Big data is generated all around us in our everyday lives and around the world. It can’t be ignored.

What is your number one goal for taking on this new role at SFU?

Allowing the community (and not just the University community, but the external community as well) to learn more about the many aspects of big data, then see how this knowledge can be applied to issues that are important to an individual or organization.

What do you hope to achieve in the future?

I aim to establish stronger ties between individuals and organizations that can help us deal with issues beyond those associated with big data.

Is there anything else about yourself and big data that you'd like to share?

I have always been interested in how interdisciplinary teams can solve complex problems. Although my home department is computing science, I am an also an associate member in linguistics, and an associate member in cognitive science. By creating a cluster of big-data expertise here at SFU that supports world-class research across all disciplines, we can train the next generation of research leaders. I look forward to working on increasing our research computing capacity that will help transform research and academic studies in innovative ways.

Imagine the possibilities!