Asian Heritage Month: Himchan Jeong

May 03, 2023

I grew up in South Korea and lived there for 29 years. After I finished my bachelor’s degree in business and mathematics, I joined mandatory military service in the Korean Air Force and later earned a master’s degree in statistics. After spending four additional years in the US for my PhD, I joined SFU as an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science in 2020.

What inspired you to become a scientist?

By the time I graduated with bachelor’s degrees in business and mathematics, I wondered what field could allow me to utilize what I have learned. It turned out that the insurance industry was one of the perfect combinations. So, I began to take the actuarial exams while doing a co-op in a local insurance company. While the discipline, actuarial science, itself was interesting, soon after I got tired of working in South Korea due to way-too-high working hours (on average 52-60 hours per week). I then started looking for another career path that could be meaningful. After a while, I decided to be a ‘teacher’, but I needed to figure out which courses I could teach. With that motivation, I pursued my PhD degree in actuarial science and ended up with being an actuarial ‘teacher’ and researcher in Simon Fraser University.

What do you love the most about your work? What are you proud of?

I appreciate the opportunity to meet young generations every year in our classroom. They are active in learning and love to communicate with the professors and their peers. I am also quite proud of being one of the faculty members that guide and educate the future actuaries in BC, as our actuarial program is the only University Accreditation Program (UAP) by the Canadian Institute of Actuaries (CIA) in BC.

What kinds of barriers have you faced in your work or study?

While I did not experience any types of discrimination since I started at SFU, sometimes I find it hard to communicate in English with my full capacity which makes me uncomfortable.

Are the barriers higher for Asian scientists?

To be honest, I do not think I experienced any kind of ethnic barriers as an early career researcher and instructor. Personally, I think Asian male is no longer a minority group in our academic discipline, statistics and actuarial science. I think it can be different as I become more experienced and possibly take on more roles in the administration.

What suggestions do you have for making the Faculty of Science a more inclusive space?

I appreciate the Faculty of Science for the efforts they have made to keep the faculty inclusive. I believe that those efforts have been fruitful as I feel little barriers here.