Top row l-r: Frank Gobas, Faculty of Environment, Resource & Environmental Management; Diane Gromala, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology; Phil Winnie, Faculty of Education; Zuo-Guang Ye, Faculty of Science, Chemistry. Bottom row l-r: Kristen Zickfeld, Faculty of Environment, Geography; Richard Zhang, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Computing Science; Julian Somers, Faculty of Health Sciences.

Simon Fraser University honours our Distinguished SFU Professors for 2020

July 27, 2020

In a year when SFU faculty have been challenged to pivot quickly to remote teaching, it’s more significant than ever to be able to recognize a group of leading academic scholars who have demonstrated outstanding performance and achievements, as well as international pre-eminence in their fields.

As a joint initiative of Simon Fraser University’s Vice-President, Academic and Provost and the Vice-President, Research and International, the Distinguished SFU Professor program recognizes SFU research faculty members of distinction who have achieved exceptional performance and distinguished accomplishments relative to their rank and years of service.

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. This recognition not only spotlights the contribution they have made to their fields in the past, but also helps them magnify that impact through public engagement and student and faculty mentorship.

The Distinguished SFU Professors for 2020 are:

Richard Zhang, Faculty of Applied Sciences, Computing Science

Richard Zhang is a renowned visual computing researcher who specializes in computer graphics and computational methods to understand, process and generate visual data. Due to his expertise, Zhang is often involved in industry projects and is currently working with Autodesk, Google and other industry partners. Zhang’s academic contributions are also significant, publishing more than 150 papers, mainly in the top venues of his field, and being cited more than 9,000 times. For the future, Zhang is fascinated by the topic of computational creativity, and is working with his students to find out if machines can be creative.

Diane Gromala, Faculty of Communication, Art and Technology

Professor Gromala’s research explores the ways technological interventions can help people who live with chronic conditions to manage their pain and improve their quality of life. Working with a team of graduate students in her Pain Studies Lab and Medical User Experience Institute, Gromala collaborates with health experts in pain medicine, neuroscience, psychology, and kinesiology. From 2007–2018, she served as a Canada Research Chair in Computational Technologies for Transforming Pain. As a nationally and internationally recognized expert in interaction design and human-computer interaction, Gromala often presents at prestigious conferences such as the 2018 VR and Health Conference at Harvard University School of Medicine. Her experience of living with chronic pain drives her work and allows her to understand the needs of patients who benefit from her innovative technological solutions.

Dr. Phil Winne, Faculty of Education

Dr. Phil Winne’s prolific career has spanned over four decades with a focus on educational psychology, self-regulated learning and learning analytics. Partnering with schools, universities and researchers around the world Dr. Winne explores how big data can help these groups learn through software system designs. In 2019, Dr. Winne was inducted as a Fellow to the Academy of Social Sciences by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), Canada’s highest academic honour.

Kirsten Zickfeld, Faculty of Environment, Geography

Is global warming reversible once it exceeds a given level? Internationally recognized climate scientist, Kirsten Zickfeld is an expert in modelling future climate changes caused by human-induced emissions. Her work explores questions like this, as well as the consistency of carbon budgets and climate targets, and the impact of carbon removal technology on our climate system.

Zickfeld was selected by the United Nations as a lead author for the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the global warming of 1.5 degrees. She is the 2019 recipient of the SFU President’s Awards for Leadership in Sustainability.

Frank Gobas, Faculty of Environment, Resource & Environmental Management

Professor Frank Gobas is a leading environmental toxicologist and chemist. Combining chemistry, chemical engineering, biology and policy analysis, Gobas studies the behavior, effects and associated ecological and human health risks of chemical pollutants in our environment.

Globally recognized as an expert in his field, Gobas has published over 200 scientific publications and reports. His research models have been adopted by Environment Canada and The US Environmental Protection Agency, and his work has shaped local, national and international initiatives to ensure chemical use is sustainable and safe.

Julian Somers, Faculty of Health Sciences

With the growing opioid crisis in Canada, Professor Somers’ research is more important than ever. By building collaborative relationships with government officials and health practitioners, and integrating primary healthcare, housing, employment, and public safety, Somers has been able to improve public policies and clinical practices related to addiction and mental disorders.

His community-based, client-centred approach engages those who are most in need of services in the design and execution of his research projects. Trained as a clinical psychologist in the field of addiction, his work aims to reduce homelessness and crime involving socially marginalized people who are substance dependent and mentally ill. 

Zuo-Guang Ye, Faculty of Science, Chemistry

Since he was a young child, Zuo-Guang Ye says that he has always been curious — wanting to know how and why things work. Starting with rudimentary experiments at first, he eventually came to an understanding that “human civilization is often defined by the invention of materials, from the Stone Age, to the Bronze Age and to the Iron Age – arguably, we are living in a “Functional Materials Age.” Ye is a leading authority in solid-state materials science and has shaped the development, standardization and commercialization of novel electronic materials. He has been an SFU faculty member since 1997 and is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers.