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Professor Emeritus James Zidek receives first UBC Emeritus College Award for Excellence in Innovative and Creative Endeavors

We’re delighted to announce that our Professor Emeritus James (Jim) Zidek is the inaugural recipient of the UBC Emeritus College Award for Excellence in Innovative and Creative Endeavors. This new award honours UBC’s emeriti “who have demonstrated excellence in their engagement in innovative research, artistic creation, or new applications of previous research since attaining Emeritus status.”

As an emeritus whose research accomplishments never waned with retirement, Jim is certainly worthy of such recognition.

Jim was presented with this award at the UBC Emeritus College’s Annual General Meeting, which was held virtually in May. The AGM can be viewed on YouTube; the presentation of Jim’s award begins at about 44 minutes. Listening to Jim’s acceptance speech, we learn how Jim developed his scientific curiosity when he was very young and about his subsequent career journey in statistics.

On Wednesday, June 9, Jim will present his ongoing work at the Emeritus College event Emeriti Serving the Community—Near and Far. All are welcome to register for the event.

Continued excellence as an emeritus

Jim became a Professor Emeritus in 2005, after serving at UBC since 1967, including 10 years as the head of the Statistics Department. Jim’s research accomplishments since 2005 rival his many accomplishments throughout his career.

Since 2005, Jim has continued his longstanding role as a supervisor to graduate students in the department. In this time, he has also had 42 peer-reviewed papers published and has co-written two books, one a research book and the other a textbook.  

He has also continued to be recognized internationally. In 2015, he held an honorary research chair, the Global Chair in the Institute for Mathematical Innovation, at the University of Bath. In 2019, he was awarded the David Rees Distinguished Visiting Fellowship by the University of Exeter. And in 2020, he was honoured with an appointment to Officer of the Order of Canada.

Continued research impact

Since “retiring,” Jim has continued previous pioneering research and has even begun research in new areas.

Since 2005, Jim has continued his internationally recognized work developing methodology for the analysis of spatial and spatio-temporal data with applications to health and the environment. For example, between 2007 and 2009, he expanded methodology for the analysis of spatial data in order to study how climate change might have an impact on the world’s food supply. With this work, he created the first spatial model for predicting crop yields in Canada from climate variables and water stress indices.

In 2008, Jim began his research in a new area, forest product modelling. Collaborating with wood products researchers and industry stakeholders at the Canadian not-for-profit organization FPInnovations, Jim has developed new statistical theory and methods to manage the production of Canadian wood products. Under Jim’s leadership, his team has made breakthroughs in developing and applying fundamental statistical methods in the assessment of existing and new wood products; these assessments are required in setting wood standards that are referenced in national building codes and are required to accommodate more innovative products from this sustainable resource.

Around 2014, Jim began research in statistical methods for the analysis of animal movement, with a special focus on marine mammals. His research began by using Bayesian techniques to improve estimates of animal tracks from intermittent GPS data (Annals of Applied Statistics, 2016).

Jim’s dedication to the development and application of statistical methodology has continued to have a profound impact by bringing data-driven solutions in areas such as air pollution, health risk assessment, and the optimal management and preservation of our national resources.

We’re fortunate that Jim discovered a scientific curiosity that led to such a successful, never-ending career journey in statistics.

June 7, 2021