Lifetime Achievement Awards | 2017

David Kirkpatrick

David Kirkpatrick
Department of Computer Science
The University of British Columbia

David Kirkpatrick

Dr. David Kirkpatrick, Professor Emeritus at UBC, is one of Canada’s most accomplished and respected theoretical computer scientists. He is internationally recognized for his seminal contributions to the design and mathematical analysis of algorithms and data structures. He has been a remarkable supervisor, collaborator, mentor and teacher whose advisees are productive researchers themselves worldwide.

A pioneer in the field of computational geometry, David’s highly cited work laid the foundation for efficient computational manipulation and analysis of shapes, with applications in computer graphics, robotics, data visualization and network analysis. In addition, his research has significantly enriched our understanding of fundamental combinatorial algorithms, and parallel and distributed computation. David has published ~170 papers and has received many awards and honours, including induction as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (2009). Prominent researchers have high praise for his work:

“David is a one of the pioneers of the field of computational geometry […] The field has benefited tremendously by the breadth, depth, novelty, and mathematical elegance of his work.” – Pankaj K. Agarwal, Duke University

“I regard David as one of the two best theorem provers with whom I have ever worked… a very clear thinker who is meticulous in making sure that all terms have been rigorously defined and who completely understands the problem’s underlying structure.” – Derek Corneil, U. Toronto

“David is one of the most influential theoretical computer scientists in Canada today” – Pavol Hell, Simon Fraser University

David has supervised or co-supervised 29 graduate students and six postdoctoral fellows. Nine of his PhD students, including four women, have gone on to successful research careers of their own, at institutions both in Canada and internationally. Advisees and junior collaborators have commented on the ways David has supported them:

“David’s enthusiasm was infectious; nothing was more exciting for me during my time at UBC than these research sessions. David also instilled an appreciation of the importance of elegance in descriptions and proofs. I learned that we were approaching our goal when the exposition seemed obvious, easy and delightful!” – Lisa Higham, Professor Emerita, U. Calgary

“[…] when my first son was born, I started to ask myself questions: Should I continue? Should I settle on less ambitious goals? David’s full support and encouragement helped me to embrace both family and research” – Teresa Przytycka NIH Senior Investigator

“Working with and learning from David has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my career.” – Chris Thachuk, Banting Research Fellow, Caltech

“David is incredibly resourceful, insightful, thoughtful – and absolutely unselfish. […] He invests time and effort into nominating other researchers for awards and actively promotes their research.” – Sandra Zilles, Canada Research Chair, U. Regina

David is an outstanding teacher. He has won UBC Computer Science’s “Incredible Instructor” Award six times and received an Honourable Mention five additional times. He is often found in the late afternoons with a cluster of students who are eager for his guidance, and stays as long as they want to work with him. Students noted that he “loves teaching and he inspires others to learn”, is “knowledgeable, clever, helpful, gentle and kind”, and helps students “find the right way of approaching the problem”.

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