Sunday, March 19, 2017

Prof Thomas 'Tom' Poiker awarded 2017 Waldo-Tobler GIScience Prize

The Austrian Academy of Sciences through its Commission for GIScience is awarding the GIScience Prize named after Prof Waldo Tobler to a scientist having demonstrated outstanding and sustained contributions to the discipline worthy of inspiring young scientists in Geoinformatics or Geographic Information Science, and having accomplished significant advances in research and education.

The received nominations were reviewed and assessed by an external panel of peers, who unanimously (!) recommended to award the 2017 prize to Prof Thomas Poiker (SFU professor emeritus).

Thomas Poiker received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Economic Geography in 1966 from Heidelberg, and then joined Simon Fraser University’s Geography department in 1967. He quickly became interested in the emerging fields of computer cartography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and became one of the pioneers in GIS research. He has published widely on GIS methods, and held a joint appointment with Computer Science. In addition to GIS, 'Tom' also taught economic and quantitative geography and cartography.

Quoting from the evaluators letters of appreciation: "Thomas Poiker has contributed very significant foundational concepts to the field of GIScience since its very early days ... one of the most widely adopted algorithms for generalizing lines. The TIN structure similarly has become a foundational digital representation for digital surfaces at different granularities ... He has made significant contributions to core GIScience research and to GIScience education...". And, "Pioneering, and serving as a beacon in the early days of what was to become Geographic Information Science ... significantly influencing many generations of researchers, and highly regarded as an academic teacher".

Thomas Poiker also had played an important role in educational innovation: already in the 1990ies he joined the UNIGIS distance learning network of universities as its first North American partner, where he is remembered for introducing 'collaborative assignments' fostering teamwork long before the days of the MOOC, and for his dedication to individually advising students.

In the words of Jeff Thurston: "Tom Poiker was instrumental in the success of the UNIGIS program in Canada. As one of the MSc graduates originating from that program, I consider Tom to be the 'spatial spark' that caused my interest and intrigue about spatial science and GIS to begin and grow. Tom Poiker is not just passionate about GIS and computer science, but he is also one of the best professors I have interacted with - knowing "when to cause students to scratch their heads, to ponder their thoughts and to question outcomes." He nudged us toward finding answers on our own, and did so sometimes rather directly in disagreement, at others in humour and yet at other times with a return query. I can say that I turned toward GIS because of Tom. I was lucky to have him as a professor and we shared in a book we later wrote."

Congratulations to this recognition of a lifetime of leadership and excellence!

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