IRMACS Centre Testimonials - Research Enabler

Math at IRMACS

Theatre at IRMACS

Visualization research

I've had the opportunity to work in IRMACS as both an undergrad and now as a grad student, and it is a great place to work. Each individual workspace in the labs is spacious and the labs are always kept clean and secure. We have access to presentation technology for conferences, meetings or just for practice in several of the meeting rooms. We also have access to a large number of computing resources, whether working in the labs or from home, and there is usually someone around, either on staff or just one of your lab-mates, who can help you if you're using any of the programs or equipment for the first time. The staff is also always friendly and helpful, particularly the front desk staff who are always there to greet you with a smile in the morning. Amy Wiebe, Department of Mathematics, Simon Fraser University, 2012
IRMACS has been my home on campus for about three years. I've enjoyed a bright, clean and peaceful place to work, as well as excellent computing and meeting facilities. IRMACS staff are always friendly and eager to make sure everything runs smoothly. It's lovely to be greeted by smiling front desk staff when I arrive in the morning, and I'm always impressed by the attentiveness of the technical staff. Working in IRMACS has also given me the opportunity to attend many interesting talks and events, not to mention IRMACS Christmas and Hallowe'en parties!

Jane Wodlinger, Department of Mathematics, Simon Fraser University, 2011

My postdoctoral fellowship at SFU gave me a rare and wonderful opportunity to participate in a working group in the History of Mathematics, which was housed in IRMACS. The combination of quiet workspace, excellent colleagues, varied seminars, library access, and good kitchen facilities all made for a positive work environment in IRMACS.


I have since been able to return to SFU for several short-term visits at IRMACS, too. During these summer stays, both the mathematics faculty and helpful IRMACS staff have made my visits enjoyable and productive.

Deborah Kent

Department Of Mathematics, Hillsdale College, Hillside, Michigan

I have had the chance to work in IRMACS within a MoCSSy team for one semester, as a member of Chronic Disease Systems Modeling Lab. I see IRMACS as a successful challenge to bring together a wide variety of backgrounds, in which each individual can benefit from the skills of colleagues in fields such as mathematics, health science, and criminology. The rich interactions that stem from such an interdisciplinary environment have certainly fostered my research, primarily in modeling obesity but also in modeling intravenous drug users or populations at risk with respect to HIV. Furthermore, IRMACS facilitates openness to different approaches by hostings regular events, which aroused my interest either professionally or personnally for the sake of my own curiosity. Finally, I firmly believe that numerous projects among the myriad of topics currently studied will still be relevant in future years (e.g., obesity, HIV, crime patterns), making my experience useful for future prospects.

Philippe J. Giabbanelli

Chronic Disease Systems Modeling Lab, Simon Fraser University

I would like to express my deep gratitude towards IRMACS, its staff, and its general attitude towards enhancing research opportunities.

I was a research associate at the IRMACS Centre for over 2 years, and have now become an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at UBC - Okanagan Campus. The time I spent at IRMACS was the most productive research period in my life, and was critical in helping me achieve the position I am in today.

The technical support (largely provided by Brian Corrie begin_of_the_skype_highlighting     end_of_the_skype_highlighting) helped finish two computational intensive papers in record time. One has now been accepted to INFOR, the other is under going minor revisions for SIAM J. Opt. (Both of these are considered top journals in their fields.)

The administrative support and world class collaboration technology of the IRMACS Centre made it possible for me to develop relationships with many guest speakers from around the world (including Toronto, Halifax, the USA, and Brazil). Visitors to IRMACS always walked away impressed. Many resulted in long term collaborations, and most expressed interest in visiting IRMACS again.

However, what amazes me most is that, even though I am now a UBC faculty member, and not an IRMACS project member, IRMACS is still playing a key role in my research career. Your attitude of webcasting any talk, not just the "big talks", may seem like a simple thing, but I believe is opening up research at SFU and making it available globally. Actions like this are setting a new standard for research dissemination.

Warren Hare
Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia - Okanagan

The interactions I have had with IRMACS researchers have led to my being involved in a number of other IRMACS projects, most of which I probably would not have been involved with if I had not been at IRMACS. These include the Telepresence project, the Engrammetron projects, and the Visual Analytics project. These collaborations came out of discussions about our research that we are doing at IRMACS.

Brian Corrie
The IRMACS Centre, Simon Fraser University

Generally, the IRMACS Centre has enabled us to carry on research meetings related to our project and to participate in national videoconferencing with our colleagues spread out across the country at institutions such as U of Toronto, McGill, Memorial, Laval, U of Ottawa, Dalhousie, UBC.

The IRMACS collaboration infrastructure is very important for maintaining connections and visibility with our Canadian colleagues at institutions such as U of Toronto (S. Bull, F. Gagnon, M Lemire, A Paterson, C Greenwood, L Sun, M Corey), Laval (A Bureau, C Merette, A Labbe), U of Ottawa (J Little), McGill (J Engert, K Morgan, M Fujiwara), UQAM (F Larribe), Memorial (JC Loredo-Osti, J Green), Dalhousie (B Smith), UBC (P Pare, K Walley, D Daley, A Sandford)
Jinko Graham and Brad McNeney
Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, Simon Fraser University
As a Surrey faculty member, this is an enormous asset: I often want to interact with the many faculty, students and visitors in Burnaby. IRMACS gives me an ideal base for doing so. Tamon Stephen
Department of Mathematics, Simon Fraser University
The presence of IRMACS has contributed greatly to our project. After moving into IRMACS, the team members begin working in a close collaborative environment and no longer need to work remote. Our project servers are also now well hosted on IRMACS computing infrastructure, and that has enable us to create a complex development network. The project is funded by National Research Council. On a visit by NRC to our project, the representative is highly impressed by the environment IRMACS has to offer. The project has make good progress since locating into IRMACS, that he has gestured potential future funding by the council.
Charles Chung
Bits Republic Technologies Inc., Vancouver, British Columbia
IRMACS is an ideal place for a mathematical scientist to visit.  The beautiful space is designed for maximal productivity.  The computer system support is superb and the audio/visual capabilities of IRMACS is unmatched.  As a visitor, I was able to take advantage of much that IRMACS has to offer.  I was able to be provided with a quiet place to work.  However, there were also plenty of opportunities to meet and interact with colleagues.  True to its interdisciplinary mission, IRMACS offered a number of interesting seminars on topics ranging from healthcare to mathematical biology, from computational science to imaging. I thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of topics and learned a lot. I am grateful to the helpful and friendly staff  who made my visit so productive and pleasant. Fadil Santosa
Professor, School of Mathematics, University of Minnesota
Director, Institute for Mathematics and its Applications
Indeed I very much enjoyed my visit to IRMACS. Some specific comments:
  • The research facilities were excellent (computing facilities, meeting space, etc.)
  • Good kitchen facilities and work space
  • I had many excellent colleagues among the math and CS departments, as well as several visitors, with whom I had lots of interaction (seminars, mathematical discussions with individuals or groups, etc.). These included Bojan Mohar, Luis Goddyn, Matt Devos, Gabor Tardos, Robert Samal, Gabor Simonyi, Gabor Kun, Eric Fusy and others
  • IRMACS was an active place with many special programs and events, special lectures etc. which contributed to a positive atmosphere.
Penny Haxell
Professor, Department of Mathematics, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON
Various aspects of research would just not have taken place without IRMACS. For example, the paper cited above (annual paper). A critical aspect is the ease of housing visitors. I have two at the moment that would likely not have come to SFU without IRMACS. Nils Bruin, Department of Mathematics, SFU
It allowed me to collaborate with mathematician and practically enter a whole new field of research which is now my intended focus for the future. Without the computational facilities some of the key research would not have been possible. Also the availability of meeting rooms, smartboards etc. really supports collaboration. In this form, the HIV project would probably not exist without IRMACS. Krisztina Vasarhelyi, Complex Modelling Group, SFU
It is great to work with a bunch of people with different backgrounds (Math, Physics, Epidemiology, criminology, medical). Having a diverse group of people is needed to consider different aspects of a problem posed, and is very important for communication between the client wishes and the scientific translation. Alexa van der Waall, Complex Modelling Group, SFU
It has been important to be in contact with other groups, from several departments. This is crucial. Cedric Chauve, Department of Mathematics, SFU
The HCC project has an annual operating budget of approximately $75,000. This money is used to both fund the infrastructure required to run the project, and pay the project members. If IRMACS did not exist, the amount of this budget that would end up allocated to infrastructure would be out of control. We would have too little money left to pay project members, and as a result the quality of research would greatly suffer. It is safe to say that without the IRMACS staff and infrastructure the HCC project would have collasped within six month, instead of now holding a rolling 3 year research agreement with the BC Ministry of Health. Warren Hare, Complex Modelling Group, SFU
I now have active collaborations with faculty members in other departments and faculties at SFU (Borwein, Glasser and Brantingham) that I would not have in the absence of IRMACS. It is a centrally important resource for me and several of my colleagues in the Faculty of Health Sciences. Michael Hayes, Faculty of Health Science, SFU
I have been a member of IRMACS for three years, and my experience there has been overwhelmingly positive. First off, IRMACS has provided a pleasant and productive working environment for myself, my colleagues, and now my students.  We frequently gather to discuss mathematics in the meeting rooms, and there are always interesting seminars going on. IRMACS also fosters interaction between disciplines. A couple years ago, I bumped into some biologists at IRMACS who were looking at a problem involving trees which was of interest to me. We studied this problem further and our collaboration resulted in a nice publication. Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, I  have taken advantage of the computer expertise at IRMACS to launch a wikipedia-type website for unsolved math problems called the Open Problem Garden (  This is a unique resource which is growing a useful library of open problems and a community of contributors. Matt Devos, Department of Mathematics, SFU
I am a student enrolled in the master program in mathematics and physics at Roskilde University, Denmark. I was a guest at Simon Fraser University in the period April - August 2008.

I was lucky to get a seat in the IRMACS Centre for the entire period. This included a Mac computer, a lot of desk space, kitchen facilities and access to an inspiring environment amongst dedicated and skilled researchers and students.

I come from a university with a tradition for collaboration across the different subjects - especially between mathematics and physics. Nevertheless I was very impressed by how well organized the interdisciplinary research seemed to be in the IRMACS Centre.

This supports my perception that the research seems to be more accessible or visible in the IRMACS Centre as opposed to a more classical (Danish?) university environment where one researcher rarely knows what research is going on in the office next to her.  Obviously I therefore consider the way things are organised at the IRMACS Centre as very sensible.

I was very pleased with my stay at the IRMACS Centre and Simon Fraser University and I hope to get the possibility to do some research there again sometime.
Morten Andersen
Masters Student, Roskilde University, Denmark
The executive director of IRMACS, Dr. Peter Borwein, has always been very welcoming in providing space and facilities at IRMACS to accommodate my frequent visits, including not just a desk and computer but also access to all the technical resources and personnel at IRMACS. This makes for a very effective place to do research, in providing access to the latest research materials available on the web and in house, teleconferencing facilities (including one-on-one video), conference rooms for collaboration, and advanced, centralized computing hardware and software essential to mathematical research. It also provides me with immediate access to a team of excellent researchers based at IRMACS who are always keen to discuss mathematical projects and seek avenues for collaboration. Michael P. Lamoureux
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB
IRMACS and Westgrid have enhanced my research substantially. Work is progressing at a phenomenally rapid rate. The facilities have accelerated my research path. Research colleagues are made welcome at IRMACS ... generating a richer environment for the student participants at SFU.

Students with interests in computational methods (as all my students are) are drawn to the super facilities housed at IRMACS. I believe my students come specifically to learn about my area of research; however, having excellent facilities is a major benefit, especially in attracting students with national and international scholarships.
Charmaine Dean
Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, Simon Fraser University
2007 - 2008
I had the opportunity of visiting IRMACS during May-June 2007 thanks to the invitation by Profs. Pavol Hell and Tom C. Brown. That was a quite memorable visit due to many reasons. As a whole the visit was academically very fruitful and the facilities available was of world class. I thank the Director and all others for the wonderful hospitality extended during my visit. Ambat Vijayakumar
Department of Mathematics, Cochin University of Science and Technology, Cochin, INDIA
To say that I was impressed by IRMACS would be an understatement. The vision behind the project seems truly inspired. I think that it was an incredible feat to bring together the organization, the funding, the collaboration of so many fields, and the construction of your state of the art facility. I can hardly wait to visit again. David S. Gunderson
Department of Mathematics, University of Manitoba
This is the second time I visit IRMACS. I enjoyed IRMACS as in the other time. Here I meet my ex-students who are postdocs or graduate students at SFU or even some other universities in Canada. Office settings, IT facilities and a quiet atmosphere in IRMACS make it a very pleasant and relaxed place to do mathematical research. Ebad Mahmoodian
Department of Mathematical Science, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
This is to tell you formally and in writing that my recent stay of nearly 3 months visiting the Statistics and Actuarial Science Department at SFU was extremely nice. In other visits in the past I did have very good experiences also but this time the difference was the very adequate, friendly and stimulating environment provided by IRMACS. I cannot remember being on the day of arrival installed on a desk, with a computer and also with my laptop accessing the network.

I want to thank the hospitality, the frequent interesting seminars and the friendly atmosphere provided in the office, lunchroom and in general in the spaces within IRMACS. It is a great idea to provide a common space for natural interaction amongst visitors, posdocs and graduate students.
Federico O'Reilly Togno
Department of Probability and Statistics, IIMAS, UNAM, Mexico City, Mexico
In 2003, IRMACS invited Prof. Mike Steel, head of the Center for Biomathematics at Canterbury University, Christchurch, NZ. Prof. Steel is the world expert in combinatorics as applied to my field, evolutionary biology. This visit was very successful, and resulted in me being included on two sizeable grants (~200K each) from the Marsden Foundation (NZ). Through these grants, I visited Mike's lab in June 2007 and began a collaboration with a PhD student Klaas Hartmann, who then visited as a guest of IRMACS for six weeks in early 2008.  Mike and I have one paper published (with an IRMACS undergraduate), and Klaas and I have one paper published (with several IRMACS members, including two from the math department).

Also in NZ in June 2007 (ie, on the trip that arose from the IRMACS invitation to Prof. Steel), I met  Dr. Walter Jetz of UCSD, a young and rising star biogeographer. Walter, Klaas, and Gavin Thomas at Imperial College and I began a very large collaborative project in phylogenetics, with much of the computational being done on the new cluster in IRMACS.  I have two RAs devoted to the project, both based here in IRMACS. Several important papers are envisioned. Walter Jetz has also come to visit IRMACS and me in 2008, and is planning another trip this fall, and I have been down to UCSD as well.

All this to say that IRMACS has facilitated an on-going, international collaboration that is now at the heart of my research programme.
Arne Mooers
Department of Biology, Simon Fraser University
2006 - 2008
I visited IRMACS from February 2006 until the end of September 2006, to work, primarily with Jonathan Jedwab, which was a great success as we subsequently published a number of papers that were written during that period. I found IRMACS an encouraging, inspiring, friendly, and professional environment in which to pursue my research. There were numerous people with whom I could discuss research questions. The technical support was excellent and highly reliable. I was initially surprised that I was not assigned a desk, as IRMACS pursued a policy of providing enough space + computers, etc, so as to accomodate those researchers who happened to be in the building at the time. But by the time I left I was convinced that this was a very sensible, forward-thinking, and efficient way of organising things - I never had problems with access, nor was it ever remotely cramped. Moreover, by varying my place of work I had the opportunity to meet more people than I would have had I been stuck away in some office. The standard of seminars and talks by members of IRMACS and/or visiting academics was very high, stimulating, and wide-ranging, and I remember attending at least three conferences at IRMACS itself during my visit. I would have no hesitation in accepting another opportunity to spend time at IRMACS. It goes without saying that the situation of Simon Fraser University and, more generally, the location and culture of Vancouver, is spectacular, and conducive to productive research. Matthew G. Parker, Selmer Centre, Institute for Informatics, University of Bergen, Bergen, Norway
I was invited to speak in the IRMACS: Distinguished Lecture Series in March 2006. I was impressed by the support staff who handled my needs and was even more impressed about the facility and the number of interactions between different groups of biologists, mathematicians and others that are furthered by IRMACS.

IRMACS mission is filling a growing need to bring users and "developers" of mathematics and computation together in one facility were they can interact. I profited from the wide variety of researchers that talked to me and also hope that many profited talking to me.
Peter Beerli
Computational Evolutionary Biology Group, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida
All of my graduate students are encouraged to work at IRMACS. The facilities and access to other scientists have hastened the pace of this research. It is likely that the collaboration with Jeff Farr, an expert in combinatorics, would never have taken place without IRMACS. Derek Bingham
Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, Simon Fraser University
I visited IRMACS in September last year, and gave a well attended talk. I'd have to say that the presentation facilities there were the best of any institute I have visited, and I was impressed to hear how the live networking between groups can take place - this is clearly the way of the future, and something many groups (including ours) are trying to emulate. I met a number of people at the IRMACS and the general atmosphere seemed to be one of enthusiasm and interaction. At subsequent meetings, and talking to colleagues there seems to be a growing awareness both of IRMACS and some of the activities that take place there, particularly with the increasing interest in applying math/computer science to problems in other disciplines. As such it must surely be seen as an asset to the future of SFU. Mike Steel
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
Prof. Ash was kindly suggested me to spend a time at IRMACS research area where I could exchange ideas with people who have different backgrounds. Plus the computer facilities and software effectively supported our project. Also I was very appreciated to have the opportunity to give a talk at "The Interdisciplinary Colloquium", the event of IRMACS, because this event triggered the co-research project with Prof. Faisal. On Nov 03, 2005, we were happy to held the first Joint IRMACS/Tokyo Institute of Technology Internet Seminar. The talk was about the development of SFU Thermal Accelerometer by Prof. Albert M. Leong. The stay with IRMACS in 2005 enabled me to perform a interdisciplinary research and collaborative interaction, and was one of my most fruitful year. Kenji Amaya, Professor, Department of Mechanical and Environmental Informatics Graduate School of Information Science and Engineering
Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, Japan