CHCCS/SCDHM Achievement Award

Thomas W. Calvert

2006 Achievement Award

Professor Tom Calvert of Simon Fraser University is one of the founding fathers of graphics and human-computer interaction research in Canada. He is a visionary researcher and educator. His work sits at the interfaces between engineering, computing science, and human performance. During his tenure at SFU he was the only professor to hold a full appointment in three schools: Kinesiology, Computing Science, and Engineering. In a long and distinguished career, he has inspired and guided work in animation, in user interfaces, in educational and learning technology, and in visualisation.

Dr. Calvert received a BSc(Eng) in Electrical Engineering from University College, London, in 1957, an MSEE from Wayne State University in 1964 and a PhD in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1967.

Dr. Calvert is receiving the CHCCS/SCDHM Achievement Award for his long-term contributions to the development of computer graphics, visualisation, and human-computer interaction in Canada, most notably for his role in establishing and maintaining a “Western outpost” that was home to many students who gained their first experience in his laboratories and then joined companies in British Columbia that were the beginning of the strong graphics, animation, and multimedia industry that exists today. Tom’s accomplishments are particularly noteworthy for three characteristics.

First, he began and remains truly committed to multidisciplinary research and is an exemplar of “best practices” that has encouraged others to follow in his footsteps. A signature of Tom’s research is its scope: his collaborations span and enrich many disciplines, from art and performance to social science to computer science, engineering and kinesiology, to name only a few.

Second, his multi-decade leadership at SFU has been instrumental in consistently maintaining SFU as one of the leading Canadian institutions for computer graphics, visualisation, and HCI research. Since arriving at SFU in 1972, he has consistently pushed the boundaries of university teaching, organisation and research to recognise and enrich the shifting landscape of digital technologies. He established the first graphics lab at SFU around 1984 that was a focal point for innovative ideas. In a long and distinguished career as a professor at Simon Fraser University he has spearheaded many initiatives including serving as Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies for eight years, Vice-president for Research and Information Systems for five years, and leader of the initiative to develop the new School of Engineering Science. In the early 1990s, he collaborated with SFU colleague Dr. Linda Harasim to develop tools to support online learning. Working with other researchers across Canada, Harasim and Calvert were leaders in establishing the TeleLearning Network of Centres of Excellence in 1995. He then moved to become a founding vice president at the new Technical University of BC, and then director of the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) when SFU absorbed TechBC in 2002.

Third, he has consistently championed partnerships between art and technology in research. His well-known LifeForms work in human figure animation led to industry spin-offs Kinetic Effects and Credo Interactive. This is most recently evident in his pioneering contribution to the establishment of an educational institute devoted to combining art, science and technology (the Technical University of BC) and shepherding adoption of this vision by SFU as the School of Interactive Art and Technology. SIAT represents a bold step in education and research on human-centred technologies: a mix of art, design, psychology, new media and computer science. Tom’s guidance and vision have played key roles in the development of the new school and many other important ground-breaking projects in Western Canada that would not have succeeded without this help.