Prof. David Stanford

Take Two Equations and Call Me in the Morning

Understanding statistical randomness and congestion in hospitals can help improve patients' health


David Stanford is a Professor of Statistical and Actuarial Sciences at Western University. We asked everything from why he chose his field of study to what’s on his playlist in hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for one of the best minds in Canadian research.

What inspired you to become a scientist?
I have always been interested in mathematics since young childhood, and in Chemistry and Physics since CEGEP. I have always been interested in using mathematics to model things, so that we can better understand them. Also I was most impressed with a mathematics instructor named Prof. Fred Bedford at Sir George Williams University, a precursor to Concordia. I aspired to be like him in making light bulbs go on in peoples’ heads.

What do you like most about being a scientist?
The discovery of new things, and the adding of new knowledge to our collective patrimony. (And the “light bulb” part above; it’s golden.)

What do you envision in the future of your field?
Greater understanding of the nature of people congestion in health care systems as a result of better mathematical models of these phenomena.

How will your research make a difference in our lives?
By working a a team in which our understanding of randomness and congestion is used to assist medical decision makers, better access for health care. In general (but not always), earlier access to care can translate into better recovery.

What advice would you give young researchers?
If you are passionate about something, follow your heart. You need that passion to succeed.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? 
1) On a research level, my work with Peter Taylor (Melbourne) and Ilze Ziedins (Auckland) on the APQ. Here’s a link:

2) On a teaching level, the 1999 University Students’ Council/Scotiabank/UWO Alumni Association Award of Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (4 winners per year)

What do you read?
The National Post, The Saturday Star, James Herriott’s books, Daniel Levitin’s books on Music and the Brain.

What’s on your playlist?
Loads. Heavy emphasis on 60s and 70s, plus U2, Springsteen, Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot.

If you could meet any historical figure who would it be and why?
Jesus Christ, as the author of forgiveness. Among scientists, Alexander Graham Bell as the phone revolutionized communication.

If you could do any profession other than your own what would it be?
I can’t imagine changing! But if I had to, then something to do with improving access to health care (which is not such a change).

What do you like to do for fun?
Biking in summer, skiing (Nordic and Downhill) in Winter.

Want to learn even more about Prof. Stanford? Check out his Orange Chair Interview.