Karen Kopciuk, Distinguished Service Award 2020

Karen Kopciuk
Distinguished Service Award

Karen Kopciuk is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Statistical Society of Canada (SSC). This award honours an individual who has played an important and substantial role in fostering the growth and success of the Canadian Statistical Sciences community through leadership in the SSC.


Karen completed a BSc in Psychology (1992) and a BSc in Statistics (1994) from the University of Calgary. From the University of Waterloo, she received an MMath in Statistics (1995) and a PhD in Statistics and a Certificate in University Teaching (2001). In 2003, after a MITACS-funded postdoc at the Tanenbaum-Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Karen returned to Calgary to join the Alberta Cancer Board as a research scientist. 


Karen also holds adjunct appointments at the University of Calgary in the departments of Mathematics & Statistics, Oncology, and Community Health Sciences. Within her Alberta Health Services department Karen leads the Data Support and Statistical Support units, planning for computational, statistical and personnel needs as well hiring and supervising staff for these units. She has supervised and co-supervised students at undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels, in diverse areas including biology, cancer biology, epidemiology, computer science, biostatistics and statistics.


As a long-time member of the SSC Karen has served with distinction on numerous committees including as a member of the SSC Election and the Fundraising committees, as Liaison Associate Editor, and as Secretary and President of the Biostatistics Section. She was Faculty Co-Chair of the inaugural 2013 Canadian Statistics Student Conference which is now in its 8th year. She is currently serving her second term as Regional Representative for Alberta, British Columbia and the Yukon on the SSC Board of Directors. Karen’s involvement has enabled the region’s ideas and concerns to be raised at a national level, creating initiatives and numerous opportunities that especially benefit statistical communities in the West.


Karen has been an active organizer of workshops and invited sessions at the SSC Annual Meetings including several career sessions for students. She was Local Arrangements co-chair for the 2019 SSC Annual Meeting at the University of Calgary and initiated the Advanced Biostatistics, Statistics and Actuarial Science Graduate Scholarship there, based on the SSC gift to the UC departments of Mathematics & Statistics and Community Health Sciences. 


Beginning in 2015 Karen initiated and organized the biannual Workshops on Advanced Statistical Methods at the University of Calgary Biostatistics Centre (UCBC). Through her national and international network of researchers and collaborators, eminent statisticians have visited the University of Calgary and given one- or two-day workshops on cutting-edge statistical topics and applications. These workshops have been a boon to University of Calgary students and to students joining online, providing unique educational, leadership and team-building opportunities beyond the classroom. Statisticians, data scientists and analysts from both government agencies and industry have provided updates to their knowledge and expertise. These workshops put local statisticians and the profession on the map and have substantially raised UCBC’s profile in the local, national, and international statistics community.


Another high-impact statistical community engagement initiative is the founding of the Rocky Mountain Data Science Network (RMDSN) in 2017, a joint venture between the University of Calgary, led by Karen and Rob Deardon, and the University of British Columbia-Okanagan, led by John Braun. The RMDSN brings together researchers, clinicians, health scientists and members from several health organizations and is a designated Health Science Collaborating Centre (HSCC) of the Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (CANSSI). As one of 11 such HSCCs in Canada, RMDCN aims to promote interdisciplinary collaborations that advance research through the development and application of innovative statistical methodologies that meet the research needs of the health community. An important component of this initiative is the training of biostatistics graduate students. Karen is leading the internship-training program of RMDSN, for which she has developed training guidelines and marketing materials, identified appropriate projects and solicited applications from students. To date this program has funded ten students in various placements in Calgary and Kelowna where they have obtained real-world experience in the art and science of data analysis.


The citation for the award reads: 

"To Karen Kopciuk, for exemplary service for over 15 years to the Biostatistics Section, the SSC Board and several SSC committees; for her efforts to support students and trainees through career events and for co-founding the Canadian Statistics Student Conference; and for her efforts to support members of the statistical community through activities from the Rocky Mountain Data Science Network, a CANSSI Health Sciences Collaborating Centre."