SSC Gold Medalist 2023

Charmaine Dean
SSC Gold Medalist

The Gold Medal is awarded to a person who has made outstanding contributions to statistics or probability, either to mathematical developments or in applied work. The award is normally awarded to someone still active in research. The recipient should be Canadian or a permanent resident of Canada, and must have made high quality research contributions to the statistical sciences in Canada. A recipient of the Gold Medal must be a member of the SSC.

Charmaine Dean is a Professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Waterloo.

Charmaine was born in Trinidad and received a BSc in Mathematics from the University of Saskatchewan in 1980, and an MMath in Statistics from the University of Waterloo in 1984. She received a PhD in Statistics in 1988 from the University of Waterloo, under the supervision of Jerry Lawless, and her PhD thesis was titled “Mixed Poisson Models and Regression Methods for Count Data.”

After completing her PhD, Charmaine spent one year at the University of Calgary in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.  In 1989, she moved to Simon Fraser’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics, and subsequently became the founding chair for the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at Simon Fraser. Charmaine was also Associate Director of the Institute for Health Research and Education, and the Associate Dean for the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser.  Charmaine was Burnaby Mountain Chair from 2006 to 2011.  

In 2011, Charmaine became Dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Western Ontario and joined the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences.  In 2017, she accepted a position in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science at the University of Waterloo, in addition to the position of Vice-President, Research & International, where she continues today. 

While at Simon Fraser, Charmaine applied herself to developing a diverse research program, focusing on research in the development of methodology for disease mapping, longitudinal studies, the design of clinical trials, and spatio-temporal analyses. Much of her work has been motivated by direct applications to important practical problems in biostatistics and ecology. Charmaine’s main research applications were in biomedical areas such as long-term survival after coronary artery bypass surgery, mapping disease and mortality rates, mixture models for disease mapping, and spatial smoothing methods for disease mapping.  She began a focus on environmental research programs including topics in water quality monitoring, forest ecology, fire management, fire occurrence prediction, smoke exposure estimation from satellite imagery, and modeling of temporary and intermittent stream flow for flood analysis and predictions.  Charmaine also continued her work on Poisson models for count data, Poisson process models for recurrent event data, and methods for spatially correlated data analysis.

Charmaine’s contributions to wildland fire science and management deserves special mention.  Her work in fire science began with an exciting collaboration in 2005 with the Martell Firelab at the University of Toronto, where her students were encouraged to spend time in the field studying under fire researchers and practitioners.  Charmaine drove a multi-disciplinary approach and was instrumental in making connections between statistical scientists and students and the scientists in industry and government agencies.  Her focus on the spatio-temporal modelling of the fire environment with application to human and lightning caused fires made several important contributions to wildland fires science. Her work with Braun and Martell and the national fire science network they led developed methodology to investigate changes in the trends of the timing of the fire season and supported the extension of the official fire season in the province of Alberta.  Charmaine was part of a steering committee led by Natural Resources Canada in 2017 - 2019 to develop a blueprint for Fire Science research in Canada. As fire seasons are becoming longer and fire events are becoming more severe, the purpose of the committee was to address issues surrounding the fact that the capacity of wildland fire science and technology in Canada is not keeping pace with the growing complexity of wildland fire. 

More recently, Charmaine has investigated topics such as joint modelling techniques for both medical and environmental applications, including transplantation, forest fire occurrence prediction and predictions for growth of fires, and methodological papers on joint modelling techniques for zero-heavy data and recurrent event data.  She is also working with wastewater scientists to bring a statistical focus to analysis of viral signal in wastewater data.

Mentorship of students has been an important facet of Charmaine’s research program, and she has supervised 12 postdoctoral fellows, 18 PhDs, and 20 MSc students.   Her publications demonstrate the importance of collaboration with other scientists and also her long-term commitment to research programs.  Charmaine has had a long-standing interest in promoting a robust interdisciplinary learning environment for her students, focusing on openness and encouraging communication, while allowing time for students to expand their knowledge in the topic of study.   This allows a focus on developing new methodologies for real world solutions that fit the problem under study.  Charmaine has recently trained many PhDs and postdoctoral fellows in fire science who have gone on to initiate their own research programs in fire science.

Charmaine’s work has been recognized with several major awards including Fellow of the American Statistical Association, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics.   Charmaine has also contributed much of her time in service to such organizations as the SSC, NSERC, and the International Biometric Society.  She has also held associate and senior editorship roles with journals such as Environmetrics, Statistics in Biosciences, Statistics in Medicine, and Biometrics.  

Charmaine is passionate about equity, diversity and inclusion and mentorship of women. She also cares deeply about motivating her team and seeks to inspire them toward even greater success.

In her spare time, Charmaine enjoys walking, spending time in nature and trying different kinds of vegetarian food – and the beach holds a special place for her.  She is devoted to her family and loves to engage in gaming nights and going to concerts with family members. 

The citation for the award reads: 

"To Charmaine B. Dean, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to statistical methodology and applications including survival and longitudinal analyses, disease mapping, and spatio-temporal modelling; for her important novel contributions to fostering truly collaborative interdisciplinary statistical and wildfire research; and for her research leadership in Canada."