Richard J. Cook named fellow of the Royal Society of Canada

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Richard Cook

Richard J. Cook, a professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, has been named a fellow the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). The prestigious RSC award accentuates Cook’s storied academic career and voluminous research portfolio.

Cook’s primary research is in the development and application of statistical methods for public health. His specific areas of interest include the analysis of life history data, longitudinal data, incomplete data, sequential methods, multivariate analysis, clinical trial design and the assessment of diagnostic tests.

Among his many accolades, Cook holds a Faculty of Mathematics Research Chair, was appointed University Professor and held a Canada Research Chair on two separate occasions. Cook tirelessly served the university and the academy more broadly as an editor for several journals and on numerous professional committees. He was recently a committee member for the Convalescent Plasma Trial for COVID-19 Respiratory Illness (CONCOR-1).

Cook has published two academic books and more than 300 articles in scholarly journals. His 2007 book, The Statistical Analysis of Recurrent Events, co-authored with Jerry Lawless, is the standard reference in its field. He has supervised some 70 postdoctoral, doctoral, master’s and undergraduate research projects.

Asked about the significance of the RSC fellowship, Cook directed praise to those who helped him along the way.

“This is a consequence of me being fortunate to work with exceptional mentors, colleagues and graduate students,” he said. “I’ve been treated very well by the university and benefit greatly from administrative support. I’m grateful for that.”

“I also think it’s particularly nice that this is an award for statistical sciences,” Cook continued. “It’s an important discipline that isn’t always top of mind when people are thinking about math or health. But it’s the framework and language for scientific research, so the recognition for the discipline is gratifying and important.”

Although Cook’s academic career has taken him around the globe for research and lecturing appointments, he has been affiliated with Waterloo’s Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences since 1989, when he completed his master’s degree. He also completed his PhD in the department in 1993.

“I had a great mentor and supervisor, Vern Farewell,” Cook said. “We continued to work together after my PhD until his recent retirement. I’ve also collaborated a lot with Jerry Lawless, a distinguished professor emeritus from our department, who is supportive and brilliant and enthusiastic. If you’ve been fortunate to have been well mentored, you want to pay it forward, so I take a lot of joy and satisfaction in working with my students.”

“In academic life, you sort of keep your head down and do your work, but it’s the people that make the big difference. An award like this brings that into focus and makes me feel so grateful for all the people I’ve worked with along the way.”

Founded in 1882, the RSC comprises the Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences, and the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. The RSC recognizes excellence, advises the government and the larger society, and promotes a culture of knowledge and innovation in Canada and other national academies worldwide.