Dr. Eric Grimson, BSc'75 (High Honours)

Eric Grimson

Critically-ill patients undergoing surgery and thousands of students are among the many that have benefitted from Dr. Eric Grimson's love of research and teaching.

The University of Regina is celebrating Grimson's many accomplishments in both areas by awarding him the 2011 Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes an alumnus who has distinguished himself or herself on a regional, national or international basis.

Grimson graduated from the University of Regina with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics and physics in 1975. He earned a PhD in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980.

He went on to build a career as a faculty member at MIT, culminating in his appointment as chancellor earlier this year. Prior to this appointment, he was the Bernard Gordon Professor of Medical Engineering and Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

As a researcher, Grimson has worked to develop computer systems that can be used to analyze images and infer information about them. One use of this technology is the analysis of medical images.

"Our systems build detailed, three-dimensional models of patient-specific anatomy, which are then used to provide surgeons with guidance during surgery," he says. "This enables minimally invasive neurosurgical procedures, in which the surgeon operates through a small opening, yet accurately and safely reaches and removes a tumor."

Grimson says it is extremely satisfying to know that the research he and his graduate students have done has been used in hundreds of neurosurgical cases, enabling surgeons to complete procedures in less time, with less collateral damage, and with improved patient outcomes.

As a teacher, he has focused on undergraduate education, in particular introductory courses in computer science. Over 27 years at MIT, he has taught more than 10,000 students, supervised close to 50 PhD students and was awarded the Bose Award for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Engineering at MIT.

He says this aspect of his work, whether it's been offering advice on career paths, making students aware of the exciting opportunities in science and technology or development of new curriculum, has given him great satisfaction.

In his new job as chancellor, Grimson is one of the top two academic officers at MIT. He supports the president by handling all aspects of MIT dealing with students, as well as serving as one of the senior officers responsible for MIT's strategic direction.

Guiding the development of curriculum; fostering new modes of teaching, especially those that use emerging technology; supporting entrepreneurship opportunities for students; and guiding creation of opportunities for students in areas such as athletics, public service and global experiences are Grimson's main priorities.

Grimson said his years at the U of R, and in particular the mentorship provided by some of the faculty members he encountered, helped him to grow intellectually and gave him the confidence needed to succeed at MIT.

"I was fortunate to have a set of inspiring faculty members who encouraged me to aim high, who provided me with opportunities, and who fostered a strong sense of tackling challenging situations by reasoning from basic principles," he says.

Though his career has taken him far from Regina, he is pleased to be coming back to accept this award.

"I would never have reached this point in my career without the strong foundations that I gained through my four years at U of R," he says. "Being acknowledged by my alma mater in this way is a wonderful honour."