Yvan Bedard: UMaine PhD Led to Major Success

Yvan BedardOn Thursday, Sept. 18th, University of Maine alum Yvan Bedard, PhD returned to the school to give a presentation entitled
Beyond GIS: Spatial On-Line Analytical Processing and Big Data
. Dr. Bedard recently retired from a very successful career as a Professor of Geomatic Sciences at Université Laval, where he had worked since graduating from UMaine.

Dr. Bedard attended UMaine from 1983 to 1986 in order to obtain his doctorate. At the time there was no School of Computing and Information Sciences, so he pursued a PhD in Civil Engineering, focusing in geospatial data. He was the first person to receive a doctorate in the geospatial field at the University of Maine.

The goal of his PhD research was to explore the quality of geospatial data, and answer the question: why can’t we have perfect data? Although he moved away from the subject for several years, much of Dr. Bedard’s recent research has dealt with geospatial data quality.

Dr. Bedard started college at the Université Laval in Quebec, pursuing a career in land surveying, but his plans changed due to the economic crisis of the 70s and 80s, which lead to few jobs in the field. At the same time, Dr. Bedard learned about exciting opportunities for individuals willing to pursue a graduate-level degree in the broader field of land information systems. So he altered his plans and decided to attend graduate school. After receiving a Masters degree, he attended UMaine to further his education and pursue a doctorate in the rapidly emerging field of spatial information science and engineering.

When Dr. Bedard came to UMaine, his doctoral advisor, Earl Epstein, and co-advisor, Tom Deschano, were working on a project for the United States government analyzing the user-end value of geodetic networks. A geodetic network is essentially a series of precisely located points on the Earth’s surface, with fixed locations in relation to each other. The network is used to measure and represent the Earth through coordinate data points which serve as the control for today’s geographic information systems (GIS) and navigation systems.

To understand the value of the geodetic data, one must first understand the quality, accuracy, precision, and fitness of the data for various uses. This is where Dr. Bedard’s research came into play. He worked on analyzing why it is impossible to have perfect data and what factors affect the quality of the data once it reaches the user.

After completing his PhD research, Dr. Bedard returned to the Université Laval where he was hired as a professor. Beyond teaching, he worked on research creating system design methods for geographic information systems. When he started his research, geographic information systems were relatively new and few research-driven design methods existed. After researching GIS design methods for several years, Dr. Bedard moved on to work on the merging of business and GIS technologies for 15 years.

In 1993, while working at Université Laval, he founded a company named Intelli3. The company specializes in spatial business intelligence, providing strategic advice and consulting, as well as software development, for companies dealing with spatial data and technologies. His former graduate student research assistants are now heading the company, while Dr. Bedard still does some research and consulting for Intelli3.

After finishing with work on merging technologies, his research came full circle. For the past five years, Dr. Bedard returned to working on improving GIS data quality and the expansion of the early work he did while pursuing his PhD at UMaine.

Now he is officially retired from his job at Laval, and is teaching landscape and wildlife photography classes. In addition to teaching classes, he also has a photography gallery in Quebec city. He decided to retire from the university because he turned 55 last year, and when he was younger he said, “at 55, I will change careers. I don’t know what I will do, but I will do something else. There are too many exciting things to do in life, I cannot just do one thing.”

To all who read this, especially students, Dr. Bedard says, “Look forward and go ahead. There are so many opportunities. Go ahead and do what you like.”

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