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Dominik Papinski, PhD

Head of Statistics and Data Management
Centre for Contact Lens Research at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario


Dr. Dominik Papinski got his first atlas when he was eight years old and his lifelong love for geography only grew from there. Travelling with his family to locations he first discovered in his atlas, Papinski decided to take every geography class his high school offered before enrolling in the discipline at undergraduate and graduate levels. His doctoral research at McMaster University focussed on activity travel analysis, where he analyzed GPS data collected from 2,000 households to develop algorithms that track activity-travel patterns.  For his postdoctoral fellowship, Papinski partnered up with a geography professor and kinesiologist to develop an advanced sensor and GPS tracking algorithm to accurately track calorie expenditure.  The accuracy was high compared against traditional metabolic testing.

1. How do you incorporate geography into your work?

Geography is full of data—tons of it. I have worked with files that have well over two million records and we need to parse through all of that information. Exposure to quantitative data and statistics is very important, which is why people need to branch out of their comfort zones in order to explain the data they are looking at. Exposure to large datasets helped with my data management practices at work.

2. In what ways did your programs prepare you for your career?

My stream was geared towards spatial statistics, so I would use GIS to run scripts. In our modern world, programming is important. It may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but programming is valuable in any field because you can automate your work. You can either create a map from scratch or you can program it once and rapidly replicate your work. Automation is key to making yourself more productive and marketable.

3. What resources offered by your universities helped you find a job after graduation?

The funding I received through the Mitacs Scholarship was very helpful because it reduced the financial costs of my postdoctoral fellowship. The way it works is private industry partners and the academy provide matching contributions to assist with the salary of the postdoctoral fellow. The program is beneficial for private companies because they get to collaborate on a project with an advanced academic partner, but it also helps geographers get their foot in the door and work with various corporation and organizations in Canada.

4. Do you have any advice for students wishing to attain a fulfilling career in geography?

Follow your passions and your dreams. As silly as that might sound, you need that inner motivation to carry you to your dream job and life aspirations.

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