In Loving Memory of Prof. Melvin J. Hinich: I

I am deeply saddened by the news that Prof. Melvin Hinich has passed away on Sept 6, 2010 (click here). It is really touching to read through the sharing of those he has influenced either as a researcher, mentor, teacher, or friend (see here). At this moment, I find it difficult to use the right words to describe my sadness.

Mel is a world class scholar whose publications traverse four fields: the spatial theory of voting in political science, time series analysis in statistics, political economy and regulatory issues in economics, statistical theory and methods in engineering (you may read his Wikipedia entry here).

Mel was a great mentor and teacher. When I worked on my master thesis in 2002, I saw the potential of his bispectrum test in addressing the research question. However, I did not have the skills to write the computer code.  I was then trying my luck to see if Mel could share his code. Unexpectedly, given his busy schedule, he responded my email and attached his FORTRAN code. He even invited me to meet up during his visiting trip to Singapore the following month. I was in a state of disbelief that a world class professor would meet up with a master student from a Malaysian university. Without much hesitation, I grabbed this rare opportunity and took a train from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. We didn’t talk much in that short meeting, as I was in awe of his reputation. But he was patience enough to demonstrate the execution his bispectrum test.

After coming back from Singapore, I wrapped up my master thesis within the next 2 weeks. During the viva voce, the examiner has very few comments, and the thesis was granted a pass with minor corrections. I subsequently extracted a paper from the thesis, and invited Mel to be the third author (my supervisor M. Azali was the second author). He promptly responded with a ‘yes’, and told me that he liked the paper very much. Unfortunately, the three referee reports from Macroeconomic Dynamics suggested major revisions, and eventually we did not resubmit. Mel still kept a copy of this working paper in his website (click here). Despite the setback, this first collaboration has given me the much needed confidence to kick start my academic career.

I have known Mel for 8 years, and it is impossible to share those wonderful moments in this short posting. As I walk down the memory lane, I will compose some thoughts in his loving memory. He has been an inspiration and role model to me, and no word can describe my gratitude to him.

By Kian Ping