Walaa Moursi wins Early Researcher Award

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Walaa Moursi

Walaa Moursi, an assistant professor in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, was named among this year’s winners of the Early Researcher Award. 

The Early Researcher Award program, administered through the province of Ontario, assists promising, recently appointed researchers to build their research teams. This year, three faculty members with links to the Faculty of Mathematics were among the winners. 

Moursi is a continuous optimizer, with research interests in convex analysis and its application to optimization algorithms, in particular splitting algorithms. Her recent work analyzes the behaviour of these methods in the absence of minimizers and/or convexity. Both situations are hard to analyze but common to encounter in real-world applications. 

“What I love about math is its beauty and elegance,” Moursi says. “The beauty of optimization is to be able to bring mathematical theorems into the world in a practical way. Many of these elegant theorems are applied with success to solving real-world problems.” 

Part of what excites Moursi most about the Early Researcher Award is that it provides an avenue to pass that love of mathematics to students and other researchers. Along with being a mark of distinction, the Early Researcher Award specifically allows a faculty member to add to their research team by recruiting graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.  

The extra funding can also support members of the research team attending conferences and even going out into the schools to work with younger students. Moursi sees the schools outreach component of the award as a way to “promote the excitement and beauty of math to the next generation.” 

“I learned so much from my advisors, collaborators as well as my students,” she continues. “The beauty and usefulness of math is something I want to pass on.” 

Moursi says this pedagogical and community outreach element of her work always brings to mind a quotation from the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss: 

“It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not the possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment.” 

Moursi also says she is especially grateful for all those who have helped her along the way. Her supervisors, her colleagues and chair in the Department Dr. Jochen Koenemann and also the many administrative staff who support her work.

“I also benefit from the wonderful staff in the Office of Research,” she says.