Undergraduate studies

The Combinatorics and Optimization department in Waterloo was the first of its kind in the world. To this day it remains the department with the largest concentration of faculty and researchers in the field. The department has won numerous accolades for its cutting edge research and it continues to be a leading centre for teaching and research in the theories and applications of these disciplines. We provide students with a unique set of courses that are both of theoretical interests and relevant to today’s market place.

Degree Plans

Honours in Combinatorics and Optimization

Combinatorics is the study of discrete structures and their properties. Many modern scientific advances have employed combinatorial structures to model the physical world, and recent advances in computational technology have made such investigations feasible. In particular, since computers process discrete data, combinatorics has become indispensable to computer science.

Optimization, or mathematical programming, is the study of maximizing and minimizing functions subject to specified boundary conditions or constraints. With the emergence of computers, optimization experienced a dramatic growth as a mathematical theory, enhancing both combinatorics and classical analysis. The functions to be optimized arise in engineering, the physical and management sciences, and in various branches of mathematics.

The honours plan combines courses in both combinatorics and optimization, giving students a strong mathematical foundation in both areas. This plan provides students with a great deal of flexibility in selecting courses, allowing students to strengthen their expertise in an area of their choosing.

Our alumni have found employment opportunities across a wide range of industries, reflecting the wide range of applications of combinatorics and optimization. It spans the spectrum from National Defense to Disney World. Industries where our students are currently employed include:

  • Finance and banking
  • Insurance
  • Software and hardware
  • Telecoms
  • National Defense and government services
  • Academia and Secondary education
  • Engineering firms
  • Oil and gas
  • Retail and hospitality services

Many of our undergraduate students pursue graduate degrees. For more information on our graduate programs, visit our graduate students page.

Honours in Mathematical Optimization

Mathematical Optimization is the field of mathematics that deals with the problems of management in business and government. It involves constructing mathematical models of complex real world situations and then applying sophisticated techniques to these models in order to make optimal, or near optimal, decisions. The three major components of the discipline of Mathematical Optimization are Optimization, Statistics, and Computer Science.

The honours plan in Mathematical Optimization combines a solid foundation in mathematics with special sequences of courses in economics, business, and management science. The mathematics portion of the plan includes linear programming, modeling, scheduling, forecasting, decision theory, and computer simulation.

From Fortune 500 companies to startups, nearly all businesses can benefit from employees with an expertise in Mathematical Optimization. The website www.scienceofbetter.org describes Mathematical Optimization applications in industry. Industries where our students are currently employed include:

  • Finance and banking
  • Insurance
  • Manufacturing
  • Distribution
  • Health services
  • Education
  • Government agencies

Students proceeding to a Master's of Business Administration (MBA) degree find that a degree in mathematics, emphasizing Mathematical Optimization, together with relevant work-term experience, is an excellent preparation for a rewarding career. For more information on our graduate programs, visit our graduate students page.

Joint and Minor in Combinatorics and Optimization

For mathematics students, the joint plan must be combined with another joint or honours plan in the Faculty of Mathematics, and the minor plan has to be combined with an honours plan in the Faculty of Mathematics. Please see the Undergradute Calendar for a list of eligible joint plans.

If you are a student outside of the Faculty of Mathematics, the joint plan is only open to Software Engineering students, and the minor is open to all. Please contact the Undergraduate Advisor for information on how to add these plans as a non-math student.