Monday, November 30, 2020

Waterloo mourns Pearl Sullivan

Pearl Sullivan laughs as she holds a microphone up to a robot's mouth.

By Carol Truemner. This article was originally published on Waterloo Stories.

Pearl Sullivan, the University of Waterloo’s former dean of engineering and the first woman to hold the position, died on November 28 after a 12-year battle with cancer.

Just the fourth woman across Canada to head a school of engineering, she was a dynamic force for Waterloo Engineering and the entire University.

Under her leadership from July 2012 to December 2019, the Faculty reimagined engineering education and research with revolutionary spaces and transformative programs that will ensure Waterloo remains a leader in engineering well into the future.

Pearl Sullivan.A champion of the Faculty’s work in disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, nanotechnology, robotics and wireless communications, she expanded the potential for industry collaboration and government support in key areas of research.

Passionate about supporting students, she was dedicated to ensuring they had a full understanding of engineering principles as well as the tools and facilities they needed to succeed.   

In 2015, she launched the Faculty’s Educating the Engineer of the Future Campaign and worked tirelessly to achieve its ambitious goals of building Engineering 7 (E7) and providing students with enhanced experiences to help them achieve their aspirations.

In addition to lecture halls, study areas and special spaces for project work by students in growing undergraduate programs, Engineering 7, opened in October 2018, includes the two-floor Engineering Ideas Clinic™ for hands-on design challenges and activities to help teach theoretical concepts.

Pearl Sullivan opens the doors to Engineering 7.

Pearl Sullivan opens the doors to E7 in 2018. 

Compassionate and caring leader

Mary Wells, Waterloo Engineering’s current dean of engineering, said Sullivan was a beloved dean, department chair and faculty member.

 “She was a force of nature, always fearlessly working to advance Waterloo Engineering and the opportunities of our students and faculty members,” said Wells. “As a compassionate and caring leader, Pearl could rally her team to the causes that would matter most.”

Wells said Sullivan prided herself in being a strong voice for women and in ensuring full diversity and inclusion in engineering.  

“She was also a strong advocate for entrepreneurship who worked to both elevate and champion our entrepreneurial students and alumni,” Wells said. “She is irreplaceable and the memory of her personal strength will always be a beacon of courage for us all.”

An original who pushed boundaries in her field

Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, said he was devastated to hear of Sullivan’s passing.

“There is no doubt that Pearl left an indelible mark on the Faculty of Engineering and the University of Waterloo, but most importantly, on her students, friends and colleagues,” said Hamdullahpur. She exemplified how one can combine vision, determination, resilience and hard work and deliver it in the most caring and passionate way. That’s how Pearl did everything she put her brilliant mind and kind heart into it. 

“Pearl was an original and made a positive impression on me from the first time I had the pleasure of meeting her to the last. She was an exceptional scholar in her own right, pushing the boundaries of her field, but it was clear to anyone who worked with her that she was dedicated to helping others thrive and accomplish great things. You saw it in how she talked about what engineers of the future could achieve for our global society and it make that vision a reality.

"My thoughts are with Pearl’s family and friends and share in their grief. Our community has lost a giant, Canada has lost a great Canadian and I have lost a friend. I will miss her so much.”

Pearl Sullivan at E7 groundbreaking

Pearl Sullivan, second from left, takes part in the ground-breaking ceremony for Engineering 7 with then engineering student and president of EngSoc Hannah Gautreau, far left,  University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur, second from right, and then PhD candidate in mechanical and mechatronics engineering Elahe Jabari, far right. 

Distinguished academic career

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Sullivan studied both in Singapore and Canada. She received her BASc with distinction and MASc degrees in metallurgical engineering from the Technical University of Nova Scotia.  After earning her doctoral degree in materials engineering from the University of British Columbia, she started her academic career at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore in 1991. 

She returned to Canada in 1994 to join the mechanical engineering department at the University of New Brunswick, where she was twice honoured with the UNB Faculty Merit Award for Excellence.

In 2004, Sullivan came to the University of Waterloo as a mechanical engineering professor and served as chair of the mechanical and mechatronics engineering department from 2006 until January 2012.

She was the founding director of the collaborative graduate program in nanotechnology within the Faculties of Engineering and Science. In 2009, she was recognized for her accomplishments with the University’s Outstanding Performance Award.  Sullivan was inducted into the Canadian Academy of Engineering as a Fellow last year.

Devoted to family and her students

In a 2019 interview, Sullivan said as dean she was interested in learning about the issues and achievements of multiple portfolios, including teaching and research, undergraduate and graduate studies, international and outreach engagements, and the workings of the entire University.

“I particularly enjoy developing strategy and advancement/fundraising projects and executing major strategic initiatives,” she said. “But I must say, spontaneous meet-ups with our students, especially in their design and classroom activities, along the hallways and in the elevators are the most fun.”

When asked what advice she’d give herself as a first-year engineering student Sullivan said “you worked very hard to get into Waterloo Engineering and you will work even harder to get out of Waterloo Engineering.  But every bit of your sweat will be absolutely worthwhile.”

Sullivan devoted her life to the education of young minds and the care of her beloved family — husband Tom, a Waterloo civil and environmental engineering project manager, her son Michael (Emma) and daughters Veronica and Christina.

She will be remembered for her love of family, students and colleagues along with her boundless energy, enjoyment of running, dancing and fun music (especially K-pop), belief in the importance of healthy food, and her well known disdain for doughnuts, but keen ability to have a second helping of dessert.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a celebration of her life will be held at a later date at the University of Waterloo.

Waterloo Innovation Summit will look at green innovation

Waterloo Innovation Summit banner with the word "Recover" highlighted.

The latest edition of the Waterloo Innovation Summit is taking place today.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the environmental impact of 21st century capitalism. National economies have declined, but in response, air quality in some major cities has improved — illuminating the imperative to balance sustainable financial growth with sustainable environmental impact. Accelerating green innovation and supporting sustainable enterprises can fuel financial growth while ensuring our planet’s future.

Join the conversation as keynote speakers, panelists, and Waterloo researchers and experts lead a conversation on how organizations and industry leaders can rethink our nation’s economic recovery by leveraging lessons and breakthroughs from green innovation in the post-pandemic world.

This afternoon, join panelists Tom Rand, Waterloo alumnus and author of The Case for Climate Capitalism and Kathy Bardswick, President and CEO of Canadian Institute for Climate Choices as they explore the business case for climate capitalism and how to leverage breakthroughs from green innovation in the post-pandemic economy.

See the full list of speakers and register. The event takes place from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. today

New screening requirement for accessing campus

Changes to the COVID-19 screening assessments necessary to access campus go into effect as of today.

"We are updating our COVID-19 screening processes to align with regulations the Ontario government recently announced," said a memo from Director of Safety Kate Windsor that went out to the University community on Friday. "With this new level of accountability placed on institutions by the Province, we are making a COVID-19 screening assessment mandatory for every individual who comes to campus, including essential visitors and contractors, and we will now be tracking compliance."

What does this mean for you?

Effective Monday, November 30, you must complete the new screening questions before accessing campus. You will get an email with a link to the screening tool when your device connects to the campus wireless network (eduroam) or at the arrival time entered if using the manual Campus Check-In form.

  • If you pass the screening questions, you may access campus, following established safety practices.
  • If you fail the screening questions, you must return home to self-isolate immediately. You will receive a follow up email from the University outlining support resources and next steps.
  • If you do not complete the screening questions upon arriving to campus, you will receive reminders to do so until complete. We will monitor compliance with the screening questionnaire and your access to campus may be removed if you fail to complete the assessment.
  • For those employees without access to Campus Check-In via mobile device or computer, please speak to your supervisor about how to verify your daily screening status. This can be done by printing a paper copy of the form, available here.

What does this mean for essential visitors?

  • Essential visitors (e.g., contractors, vendors, visiting researchers) must complete the screening when arriving on campus. If you are the University contact for an essential visitor who has been approved to access campus, you are responsible for ensuring they are screened prior to entering any University building.
  • Essential visitors can use the Campus Check-In system as a guest. Paper copies of the screening questions and instructions for implementing will be made available at common arrival points, and can be found here online to print.
  • If an essential visitor does not pass the screening questions, they will be advised that they are unable to enter the workplace and should self-isolate and call their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario.
  • If they become symptomatic while on campus, they must leave immediately and inform their University contact of the situation (as well as their health care provider or Telehealth Ontario).

"The privacy of our community is of utmost importance," Windsor's memo continues. "Policy 46 - Information Management and the Guidelines on Use of Waterloo computing and network resources protect any personally identifying information that eduroam collects. Information collected via the new screening tool will be retained on a University database for 30 days before being deleted. The University will not store individual responses to the questions but will track overall “pass/fail” screening results. These results will be shared directly to the University’s Safety Office. Paper copies of the Essential Visitor screening will be retained for 30 days before being shredded."

Link of the day

50 years ago: George Harrison's All Things Must Pass

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Updated Course templates are now available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Independent Remote Course Design Essentials. Self-directed, continuous self-enrollment course in LEARN.

Remote Course Design Essentials, beginning Wednesday, November 11. 

NEW - Getting Started in LEARN, Wednesday, December 9, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.   

NEW - Getting Started in LEARN, Thursday, December 10, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

Stay informed about COVID cases on campus by consulting the COVID case tracker.

The Writing and Communication Centre is rolling out virtual services and programs for fall term: 

  • Undergrad students -- work with us to brainstorm, draft, revise, and polish assignments by meeting with our writing advisors in virtual appointments. Chat with our friendly and knowledgeable peer tutors in our virtual drop-ins and PJ-friendly writing groups. Or experience an online workshop at your own pace. 
  • First-year Warriors! Check out Waterloo Ready to Write to build your skills for writing success.
  • Graduate Students -- meet with an advisor in a virtual appointments, take an online workshop,  join the grad writing community at our Virtual Writing Cafés and #WaterlooWrites groups, develop your academic voice at Speak Like a Scholar, or make progress on your thesis at Dissertation Boot Camp.
  • Instructors and faculty -- Request and access WCC workshops for use in your courses, join a virtual writing group, or speak with a writing advisor about a writing project.

We understand that these circumstances can be troubling, and you may need to speak with someone for emotional support. Good2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline based in Ontario, Canada that is available to all students. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment.

The Library has published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre facilitates the sharing of Indigenous knowledge and provides culturally relevant information and support services for all members of the University of Waterloo community, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty.

WUSA supports for students:

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at

The Bike Centre – Now open by appointment for your bicycle repair and rental needs in the Student Life Centre. 

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at More information at

WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home. Free programming including Online Fitness, Health Webinars, Personalized Nutrition and more from Warriors Athletics and Rec. Open to students, staff, faculty and alumni. Register today.

Renison English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle, until December 2020. Join your fellow Warriors, donate blood and help us win the Blood Battle against Laurier for a second year in a row. Set up a profile or add the PFL code: UNIV960995 to your account if you have a account already. Questions? Contact

University Christmas Project is seeking sponsors for clothing and gifts for children in need. Contact Christian Girodat at for information on how to participate.

Take the UN75 survey. Waterloo International is asking the Waterloo community to fill out a survey to gather your perspectives about the state of global governance and where it should be headed. If you have questions, contact Aisha Shibli.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, Wednesday, November 25 to Friday, December 10.

Waterloo Innovation Summit, Monday, November 30, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Giving Tuesday, Tuesday, December 1.

Geographies of Threat, Cities of Violence: Shaw-Mannell Lecture with Rasul Mowatt (Indiana University Bloomington). Friday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

NEW - QPR Mental Health Training for Faculty and Staff , Monday, December 9, 9:30 a.m., Online – Register on GoSignMeUp.

PhD oral defences

Recreation and Leisure Studies. Rasha Salem, "Being in the Moment: The Role of Cultivating Mindfulness in Enhancing Subjective and Psychological Well-being." Supervisor, Steven Mock. Email AHS Graduate Administration,, for a copy. Oral defence Friday, December 4, 9:00 a.m.

History. Timothy Clarke, "Threads of Memory: A Culture of Commemoration in Kenya Colony, 1918-1930." Supervisors, Doug Peers, Whitney Lackenbauer. Available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Tuesday, December 8, 11:00 a.m.

Computer Science. Thi Xuan Vu, "Homotopy algorithms for solving structured determinantal systems." Supervisors, George Labahn, Eric Schost. Thesis available from MGO - Oral defence Wednesday, December 9, 10:00 a.m.

Statistics and Actuarial Science. Menglu Che, "Empirical Likelihood Methods for Some Incomplete Data Problems." Supervisors, Peisong Han, Jerry Lawless. Thesis available from MGO - Oral defence Wednesday, December 9, 1:00 p.m.