Friday, January 15, 2021

Waterloo joins National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity

The University of Waterloo has joined the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD). This membership fulfills one of the anti-racism commitments made by Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor, in 2020. 

Founded in 2010, The NCFDD is an independent professional development, training and mentoring community that offers a variety of workshops, courses webinars, and other resources on topics ranging from career development, writing and research funding to advice and guidance on empowerment and anti-oppression. Based in the United States, the organization has a number of international member institutions, including Canadian universities and colleges.  

David DeVidi, associate vice-president, academic (AVPA), explains that this membership is just one step in support of equity and anti-racism at the University. “That already makes this launch important in my books. But I’d urge all faculty, grad students, staff and post-docs to have a look at the NCFDD programming. A lot of people will find something they can use. We’re also hoping to use the new partnership as an opportunity to publicize some of the internal programming and support available on campus that people might not know about.” 

An overview of NCFDD resources is listed on the AVPA website, including a summary of overlapping or complementary resources available at Waterloo. Membership is open to anyone with a University of Waterloo email address.  

To claim your free Institutional Membership, complete the following steps: 

  1. Visit
  2. Choose your institution from the drop-down menu.
  3. Select “Activate my Membership.”
  4. Complete the registration form using your Waterloo email address (i.e.
  5. Check your Waterloo email account to find a confirmation/welcome email. Click “Activate Account” in the email. 

If you have questions about the membership, contact David DeVidi, associate vice-president, academic at or Jeff Casello, associate vice-president, graduate studies and postdoctoral affairs at If you have any technical questions, email NCFDD at

Computer Science professor named 2020 ACM Fellow

Professor Ihab Ilyas.

Ihab Ilyas is a Professor in the Cheriton School of Computer Science and the NSERC-Thomson Reuters Research Chair on Data Quality. His research focuses on big data and database systems, with special interest in data quality and integration, managing uncertain data, machine learning for data curation, and information extraction.

This article was originally published on the Cheriton School of Computer Science website.

Professor Ihab Ilyas has been named a 2020 ACM Fellow for his contributions to data cleaning and data integration.

The Association for Computing Machinery is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM fellowships are conferred to the top 1 percent of the association’s members, and the prestigious recognition indicates excellence in technical, professional and leadership contributions that advance computing, promote the exchange of ideas, and further ACM’s objectives.

This year the Association for Computing Machinery named 95 members as ACM Fellows for wide-ranging and fundamental contributions in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, computer graphics, computational biology, data science, human-computer interaction, software engineering, theoretical computer science, and virtual reality, among other areas. Fellows are nominated by their peers, with nominations reviewed by a distinguished selection committee.

“Congratulations to Ihab on receiving this much-deserved recognition from ACM,” said Raouf Boutaba, Professor and Director of the Cheriton School of Computer Science. “His fundamental contributions to data cleaning and data integration have had significant and lasting impacts, both in shaping the direction of data systems research and in the development of technologies adopted by industry.”

Professor Ilyas completed his PhD at Purdue University in 2004. He joined the Cheriton School of Computer Science as a faculty member later that year and is a core member of the School’s Data Systems Group. He has made fundamental contributions to database technology, in particular to rank-aware query processing, uncertain data management, and data cleaning. Early in his career, he pioneered the notion of rank-aware query processing, providing new scan and join operators that rank query results. He proposed an effective cost-based optimization framework that integrates these processing operators in relational database engines.

Professor Ilyas and his cadre of students were the first to define the problem of ranking uncertain data, where the record membership, the score values or both are uncertain. This work launched a new line of research in the database community to better understand the interplay between data uncertainty and ranking requirements by users.

“I’m honoured to receive ACM’s recognition as a Fellow and thank the Cheriton School of Computer Science for supporting my nomination,” Professor Ilyas said. “This recognition would not be possible without the diligent work of my awesome graduate students over the years as well as that of my talented colleagues and collaborators. I am grateful to all of them.”

Since 2009, Professor Ilyas has focused on data quality and the technical challenges in building data-cleaning systems. His group introduced novel practical algorithms and system prototypes. This work circumvents the limitations of previous data-cleaning solutions that either narrowly focused on single types of data errors or simply ignored many real-life considerations that prevented their adoption.

He led construction of NADEEF, the first extensible and open-source data cleaning system that allows users to declare a heterogeneous set of integrity constraints to a backend that holistically detects and suggests repairs for data violations. His group also introduced FastDC, the state-of-the-art algorithm to mine for denial constraints from dirty data and captures most business rules in practice. With his colleagues, Theodoros Rekatsinas and Christopher Ré, and his former PhD student, Xu Chu, he introduced HoloClean, an open-source a statistical inference engine to impute, clean and enrich data. HoloClean compiles both statistical signals and declarative constraints as learning features, and has proved superior to all previous data repair proposals. The work has been commercialized and deployed in multiple large enterprises as a strong proof of real-world impact.

Professor Ilyas has published his contributions in leading journals, including ACM Transactions on Database SystemsVLDB Journal, and the Proceedings of the VLDB Endowment, and at top database conferences, including ACM SIGMOD, VLDB, and IEEE International Conference on Data Engineering. He coauthored Data Cleaning, an ACM book published in July 2019 that serves as a reference for researchers and practitioners interested in data quality and data cleaning. He has also coauthored several influential surveys — A survey of top-k query processing techniques in relational database systemsProbabilistic ranking techniques in relational databases: synthesis lectures on data management, and Trends in cleaning relational data: consistency and deduplication.

Professor Ilyas is an elected member of the VLDB Endowment Board of Trustees and an elected SIGMOD Vice Chair.

Professor Ilyas co-founded two companies based on his research — Inductiv, a Waterloo-based start-up, now part of Apple, that uses AI for structured data cleaning, and Tamr, a start-up focusing on large-scale data integration and cleaning.

Over his career, Professor Ilyas has been recognized with multiple awards. He won a Government of Ontario Early Researcher Award in 2008, was named an IBM CAS Fellow from 2006–10, held a Cheriton Faculty Fellowship at the University of Waterloo from 2013–16, received the Google Faculty Award in 2014, and was named an ACM Distinguished Scientist in 2014. Since 2018, he has held the Thomson Reuters-NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Data Cleaning. In 2020, he was named a Faculty Affiliate at the Vector Institute.

Winter Noon Hour Concerts to focus on songs and stories

Noon Hour Concerts at Home banner image.

by Jace Jaeden Ellis.

Music plays an important role in the Conrad Grebel University College community, allowing audiences and musicians to share and experience stories told through song and the hearts of passionate artists. After a successful Noon Hour Concert Series@Home in the fall, Grebel’s concerts will continue in the same format this winter 2021 term. Grebel is very thankful to Staebler Insurance for sponsoring this series.

“Although it is hard not to be able to attend the concerts in person, the fall’s virtual series showed that concerts and music-making can continue,” said Karen Sunabacka, associate professor of music at Grebel and coordinator for the Noon Hour Concert series. “Tuning into the Grebel Noon Hour Concerts@Home offers a good mental health break in the middle of the week. It is free, and is a way to engage with the Grebel Community virtually. The music and conversations will help to enrich the lives of each person who tunes in!”

“This winter series has a lot more of a focus on local musicians,” Sunabacka added, “and I am excited to share the talent from our community.” One such concert, Love’s Course, will be performed by three of the University of Waterloo’s recent Music major graduates: Janelle Santi, Caroline Schmidt, and Devin Hilliker. Their performance will feature songs describing a cycle of love artistically paralleled by themes of nature evolving through the seasons.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, the concert, Phenomenal Women! performed by flautist Laurel Swinden and renowned pianist Stephanie Mara will premiere on March 3. Lauren Swinden has embraced a broad and impressive career as a recitalist, orchestral musician, pedagogue, clinician and a music scholar. In addition, she teaches the flute at the University of Waterloo and has been praised for her sweet and distinct tone.

Concerts are posted on the Grebel YouTube Channel most Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. and will remain there for future access. Sunabacka added that “this means that people can watch from anywhere and those who couldn’t attend when the videos premiered, are able to enjoy the concert at a time that works best for them wherever they are.”

Get ready for our first of the winter series on January 27 at 12:30 p.m., a concert that Sunabacka said “is particularly unique.” Titled Still Singing – Women and the ‘Voices Together’ Hymnal, member of the Mennonite Song and Worship Committee, Anneli Loepp Thiessen will be performing alongside Joanna Loepp Thiessen. Over four years of hard work, Anneli assisted in choosing hymns for the Voices Together hymnal, and with her help, the hymnal has reached soaring new heights and contains nearly twice as many female composers as the previous Mennonite collection. This will be the first of many creative and inspiring performances.

Noon Hour Concerts may have gone virtual, but the pandemic cannot stop the Grebel community from getting together and enjoying the amazing talent of this year’s artists.

View the Music events page for more details.

Beyond the Bulletin Episode 73

Beyond the Bulletin banner image featuring vintage microphones.

The latest episode of the Beyond the Bulletin Podcast is now live. Natasha Rozario, a third-year student of computer science, found a way to cut wait times once hospitals can resume elective surgeries. The results appear in the Canadian Journal of Surgery in her first-ever paper. In light of the stay-at-home order from the Government of Ontario, only work that cannot be done from home should take place on campus. Organizational and Human Development launches the winter term speaker series, beginning with Liane Davey, who creates high-performing teams. And You+Waterloo replaces the BEYOND brand expression for Waterloo.

Link of the day

40 years ago: Scanners

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. Support for Winter 2021 is available.

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.

Getting Ready to Facilitate Online Courses: TA Training, Monday, January 18, 2021, 8:30 a.m. to Friday, February 12, 4:30 p.m. 

LEARN for TAs (CTE6550), Monday, January 18, 2021, 1:30 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.

Whether you’re student or faculty, the Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help you with your academic writing needs. 

  • Undergraduate students - come brainstorm, draft, revise and polish your assignments with us by meeting with one of our writing and multimodal communication specialists at a virtual appointment. Chat with our awesome peer tutors at our virtual drop-ins, PJ-friendly writing groups and Instagram Live Q&As. Or check out our online workshops at anytime, anywhere.
  • Graduate students - meet with one of our advisors at any step of the process at our virtual appointments. Take an online workshop at anytime, or join a virtual writing session at our Virtual Writing Cafés and #WaterlooWrites groups.
  • All UWaterloo instructors and faculty can request and access WCC workshops for use in your courses. You can also 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

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. 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

Warrior Reset, January 11 to February 4. Free online program with three live fitness classes per week along with tips, tricks and worksheets to help you define your path to better health while being part of an online community. Register by January 10.

IT Seminar: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Update, Friday, January 15, 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Join online

Mathematics presents Virtual Networking in Academia, Monday, January 18, 9:30 a.m.

University senate meeting, Monday, January 18, 3:30 p.m.

More Feet on the Ground Mental Health Training for Faculty and Staff, Tuesday, January 19, 9:30 a.m.

Benefits plan information sessions, Tuesday, January 19, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Register online.

Launching a Waterloo chapter of the Canadian Indigenous Science and Engineering Society, Tuesday, January 19, 12:00 p.m.

Portfolio & Project Management Community of Practice (PPM CoP) session, "Project Management Community at uWaterloo in 2021" Wednesday, January 20, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Register for this event

Benefits plan information sessions, Wednesday, January 20, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Register online.

Concept Intro Session: The Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, Wednesday January 20, 6:00 p.m., Virtual Event.

Master of Taxation Virtual Information Session, Saturday, January 23, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Register at

Gender Differences in Waterloo Graduate Engineering Student Experiences, Monday, January 25, 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., online/virtual.