Thursday, October 21, 2021

Doctoral candidates to be celebrated at Convocation PhD reception

A Congratulations UWaterloo Grad lawn sign.

Fall Convocation begins tomorrow, and the University of Waterloo takes pride in recognizing the achievements of undergraduate and graduate students. 

It is a substantial and distinguished honour to be awarded a PhD, becoming an expert in a field of the graduate’s choosing. To recognize this impressive feat, a live, online reception to celebrate the 2021 PhD graduates will take place tonight at 7:00 p.m. Guests, including supervisors, family, and other supporters, will be invited to watch this reception. The event will highlight the distinct accolades of the newest doctors and outline the titles of their theses.

Speaking at the event will be President and Vice-Chancellor Vivek Goel, Vice-President, Academic & Provost James W.E. Rush, Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs Jeff Casello, and Shihab Chowdhury, Alumni Gold Medal Winner in the Faculty of Mathematics. Additionally, the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies from each Faculty will be part of the proceedings.

Graduate names will be showcased on-screen and a special address from the Alumni Gold Medal recipient will be made during the celebration.

A collage of six graduating PhD students.

Six outstanding new doctorates as of fall 2021 have been chosen to share about their academic journeys — how they got here, what they did here, and where they are going. You can read their stories in a special article on Waterloo News.

Waterloo, Madrid and Buffalo collaborate on climate action

Four participants in an online video call.

A message from Waterloo International.

With partner institutions in Spain and the United States, the University of Waterloo is catalyzing discussions regarding how networked universities can best advance climate action.

The University of Waterloo is a member of the University Global Coalition (UGC), which was formed in 2019, to foster engagement, leadership, and collaboration amongst universities in support of the Sustainable Development Goals both locally and globally through their education, research, and service missions.

As part of their contributions to the Coalition, the University of Waterloo, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, and the University at Buffalo worked together to identify more than 30 national and international higher-education networks focused on or connected to climate change. They also highlighted the networks’ geographic and thematic dimensions.

“It is highly encouraging to see a clear and growing recognition of higher education’s essential role in tackling the climate crisis, as evidenced by the growth and proliferation of these networks at many scales.”, reported Mat Thijssen, director of sustainability. “However, we have also noted that this could have the potential to dilute efforts, and it is essential for networks to step beyond generating interest and collaboration and towards meaningful impact."

The collaboration presented their results at the recent UGC 2021 Annual Gathering (28 September 2021).  Invited to lead the closing plenary session, Professor Ian Rowlands – Waterloo’s associate vice-president, international – moderated discussion amongst representatives of the three partners:

  • Jenna Phillips, University of Waterloo: Previously a co-op student at the University of Waterloo’s Sustainability Office, Jenna’s work included major contributions to the report.  She is currently a fourth-year undergraduate student in the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability and the Sustainability Commissioner for the University.
  • Netra Mittal, University at Buffalo, SUNY: A senior majoring in economics and mathematics, Netra works as a student assistant for UB Sustainability, aiding with the university’s Climate Action Plan (CAP).
  • Anxo Sanchez, Climate Strategic Initiative, Universidad Carlos III Madrid (UC3M): A professor of mathematics at the Polytechnic School of UC3M, Anxo is one of the leading promoters of UC3M’s Climate Strategic Initiative, a group of researchers committed to interdisciplinary research, specialized education, knowledge transfer and policy advice on climate change.

The three universities’ partners are continuing their collaborations to advance SDG13 – both through their engagement in networks and through their portfolio of activities within their respective campuses.  For more information about the report, which is expected to be published later this year, contact Mat Thijssen via email at

Speeding into history

The Waterloo student team with their autonomous racecar.

Brian Mao (centre) and Ben Zhang (second from left) pose with teammates and their autonomous racecar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

By Brian Caldwell. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

Two students at the University of Waterloo expect to be part of history this weekend when an autonomous, million-dollar racecar they helped develop drives itself around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.

Brian Mao and Ben Zhang are members of a four-university team set to compete with rivals from around the world for a US $1-million top prize at the Indy Autonomous Challenge on Saturday.

“This is something nobody else has done before – take autonomous vehicles up to those kinds of speeds,” said Mao, a master’s student in applied mathematics. “There are a lot of unsolved problems that have to be tackled.”

Brian Mao, left, and Ben Zhang work trackside during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Brian Mao, left, and Ben Zhang work trackside during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Ten teams representing 21 universities will put modified Dallara AV-21 racecars through their paces at Indy, the largest sports venue in the world, as the culmination of a competition that included several simulated races.

Students from nine countries have been working since 2019 to program driverless cars equipped with the latest sensory equipment so they are capable of negotiating the track on their own at high speeds. Waterloo is the sole Canadian school involved.

“The only control we have is an emergency button,” said Zhang, a master’s student in electrical and computer engineering.

Mao (BASc ’20, mechanical engineering) and Zhang (BCS '20, computer science) have been in Indianapolis for about six weeks, working full-time to integrate software developed by their team into the actual racecar.

Mao (left) and Ben Zhang with their million-dollar Dallara AV-21 car.

Mao (left) and Ben Zhang with their million-dollar Dallara AV-21 car.

“Honestly, it’s amazing just seeing it in person,” Mao said of the stadium. “The track is so big that after the first turn, we won’t even be able to see our car. We have to watch it on several monitors.”

Waterloo initially had a team of its own called WATORACE, but joined forces with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pittsburgh and the Rochester Institute of Technology to pool resources and expertise due to the complexity of the project.

The core of the Waterloo contingent, a subgroup of student design team WATonomous, also includes software engineering undergraduate Kyle Anderson, computer science undergraduate Ryan Larkin and Rollen D’Souza, a PhD student in electrical and computer engineering.

Mao, 23, of Newmarket and Zhang, 24, of Vancouver will be part of a six-person pit crew for their car when the final race – the details of which are still being worked out by organizers – is staged. It was one of just four that didn’t crash in the final simulated race in June.

“We are confident it will go around the track at high speed,” said Zhang. “We have tested it multiple times. What we’re still a bit unsure of is its obstacle avoidance manoeuvre.”

Organized by Energy Systems Network and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and backed by a long list of sponsors, the event is meant to advance technology for the commercialization of autonomous vehicles and advanced driver-assistance systems.

Waterloo’s joint team backed off its original goal of a 180-mph top speed to improve safety and complete the race unscathed.

“We’re both nervous and excited at the same time because we’ve put in so much time and care so much about this,” Mao said. “We really want to make sure we don’t crash the car.”

Cybersecurity Awareness: multiply your defenses

A message from Information Systems & Technology (IST). October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the UW Information Security Services team will be bringing you some simple hints to allow you to be cyber secure.

Two-factor (2FA) or multi-factor (MFA) authentication require you to prove your identity in an additional way. At UWaterloo, we use the Duo 2FA system which can require a response from your smartphone to authenticate yourself after entering your passphrase to an online service. Other companies, like Apple, Dropbox, Google, and Facebook, also allow you to make use of 2FA to help prevent unauthorized access to your accounts.  Make use of these methods when available.

You can find lists of some major organizations and companies that support 2FA, with instructions on setting up access, at these web sites:

Your Daily Inspiration continues and other notes

Keeping Well at Work Daily Inspiration banner.

Today's Daily Inspiration

Be part of the first comprehensive Equity Survey at UWaterloo

The Equity Office offers us an incredible learning stream to build your knowledge, skills and awareness related to equity and anti-racism.

They are asking all of us to help create a complete picture of the makeup of our campus through an Equity Survey. The learning outcomes will create opportunities for positive change now and in the future. Your participation matters! Take the survey in just 5 minutes now or before October 31. You can access your personal link through Learn, Portal or Workday.

See all Daily Inspirations on the Keeping Well at Work conference site. Questions and contest entries can be sent to or tweet @OHDuwaterloo.

Professor Karen Sunabacka..The 2021 Benjamin Eby Lecture will be delivered by Associate Professor of Music, Karen Sunabacka tonight at 7:30 p.m. During "Composing Louis Riel's Dream: Exploring the history of the Red River Settlement through family stories and music," Professor Sunabacka will discuss her Métis heritage, a number of her compositions, her inspiration for the pieces, her challenges, her collaborations with her mother Joyce Clouston, and the ways her music has been received. Register for the event.

This year's program will be held virtually, with a video presentation, and a Q&A to follow.

The Benjamin Eby Lecture is an annual lecture that presents the research of a faculty member at Conrad Grebel University College. It is named after Benjamin Eby (1785-1853), an early educator and Mennonite church leader in Waterloo County.

Upcoming office closure

Campus Wellness will be closed today from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for a staff meeting.

Link of the day

Trafalgar Day

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 looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (

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

Course templates are 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):

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 has virtual services and programs to help undergrads, grad students, postdocs and faculty members with academic writing.

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action (CCA) is offering some in-person services for fall 2021. The Tatham Centre is open with front-desk support, limited in-person appointments and co-op consults. Services are also available virtually. Book an appointment online or Live Chat with our Client Support Team. The CCA is here to help.

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 TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

While the Library continues to focus on digital resources and consultations, our spaces are open for the fall term. Dana Porter Library is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Davis Centre Library is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for drop-in individual study space, bookable individual study rooms, drop-in access to computers and printers, book pick-up services and IST Help Desk support. Special Collections & Archives and the Geospatial Centre will be accessible by appointment. Library staff are available for questions via Ask us. Full details on current services and hours are available on the Library’s COVID-19 Update webpage

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 Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: or visit the SVPRO website.

The Indigenous Initiatives Office is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the university Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support  - MATES, Glow Centre, RAISE, Women’s Centre - Visit to book an appointment either in person or online for the Fall term!

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH and all residences.

Co-op Connection all available online. Check for more details.

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 caps@wusa.caMore information is available.

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 (Online Fitness)

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

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

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

Women's Entrepreneurship Week 2021, Monday, October 18 to Friday, October 22, Virtual Speaker Series, details and a link to the virtual talk will be sent to those who register through Zoom.

WaterTalk: Water Resources and Food Supply Chains, Presented by Megan Konar, Thursday, October 21, 10:00 a.m.

THRIVE: Shadowboxing, Thursday, October 21, 12:00 noon (Warrior Field). Free for students, staff and faculty. Register now.

Problem Lab and Faculty of Environment event, “Finding Your Triple Bottom Line,” Thursday, October 21, 5:30 p.m., Zoom.

Arriscraft Speaker Series: Designing relations with land featuring Brian Porter & Tiffany Shaw-Collinge, moderated by Mkomose (Andrew Judge), Thursday, October 21, 6:00 p.m. Register for this event 

Fall Convocation PhD reception, Thursday, October 21, 7:00 p.m.

2021 Benjamin Eby Lecture, “Composing Louis Riel's Dream: Exploring the history of the Red River Settlement through family stories and music”, Thursday, October 21, 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College. Virtual event.

Fall Convocation ceremonies, Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23.

2021 Gairdner Lecture, Acting Early: From Developmental Science to Scalable Prevention, Friday, October 22, 2:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. Please register in advance.

Lectures in Catholic Experience, "Religion and Vaccine Hesitancy in the Age of Anxiety," Friday, October 22, 7:30 p.m.

Warriors Football vs. Western, Saturday October 23, 1:00 p.m. Think Pink in support of the Breast Cancer Cause at the Canadian Cancer Society, Donor Appreciation Day. Purchase tickets.

NEW- Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business Work-in-Progress Seminar series, Monday, October 25, 1:30 p.m.

NEW - W Store Essentials MC Grand Opening, Tuesday, October 26 and Wednesday, October 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day. Mathematics and Computing building, room 3009.

WaterLeadership training seminar: Create engaging virtual presentations, Presented by Elise Vist, Tuesday, October 26, 1:00 p.m.

Board of Governors Meeting, Tuesday, October 26, 1:30 p.m.

Pivot-RP Training Session for Waterloo faculty and staff who support research proposal development. Tuesday, October 26, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Please register to receive a link to this session on Teams.

Emergency: The Citizen’s Guide to Climate Success – The 2021 Hagey Lecture, Wednesday, October 27, 8:00 p.m. Register to watch the livestream.

PhD oral defences

Computer Science. Mustafa Abualsaud, "Users, Queries, and Bad Abandonment in Web Search." Supervisor, Mark D. Smucker. Thesis available from MGO - Oral defence Thursday, October 21, 8:00 a.m.

English Language and Literature. John Yoon, "Stories in Play: Narrative Formation in Sports and Esports." Supervisor, Ken Hirschkop. Thesis available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Friday, October 22, 10:00 a.m.

Chemistry. Damin Kim, “Characterization of the Conformation and Internal Backbone Dynamics of α-Polyglucans by Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence.” Supervisor, Jean Duhamel. This thesis has been deposited in the Faculty of Science Graduate Office, PHY 2013. Please visit our Thesis Submission Notices for details on requesting a copy. Oral defence Wednesday, October 27, 4:00 p.m.

Physics & Astronomy. Tomáš Gonda, “Resource Theories as Quantale Modules.” Supervisors, Robert Spekkens and Florian Girelli. This thesis has been deposited in the Faculty of Science Graduate Office, PHY 2013, and is available for perusal until Tuesday, October 26. Please visit our Thesis Submission Notices for details on requesting a copy. Oral defence Tuesday, November 2, 9:00 a.m.