Tuesday, November 23, 2021

University Professor Ian Munro celebrates Golden Jubilee

Professor J. Ian Munro sits in the Peter Russell Rock Garden.

This is an excerpt of an article originally published on the Cheriton School of Computer Science website.

Ian Munro joined the University of Waterloo as a faculty member 50 years ago this fall, just before defending his PhD thesis at the University of Toronto. 

Professor Munro in the early 1970sIn the five decades since then, the City of Waterloo, the number of students enrolled at the University of Waterloo, and the number of faculty in computer science at Waterloo all quadrupled. Under Don Cowan, the first chair of the Department of Applied Analysis and Computer Science as it was then called, nine faculty members joined in 1971, bringing the complement of computer scientists at the university to about 25.  

The faculty members in Computer Science were young. Only one was over 40 and at least a quarter were under 30. Ian Munro, who had just turned 24, was the youngest professor in the department. 

“I started university studies at UNB, but during my undergrad degree I went on an exchange plan to UBC from ‘66 to ‘67,” he recalls. “It was through this and summer jobs that I got into computing. When I began graduate studies, I had more computing experience than most students had — except maybe those at Waterloo.”

During his seven years of university education, Ian never spent more than two years in a row at the same university. “It’s funny in a way that I moved around a lot while in university,” he chuckled, “then got a job I’ve held for half a century.”

Ian has held numerous administrative positions at Waterloo, including Director of the Institute for Computer Research, Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies, and Associate Chair of Graduate Studies. He also served on the board of Waterloo’s Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC). In his first 30 years, he taught students at all levels of study in computer science and related disciplines, but in the past 20 years he has focused primarily on teaching upper-year undergrads and graduates in his research area.

Over his career, Ian has made many fundamental and lasting contributions in sorting, selection and data structures, including optimal binary search trees, heaps and hashing. He stayed focused on these subjects, taking an expansive view, which included text search and data streams at a time when few others were exploring these areas.

“My first research interest was in data structures — in other words, the problem of organizing data so that the necessary operation can be performed efficiently — but I drifted into perceptrons, which are a forerunner of neural networks, and into arithmetic computation,” he said. “Later on, especially after I came to Waterloo, my focus moved back to data structures.”

An important theme in most of his research has been space efficiency. Computer memories have grown by eight or nine orders of magnitude since the seventies, as have the sizes of problems a computer can solve, but as computer memory is hierarchical, space in fast memory has remained a crucial and scarce resource. If anything, the need for space efficiency is greater today than ever.

Ian has worked extensively on three types of problems involving severe space restrictions. 

“The first type of problem I worked on in the seventies and eighties was on searching in hash tables with no auxiliary memory,” he said. “The second topic was on implicit data structures, where one searches for values based on comparisons, determining which is larger, but no auxiliary information is permitted. Using such techniques, you can perform surprisingly fast searches, including find-the-next-larger searches and updates.”

The third topic, which he continues to work on today, is that of succinct data structures. 

“In the last half of the eighties and into the nineties I became involved in a project, led by Gaston Gonnet and Frank Tompa, to develop techniques and software to computerize the Oxford English Dictionary, a project that ultimately led to the creation of OpenText Corporation.”

“A data structure that allows one to search for an arbitrary phrase in a text, reporting the number of times it occurs, is essentially a reference to a list of all these points, was one of the key advances in the project,” he explains. “The runtime of the search depended only on the phrase and is independent of the size of the text. The problem was that the space requirement for the Oxford English Dictionary was about five times the memory — including disk memory — we had, although the raw data fit into about half the available memory. A simpler but space efficient structure was adopted, even though search times depended on the size of the text. The problem was that the elegant structure required representing a binary tree with its number of nodes equal to the length of the text. Standard representations are just too big.”

The solution, discovered a couple of years later, was a representation using the mathematically minimum possible space — about two bits per node — but permitting the necessary operation to be performed in constant time, an operation independent of the tree size. 

“This was when, with my graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, I began to work on similar problems of developing fast computational methods that use the minimum space.”

The cover of the conference pamphletIan’s research achievements have been recognized time and again by his peers and by professional organizations and associations. He was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2003, named a Pioneer of Computing in Canada in 2005, and inducted as a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery in 2008. In 2016, he received the CS-Can | Info-Can Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006 he was promoted to University Professor, a position the University of Waterloo established to recognize exceptional scholarly achievement and international pre-eminence. From 2000 to 2003, he held the Marsland Fellowship in Information Technology, and in 2001 he was appointed as the Canada Research Chair in Algorithm Design, currently serving his third seven-year term as its chairholder. 

In 2013, a conference at Waterloo was held in his honour, with talks given by international and Canadian colleagues as well as current and former students. A festschrift was published as its proceedings. Known as Ianfest-66, the Conference on Space-Efficient Data Structures, Streams, and Algorithms was held over August 15 and 16 at the University of Waterloo to celebrate his 66th birthday. 

In addition to his research contributions spanning some five decades, Ian has served on the boards of several technology companies. He has also remained keen to volunteer his time to introduce, encourage and nurture budding young computer scientists through his involvement with the Canadian Computing Competition, a fun challenge for secondary school students with an interest in algorithms and programming. 

“I was on the Canadian Computing Competition and later the Canadian Computing Olympiad committees from 1995 to 2015, making up the questions and lectures for those who came to the second round of competitions in Waterloo,” he said. “I was also involved with the International Olympiad in Informatics from 2000 to 2010 as a leader of the Canadian team and for three years as a member of its International Scientific Committee.”

At 74, Ian has not slowed down. 

He continues to supervise graduate students and mentor postdoctoral researchers, while educating and inspiring students and faculty alike. He has served on about 100 conference program committees and chaired a dozen. He has published more than 100 journal papers and 150 conference papers. During his five decades at Waterloo, he has mentored some 20 postdoctoral fellows, supervised 25 PhD students, and advised more than 60 master’s students, many of whom have gone on to hold prestigious positions in industry and academia.

Researchers launch new tools to help people with dementia find their way forward

Four elderly people walk along a beach.

This article was originally published on the Faculty of Health website.

Often, when a person is diagnosed with dementia, available supports are not enough. Most people feel overwhelmed, and they don't get the support, resources and help they need. A new five-country collaboration has developed Forward with Dementia to fill in those gaps and provide the individuals and their families the tools they need to move forward with their lives.

Forward with Dementia bannerThe Canadian arm of the project is co-led by Carrie McAiney, a professor in the School of Public HealthSciences and Schlegel Research Chair in Dementia at the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging. The initiative aims to improve the diagnostic experience and post-diagnosis care for people living with dementia and their family and friend care partners.

“The Forward with Dementia launch brings many in-depth resources on dementia-related topics that we currently don’t see a lot of,” said McAiney. “We aim to help people from the day they get a diagnosis, through managing symptoms, supporting well-being and everything in-between.”

In Ontario, Forward with Dementia will be launched in Waterloo Wellington. An advisory group consisting of persons living with dementia, care partners and health and social care providers have been providing advice and feedback on the website and campaign plans.

“The Forward with Dementia initiative includes the launch of a website that was co-designed with people living with dementia, care partners and health and social care providers, and a campaign to promote the core message of hope that people can live meaningful lives after a diagnosis of dementia.”

McAiney said the Forward with Dementia website includes tools such as a checklist of questions to ask health-care providers, a guide for sharing a diagnosis with family and friends and strategies to stay physically, cognitively and socially active. “The site also includes stories written by persons living with dementia and care partners that share their experiences of adjusting to the diagnosis and learning to live well with dementia.”

Forward with Dementia is coordinated by Melissa Koch, also at Waterloo, and supported by Waterloo PhD candidate Emma Conway. The next phases of the project, including evaluation and sustainability, will unfold between fall 2021 and summer 2022.

Indigenous Speakers Series presents Jean Teillet on December 2

An illustration of Jean Teillet with flowers in the background

By Professor Susan Roy.

The Indigenous Speakers Series is proud to present Indigenous rights lawyer Jean Teillet, who will virtually join us on December 2 to speak about her recent book, The North-West is Our Mother: The Story of Louis Riel’s People, the Métis Nation. Teillet is the great-grandniece of the iconic Métis leader Louis Riel.

While Canadians are generally familiar with Riel, who was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885, Teillet says, “very few can articulate what Riel did that was so wrong.” The complex history of the Métis and their role in the formation of Canada is not well understood, she adds, instead many Canadians hold “foggy recollections from school history lessons about voyageurs, the fur trade and the buffalo hunters.” The Métis and their acts of resistance are at the centre of Canadian history, and in her book, Teillet traces the emergence of the Métis Nation in the late 1790s, their role as economic powerhouses of the fur trade, and their struggles to have their rights and nationhood recognized in their traditional homelands in what is now western Canada. The North-West is Our Mother won the Carol Shield History Award and was listed as one of the Globe & Mail’s top 100 books of 2019.

Teillet grew up along the Red River in St. Boniface, Manitoba — territories of the Métis Nation. After a two-decade long career in the performing arts, including as a contemporary dancer with the renowned Toronto Dance Theatre, Jean received her L.L.B and L.L.M from the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. She is Senior Counsel with Pape Salter Teillet LLP who has long been engaged in negotiations and litigation with provincial and federal governments concerning Métis and First Nation’s land rights and self-government. Among her significant Indigenous rights cases, she served as lead counsel for the landmark case R. v. Powley in which the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed constitutional protection of Métis harvesting rights. Teillet holds numerous awards and honours, including the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Cross for service to Canada, the Indigenous Peoples’ Council award by the Indigenous Bar Association, a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Law Society of Upper Canada’s first ever Lincoln Alexander Award for community service. She holds three honorary doctorates.

In her Indigenous Speakers Series appearance, Teillet will share stories from the process of writing The North-West is Our Mother, which is based on family papers, archival research, and interviews with over 200 Métis Elders and community members. She will also discuss who the Métis people are, their homelands, and what is happening in the community today and into the future. Her talk will be followed by a moderated Q and A.

Please join us online on Thursday December 2, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. for this engaging presentation.

Launched in 2017, the Indigenous Speakers Series is organized by a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty, staff, and students from the Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre (WISC), the Dean of Arts Office, the departments of History and Communication Arts, the Office of Indigenous Relations, and the Office of Research. The series is co-sponsored by WISC and the Faculty of Arts with the support of donors to the Arts Indigenous Initiatives fund. The series highlights the voices of Indigenous artists, writers, activists, and leaders from across Turtle Island, offering UWaterloo students, faculty and staff opportunities to learn from, understand, and engage with Indigenous issues.

Giving Tuesday - we're only one week away

An illustration of several University of Waterloo community members.

A note from the Office of Advancement.

On Giving Tuesday, November 30, your gift could help unlock more than $139,000 in charitable support for Waterloo students. Or, depending on which challenge you choose, your gift could be matched dollar for dollar (to a predetermined maximum amount), essentially doubling its impact.

Take a sneak peek at our challenges to decide which ones you’ll support. Can't wait to make your Giving Tuesday gift? Any donation you make from today on will be counted in our Giving Tuesday totals, but only those made on November 30 will count toward our challenges.

WatITis conference registration deadline Thursday

WatITis 2021 banner

The registration deadline for the 2021 WatITis conference is Thursday, November 25. Register now. The conference will be held virtually.

Link of the day

40 years ago: Time Bandits

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, immigration consulting, 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 (uwaterloo.ca).

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: svpro@uwaterloo.ca or visit the SVPRO website.

The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's 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 https://wusa.ca/peersupport 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 https://wusa.ca 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 blood.ca account already. Questions? Contact WarriorsInfo@uwaterloo.ca.

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.

CrySP Speaker Series on Privacy featuring Wouter Lueks, EPFL, “Privacy-friendly presence and proximity tracing,” Wednesday, November 24, 11:00 a.m.

NEW - Registration deadline for 2021 WatITis conference, Thursday, November 25.

WaterTalk: Microplastics and Human Health: Moving the Field Forward, presented by Juliette Legler, Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Thursday, November 25, 10:00 a.m.

How I Got Into Quantum: A Graduate Student Perspective, Thursday, November 25, 4:00 p.m., Virtual Panel, streamed live to YouTube.

NEW - Concept $5K Finals, Thursday, November 25, 5:00 p.m.

Praxes of Care: Delineating nation state capital — Bonnie Devine & Luis Jacob, Thursday, November 25, 6:00 p.m. Virtual Speaker Series, details and a link to the virtual talk will be sent to those who register.

History Speaker Series presents Austerity, Experimentation and Opposition: The Global and Local Politics of Biomedical Contraception in Uganda, Friday, November 26, 10:00 a.m.

"Who doesn’t file a tax-return? Estimates of non-filing and implications for measuring and addressing poverty," featuring Dr. Jennifer Robson, Professor of Political Management, Carleton University, Friday, November 26, 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

NEW - Women’s Hockey vs. Western, November 26, 7:00 p.m. Employee Day. Free tickets available for Staff and Faculty; email WarriorsTickets@uwaterloo.ca for the coupon code. Purchase your tickets today.

NEW - WaterLeadership: Improving Bibliometrics for Early Career Researchers, presented by Laura Bredahl, Tuesday, November 30, 1:00 p.m.

W3+ presents Shop & Plan Meals Like a Dietitian, Wednesday, November 24, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., December 1, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m., online. Please note the new date and time.