from the Dean

I am very pleased to share with you the Fall issue of E-Ties—my first as Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics.

For those who don’t know me, I am Mark Giesbrecht, and for the past six years, I served as the Director of the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. These were some of the most rewarding years of my academic career. I worked with many exceptional faculty, staff, students, and alumni, and I saw firsthand the incredible depth of talent, collegiality and goodwill we have in our Faculty.

This past July, I started as Dean and what a time it’s been. COVID-19 has forced us to reimagine everything—from how we deliver education to conduct research to engage our community. I firmly believe, however, that the Faculty of Mathematics, with our long track record of innovation, was built for challenges like these and I have no doubt we will emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever.

With this in mind, the theme of our Fall E-Ties is an exceptional Faculty for exceptional times. It’s filled with stories that highlight the courage, ingenuity, and dedication of our remarkable students, researchers and alumni, and it provides exciting glimpses of our bright future.

Math and Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this clear: our work as mathematicians has never been more important. Math is central to modelling outbreaks, discovering new medicines, and efficiently allocating limited health resources. Here at Waterloo, we are fortunate to have some of the world’s top researchers in mathematical medicine and health care and they have been working tirelessly to combat COVID-19 and prevent the next health crisis.

Recently, Canada 150 Chair Anita Layton hosted a virtual panel discussion on the subject of math in medicine, and shed light on some of the remarkable research being done by faculty and alumni. You can read an excerpt from her opening remarks and find a video of the entire discussion here.

Racial Justice

This Spring and Summer, the world, including Canada, witnessed tragic acts of racism and racist violence, and of course this continues a sad legacy. In the wake of these events, the Faculty and University pledged to do more to create equity for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and to build an inclusive and diverse community on campus.

As part of this work, the Faculty is launching a number of Indigenization initiatives in response to the call to actions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Learn more about these initiatives and read about Alfred Simpson (BMath ’71), a retired computer programmer who is pursuing a Master’s in Indigenous and Canadian Studies and researching the origins of his childhood home, Alderville First Nation.

Gender Equity

The Faculty of Mathematics is also looking to lead the way when it comes to gender equity. Our student population is more than 40% women and we’re laying the long-term groundwork for gender parity in all our disciplines, in the student populations and amongst our faculty and researchers.

One of the ways we are doing this is through the Waterloo Women’s Impact Network (WWIN). WWIN strives to make Waterloo the best place in the world for women in mathematics and computer science to study, to support alumni currently in math and tech careers, and help cultivate the curiosity of young girls about mathematics and computer science. You can read more about the important work WWIN is doing in this story.  

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

The COVID-19 pandemic has had severe economic consequences, plunging the world into a new recession. To fuel a full recovery, Canada must lean on its innovation economy, fostering new ideas, entrepreneurial leaders, and dynamic ventures. The Faculty of Mathematics has an important role to play in this recovery. We’ve been a leader in innovation and entrepreneurship from the very beginning, and, now, in light of this new challenge, we are looking to enhance our role as an economic powerhouse.

This story showcases some of our most recent initiatives in innovation and entrepreneurship.

To close, I want to express my deep gratitude for you, our global alumni. As our ambassadors to the world, you are a major reason why the Faculty is so widely respected and admired today. In the upcoming months, I am embarking on a listening tour and hope to speak with all of you to get your thoughts on the Faculty of Mathematics. I place tremendous value on your insight and understand that to achieve our goals for the future we will depend on your passion, vision, and generosity.

One of the ways you can help the Faculty of Mathematics in the interim is to hire one of our incredibly talented co-op students. We have many new students this year and the demand for co-op positions is high. By hiring a student, you provide them with an invaluable learning opportunity while benefitting from the talent and entrepreneurial mindset they bring to your organization. To hire a student, contact hire.talent@uwaterloo.ca.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

Mark Giesbrecht