Letter from the Dean

The future of Math

As we head into the summer, the University of Waterloo and the Faculty of Mathematics are looking to the future. Throughout 2022, the University of Waterloo asked the question: What do we aspire to be known for by our 100th anniversary in 2057?

Many in our math community, including alumni, participated in these discussions. The result is the vision Waterloo at 100, which draws inspiration from the words of the University’s first president Gerald Hagey, who said:

I cannot perceive a time when the universities will not be challenged by new requirements from our society. Equally, I cannot foresee a time when the University of Waterloo will be so hidebound by tradition that it cannot adjust itself to providing education to meet these needs.

Waterloo can only stay true to its identity by continually changing–by adapting to an ever-evolving world and addressing new challenges as they emerge.

At the core of Waterloo at 100 is a vision of how we will deploy our unique differentiators to create a better future. We imagine five global futures–societal, health, sustainable, technological and economic–that are aligned with our academic and research strengths and outline how, through cross-disciplinary collaboration, we’ll set about to achieve them. The Faculty of Mathematics will play a leading role in the realization of all five global futures. After all, mathematics, statistics, and computer science are foundational to today’s technologically-advanced society and developing solutions to any major problem will require deep expertise in these fields. 

Looking at the stories in our Spring E-Ties gives me confidence that there is nothing in our bold vision that we cannot achieve. 

Waterloo at 100 envisions us building on our unconventional foundation, which includes our world-class strengths in fundamental and applied research. In this issue, we feature the remarkable story of how Associate Professor of Computer Science Craig Kaplan helped solve a nearly 60-year-old problem. Craig and a team of researchers discovered the einstein tile, a geometric shape that does not repeat itself when tiled. The only caveat was that it required reflections to do so, but shortly after this initial breakthrough, Kaplan and his team discovered another aperiodic monotile that did not require reflections. It’s a story that has captured the imagination of audiences globally and has been featured in the pages of the New York Times (1, 2), among other major publications.

Entrepreneurship will remain a major focus as we build toward 2052. To this end, the Faculty of Mathematics continues to expand our already extensive suite of entrepreneurial resources, helping students and faculty translate big ideas into world-changing innovation. This E-Ties features a perfect example of our entrepreneurial prowess: Safi, a company launched by Math students, that is creating an inexpensive, portable and easy-to-use device that will aid East African farmers in pasteurizing milk, with the ultimate goal of reducing milk-borne pathogens and illnesses. The company has received support from the Math Innovation Office and the Math Entrepreneurship Fund to do their exceptional work.

Waterloo at 100 also envisions deploying our greatest differentiator and founding innovation, our co-operative and work-integrated education program, to an even greater impact. In this issue, we feature the story of the wildly successful e-commerce company Perpetua, which was founded by Waterloo alumni Rosco Hill (BASc ’03) and Joe Rideout (BMath ’03) and is powered by Math co-op students.

During the consultation process for Waterloo at 100, diversity emerged time and time again as a key concern for our community. As a result, one of Waterloo at 100’s major objectives is to continue building an equitable and inclusive culture at the University. To this end, we feature a story about the Glow Centre at Waterloo, which, for 50 years, has been supporting LGBTQ+ people on campus and in the community. It’s an important story and one worth honouring as we celebrate Pride Month. We also highlight a recent event hosted by the Waterloo Women’s Impact Network, which featured a keynote presentation by Hilary Bergsieker, associate professor of psychology, about her research into promoting inclusivity in STEM fields. The Faculty of Mathematics and the University of Waterloo remain committed to indigenization and reconciliation. Please read more about how we are celebrating Indigenous History Month in June.

And, as always, the participation of our exceptional alumni will be essential to achieving our vision. In this issue, we feature a story about Mathies transforming the world of sports: it includes alumni Calvin Wang (BMath ’95), who is leading technological operations for the Vancouver Canucks; April Gale-Seixero (BMath ’95) and Steve Seixero (BMath ’95), who are bringing the game of curling to new audiences; and Arda Öcal (BMath '05), who is the host of Sportcentre and NHL on ESPN. Finally, Alex Hudek (PhD ’10), co-founder and former CTO of Kira Systems and Advisor to Zuva and Vigilant AI, shares his views on the use of generative AI to solve problems.

I hope you enjoy the stories in this issue of E-Ties. We look forward to connecting with you in the near future as we embark on this exciting next chapter of our history.

Warmest regards, 

Mark Giesbrecht 
Dean, Faculty of Mathematics