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Dean's message

This month in Math - September 2020

We’ve been preparing for the Fall term like no other we’ve experienced before. We have a hybrid of on-campus classes for some, and remote for the majority. Without the in-person Math 101 Day for incoming undergraduate students, the Student Success Office and the faculties worked to develop the Waterloo Ready program. Our incoming undergraduate Mathies are the most engaged students in terms of how many are working through the Waterloo LEARN content and interacting with the peer mentorship program. Our incoming students are also working through problems on Piazza.

We are also seeing success with our incoming undergraduates taking the new MTHEL 199 course that we developed to make sure that every student was well prepared regardless of where they were in the world or curriculum when COVID-19 shut down schools. After only two weeks, about 600 students finished the course, and more than 2,000 were continuing to work through. Thanks to Shane Bauman and the secondary school teachers monitoring Piazza, the average response team is eight minutes.

Some of our students have already moved onto campus. Thank you to all of you who volunteered to help welcome them as part of move-in. Orientation kicks off today for both our undergraduate and graduate students. The first online orientation has lots to offer our students, and we will still be holding a virtual tie ceremony and teaching everyone the Math dance.

The CEMC generally holds three conferences throughout the summer to help math teachers prepare for their school year. Because of COVID-19 this year, they held one online conference to provide an opportunity for teachers to connect and learn from each other. Over 1,000 teachers registered for 19 different sessions.

On September 14, we’ll be holding an event to bring our whole community together to launch the Waterloo Math Digital Community. This secure platform, created in honour of Scott’s Vanstone’s memory by his wife Sherry Shannon-Vanstone, gives the Faculty of Mathematics and its alumni the ability to track their academic industry, connect with each other, engage and collaborate with industry experts and academics, and presents the collective impact of the Faculty of Mathematics. We’ll kick it off on Scott’s birthday at 4 PM with a fireside chat with Michele Mosca and moderated by our new Director Innovation and Research Partnerships, Camelia Nunez.

The Waterloo Math Digital Community will be a new place where you can share your achievements. We have several achievements to share with you now.

Chris Bauch’s research has also been appearing prominently in the news, including Global News, the National Post, the Toronto Star, CTV and CBC. The study by Chris and PhD student Brandon Phillips used a mathematical model to explore ways class sizes and student-to-teacher ratios can influence the number of infections and student-days of closed classrooms in Canada.

Also in the news, Rapid Novor co-founded by Bin Ma (Computer Science) received a $5 million investment and our favourite TikTok star, student Kyne Santos (Mathematical Finance) appeared on NBC News and MSN Canada.

We also celebrate three of our researchers from the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization who are part of four of the remaining post-quantum “Round 3 Finalists” for public-key encryption and key-establishment algorithms candidates in the NIST post-quantum process. The process started with 69 valid submissions, and now there only seven finalists left. John Schank is the co-submitter on two of the schemes, and Douglas Stebila and David Jao are both members of teams for two other schemes.

We have several new appointments in the Faculty of Mathematics to start the Fall term. Glen McGee joins the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science as an assistant professor, and Toshiya Hachisuka joins the Cheriton School of Computer Science as an associate professor. Two definite-term lecturers also join us, Faisal Al Faisal and Dan Holtby, in the Math Undergraduate Office (MUO) and Cheriton School of Computer Science, respectively. The MUO also has two new Advisors, Colleen Richter moved from the Dean of Math Office to the MUO on August 24, and Greg Campbell will make the switch from the Faculty of Arts on September 14.

Join me in welcoming our new faculty, staff, and students to a new school year!

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht