This Month in Math - Dean's message

September 2023

Dear Faculty of Mathematics colleagues,

It’s September and the beginning of the new academic year. In the coming days I’ll be attending orientation events and looking forward to connecting with all my great colleagues after the summer “break”!

The patterns of academic life can sometimes make it seem that everything is staying the same. But one thing I’ve learned in my time as dean is that everything is constantly growing and changing in the Faculty of Mathematics.

One example is the Financial Analysis and Risk Management (FARM) program. FARM was originally offered and piloted as part of our trailblazing Math Business and Accounting Programs, and as of earlier this year has become a flagship program in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science.

Alongside the many popular programs already offered in Statistics and Actuarial Science, the newly incorporated FARM program is exceeding all expectations, now having more than 900 students enrolled. It’s an extraordinary success and a testament to the work of the team of faculty members who have created and stewarded it, in terms of program design, teaching, and advising.

Then there’s the newly constituted Math Undergraduate Group (MUG), which was recently formalized as a faculty group in Math with a focus on undergraduate pedagogy and teaching. It’s an innovation in our organization and helps us deliver the kind of teaching and learning experience that is truly transformative for students. Check out a Q&A with Sean Speziale, the Director of MUG, to learn more. MUG is now a key part of the Faculty of Math structure, and joins the CEMC alongside our four departments, the School of CS, and our Math academic support units. We are working hard to establish good governance and practices which will ensure Math’s vibrancy, viability, and academic leadership well into the future.

The Faculty of Math is also growing and changing in the ways it supports entrepreneurship through Math Innovation. What’s emerging is a uniquely Math approach to entrepreneurship, which was described in a recent article as entrepreneurship for everyone. It’s an approach to entrepreneurship that inspires new students to use mathematical thinking to address the big challenges, whether that’s through joining a startup or through technological innovation.

All the change and growth in the Faculty of Mathematics is part of a critical engagement with our world. We continue to rise to the challenge, showing the ways that mathematics and mathematical thinking are key drivers of change in 2023 and beyond.

And so, dear colleagues, here’s to another outstanding academic year for the Faculty of Mathematics, where we’re leading innovation in research, teaching, and service to our community.

Math Strategic Framework

Consultations for the new Math Strategic Framework close soon! I encourage all Math employees and students to contribute, so that your diverse perspectives and priorities can help shape the framework that will guide our decisions and strategic actions in the coming years.

If you haven’t yet shared your thoughts, please consider taking a few minutes to complete the anonymous online consultation tool or drop into a virtual or in-person session. Email to get the online tool link or information about an upcoming drop-in session.

If you’d like any more information about the Math Strategic Framework or the process to develop it, email


With the start of the new academic year, there are several events happening in the Faculty of Math throughout September:

  • September 13 – Women in Math Welcome Party for undergrad students. Undergraduate students who identify as female or any under-represented gender in Math are welcome to join and hear from Math administrators. Check out the registration page with more details here.
  • September 14 – Women in Math Welcome Party for faculty members, graduate students, and postdocs. Graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members who identify as female or any under-represented gender in Math are welcome to join for refreshments and hear from MATH administrators. Check out the registration page for more details here.
  • September 18 – Math Faculty Reception, 5:30 to 8:00 PM. Faculty members are reminded to register for the upcoming reception, which will introduce new faculty members, celebrate retirees, and note some of the outstanding awards our faculty members won this past year. Make sure to register here.
  • September 20 – Math + workshop. The Faculty of Mathematics will host a Math+X Inter-Faculty Research Workshop with a theme on Data+Computation for the 5 Global Futures, on Wednesday September 20, 2023, 9:30am-2:00pm, in DC1301/1304.  Registration closes Sept. 13. More information here.
  • September 21 – Key Clues kickoff event, 2:00 – 3:30 in the DC Fishbowl. Key Clues is returning for its second installment, bigger, better, and with more mischief-making geese than ever before! If you like puzzles, or you don't know if you like puzzles, then this is the event for you. Key Clues is a puzzle hunt of epic proportions, running from Wednesday September 27 to Tuesday October 3. More info here.
  • September 26 – Book Club. Our September book is In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. We will be meeting on September 26 at 12:00 in MC 5201 to discuss the book. Everyone is welcome! We have a few copies of the book available to sign out at the front desk in the Dean’s Office for anyone who would like to borrow one. If you have any questions, contact Fiona McAlister, the Faculty’s Events Manager:

A little further out at the beginning of October, we will be hosting other events of interest:

  • October 4. – Dean’s Town Hall. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.
  • October 5 – Key Clues wrap-up event. When we find out the next team whose name will go on the Enigma Cup!
  • October 6 – Cheriton Symposium. Stay tuned for more details coming soon.

Math Research Office

The Math Grad Office (MGO) will now be taking over managing activities related to postdoctoral fellows (previously managed by the Math Research Office). Any questions related to postdoctoral fellows can be directed to

Outreach and media

In August, Ian VanderBurgh, Director of the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC), visited India as part of an outreach trip. He attended conferences and engaged with educators and school leaders to facilitate the exchange of best practices in mathematics teaching. A focal point of his trip is an invited address at the International Career and College Counseling (IC3) Conference and Expo which took place August 23 and 24. Check out two op-eds Ian penned for Indian media as part of the trip here and here.

In the past month, CEMC also hosted a student workshop and two educator conferences on campus for participants from across Canada. The Exploring Mathematics and Computer Science (EMACS) Workshop for grade 11 students provided 32 participants with the opportunity to connect with other highly skilled mathematics students, renowned faculty members and University of Waterloo students. This week-long workshop offered sessions on advanced problem solving, social engagements, and a glimpse of university life. 

The Summer Conference for Computer Studies Educators provided 50 computer science and computer technology educators a wonderful chance to network with other educators, learn new skills and brainstorm classroom activity ideas. Approximately 100 educators attended the Summer Conference for Mathematics Educators in Waterloo, a popular conference for math educators teaching grades 7 to 12, with sessions focused on curriculum, problem solving, extensions and enrichment. Around 100 educators registered for virtual versions of both the educator conferences.

Check out some of these other great stories about the Faculty and its people:

  • Adventures in education. All about Math students studying abroad. Read more here.
  • Are you breaking your body clock? A media release featuring Stéphanie Abo, a PhD student in Applied Mathematics. Read more here.
  • Maura Grossman, Professor in the Cheriton School of Computer Science, was featured in several media pieces related to her research and expertise in AI and misinformation. Check out a few of the articles herehere, and here.

Faculty awards and accolades

Congratulations to our wonderful faculty members who won awards or were recognized for their research and teaching in the past month.

  • Professor Emeritus Robert L. Brown has been named a Senior Fellow in the National Institute on Ageing at Toronto Metropolitan University.  This will allow Robert to continue his research into Financial Security for retirees in times of rapid demographic population ageing.
  • Diana Skrzydło, our Math Faculty Teaching Fellow, has recently won the Robert V. Hogg Award for Excellence in Teaching Introductory Statistics. Congrats Diana!
  • A special issue of Applied Set-Valued Analysis and Optimization, Volume 5, Issue 2 was dedicated to Combinatorics and Optimization Professor Henry Wolkowicz on the occasion of his 75th birthday. The special issue was titled "Recent Trends in Optimization Methods and Their ApplicationsDedicated to Henry Wolkowicz on the Occasion of His 75th Birthday." Read more here.
  • Combinatorics and Optimization Associate Professor Luke Postle was an invited plenary speaker at the European Conference on Combinatorics, Graph Theory and Applications (EUROCOMB'23). Read more about the conference here.
  • Combinatorics and Optimization Associate Professor David Gosset was one of the organizers of the Park City Math Institute 2023 program and graduate summer school on quantum computation. Read more here and here.

Student awards and accolades

Please join me in congratulating some of our outstanding students for winning academic awards or being recognized for their achievements in the past month.

  • This fall, the University of Waterloo is welcoming the latest cohort of Schulich Leader Scholars, four of whom will be studying computer science. Read more about these outstanding first-year students here
  • Applied Mathematics PhD student Andrew Grace won the Tertia M. Hughes prize from the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society for his PhD thesis. He was co-supervised by Marek Stastna, Kevin Lamb, and Andrea Scott.

Faculty appointments and retirements

Welcome to our new faculty members:

  • Samuel Jaques, Assistant Professor, Combinatorics and Optimization (started Aug 1st)

All the best to our colleagues who are retiring or taking up new roles:

  • Adam Kolkiewicz, Professor, Stats and Act Sci, retired effective July 1
  • Ghazal Geshnizjani (research associate professor) left the Applied Math Department on August 21 to start a new position at the Perimeter Institute

 Administrative appointments:

  • Yuying Li took up the role of Associate Director, Graduate Data Science Program
  • George Labahn took up the role of Director, Computational Mathematics
  • Yu-Ru Liu took up the role of Director, Women in Math (as of Aug 1)

Staff hires and departures

New Hires:

  • Eric Bembenek (MUO) moved from a contract position to ongoing role as an Instructional Support Coordinator, beginning on August 1.
  • Bruno de Lima Barbosa joined the MUO, on contract, as an Instructional Support Coordinator on August 10.
  • Owen Woody re-joined the MUO, on contract, as an Instructional Support Coordinator on August 14.
  • Sara Almadhoun joined Computer Science, on contract, as a Graduate Coordinator on August 14.
  • Shoshannah Holdom (SAS) has joined Computer Science as the Undergraduate Studies Manager on August 28.
  • Bill Duggan (SAS) has accepted a new position within the FINCAPES team as Project Director on September 1.
  • Melissa Nantais (DOM) has moved from a contract position to an ongoing role, as Senior Advancement Officer, on September 1.
  • Dikshant Ghimire will be joining the CEMC, on contract, as an Information Systems Administrator & Developer, on September 5.


  • Jean Lowry (SAS) has retired as the Project Director, FINCAPES effective August 31.


  • Candace Harrington (DOM) will be leaving her role as Director, Advancement on September 11.

Looking forward

There are so many great things set to happen in September in the Faculty of Mathematics, and I have no doubt great things will continue to happen throughout the fall term. I’m looking forward to seeing colleagues around campus and to meeting the new cohort of students who will help to carry on our innovative mathematical spirit. Thanks to you all for the wonderful work you do in support of our students and in support of one another. Here’s to a great semester!


Yours truly,

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics