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Dean's Message - February 2018

One of the highlights of January was the opportunity to hear all four of our Alumni Achievement Award winners share their success with the faculty and then celebrate together at the 31st Annual Mathematics Awards Ceremony and Dinner on Thursday, January 25. Over $1.8 million in math undergraduate scholarships were awarded this year. Congratulations again to all of our illustrious students that were recognized and thank you to our generous alumni and friends that make it possible. 

Dean Stephen M. Watt with several math scholarship winners

Graduate students also received almost $1.7 million scholarships and endowments in the last fiscal year. We are pleased to share that the university has just announced $1.5 million in new domestic graduate student scholarships. In our faculty, this will result in new scholarship opportunities for domestic PhD students, as well as additional entrance and travel awards for domestic research Master’s students.

Several faculty members were recognized in January. Congratulations to Kirsten Morris who has been elected chair of the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM) Activity Group on Control and Systems Theory for 2018-2019 and Maura Grossman who was appointed to the Balsillie School’s Artificial Intelligence and Human Rights Advisory Board.  Congratulations go to four members of the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization. Luke Postle and Peter Nelson were awarded a Bordeaux-Waterloo Research Grant and Billy Zhengxu Jin and Xhenfangrui Wu received C&O Book Prizes.

Making math and computer science accessible to everyone is a priority within the faculty. A group of students hosted StarCon, a software engineering conference, January 6-7 to foster learning and community building with people of diverse backgrounds. On January 14, Jo Atlee launched Technovation Waterloo. This exciting program guides small groups of 10- to 18-year-old girls to build an app and a business plan. It was just highlighted in the Waterloo Region Record this week.

In January, I had the opportunity to visit with several of our alumni in San Diego and in the UK. We hosted an alumni event at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM) and William Cook delivered an invited address, Information, Computation, Optimization: Connecting the Dots in the Traveling Salesman Problem. While in London, we met with several alumni individually and held a productive Alumni Roundtable, receiving useful input on a range of topics. Thank you to our alumni for their hospitality. It was a great chance to catch up and learn about what is important to our alumni on the other side of the pond.

On Saturday, January 20, three of our alumni launched a Women in STEAM event. Mayor Dave Jaworsky (BMath ‘88) and his wife Jan (BMath ‘88) came up with the idea and were helped by Adele Newton (BMath ‘78). The pilot kicked off with 100 grade 7 girls at the Institute for Quantum Computing. The girls from around Waterloo Region had the opportunity to network and be mentored by female role models in the “STEAM” industries.

The Faculty of Mathematics supported another Bridges Lecture last night – fitting for the snowy weather we’ve had, Polar Projects - Conceptualizing and rendering arctic spaces. The next one on February 28 is titled Beyond the Imitation Game – From Dieppe & James Bond to Blackberry & Quantum Encryption.

The Faculty of Mathematics was featured this month in the media. CBC, CTV, Financial Post, National Post, BNN, Metro News and Techvibes all reported on RBC funding for a cybersecurity lab in the Davis Centre, research with Raouf Boutaba, Ian Goldberg and David Jao, as well as sponsorship of Michele Mosca’s CryptoWorks21 program. In a first for the University of Waterloo, smithsonianmag.com covered research from our university, namely Chris Bauch’s research into using social media to predict disease outbreaks. In addition, Siv Sivaloganathan was interviewed on CTV News about his work with Mohammad Kohandel, Ali Madihpour Shirayeha and Kamran Kaveh using math to predict the evolution of cancer cells.

The new term brought us many new students, but also new faculty and staff members. We welcome:

  • Assistant Professor Audrey Beliveau in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science
  • Assistant Professor Omid Abari in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
  • Adriann Kennedy and Simone Larin who joined the Communications team
  • Samantha Mahoney, Advancement team
  • Donna Lutz who started as the new Director of MUO (and we will be hiring two new advisors in the MUO)
  • Jessica Bruni, Administrative Coordinator for Undergraduate Studies in the combinatorics and optimization department

As we welcomed new faces to the Math family, we were saddened to hear of the loss of one of our alumni, José Blakeley. A senior level researcher at Microsoft, José chaired an alumni campaign in Seattle, and most recently participated in our strategic plan one-on-one interviews. Our thoughts are with his family.

Stephen M. Watt

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics - University of Waterloo

Stephen Watt