Dean’s Message – March 2019

February has been awards season in the entertainment industry and in the Faculty of Mathematics. Math celebrated the 32nd Annual Awards Banquet on February 7.  We congratulate all the undergraduate students that were honoured – more than 200 of them – and wish them continued success. As for the entertainment industry, Math has not been left out: alumnus Arda Öcal was nominated for an Emmy.   

We are happy to announce that both Computer Science and Mathematics have appeared in the top 50 for the 2019 QS rankings. Computer Science was ranked 22nd – this is up nine spots in a very competitive category – and Mathematics 43rd. We have a few other accolades to announce as well:

  • University Professor Tamer Özsu (Computer Science) received a 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science from CS-Can/Info-Can.
  • Denise Yan, Nancy Sang, Phoenix Li, Danying Xiao, Alicia Deng, Hanson Li (all Math Business students) took 3rd place (out of 52 teams from around the world) in the prestigious Rotman International Trading Competition (RITC) held in Toronto, February 21-23, 2019. This is the highest a team from Waterloo has placed since taking part in the competition.
  • The University of Waterloo team for the 2018 Putnam Competition placed 10th. The team included Albert Gevorgyan, Anzo Teh, and Fengyang Wang. Albert scored a 73, placing him among the top 35 contestants. Four other students placed in the top 100 and received honourable mentions: Richard Kang, Gian Cordana Sanjaya, Kai Sun, and Zhenyuan Zhang.
  • Two Computer Science students, Jonathan Smith and Zi Kai Chen, participated as part of a winning team of Waterloo students at CBC/Radio-Canada’s 2019 Hackathon.
  • PhD candidate Hemant Surale (Computer Science) received a 2019 Snap Research Fellowship.
  • PhD candidate Samuel Harris (Pure Mathematics) was awarded an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship.
  • Bin Ma (Computer Science) received a $463,000 grant from Genome Canada to improve precision medicine.

We would also like to congratulate Maura Grossman in her new role as the Director of Women in Computer Science, and thank Jo Atlee for her ground-breaking work as the first in this role. Jo has asked us to remind everyone about the upcoming Sexism Response Workshop which is being hosted by WiCS, Math HeForShe and Engineering HeForShe on March 14.

Florian Kerschbaum, in his role as Executive Director of the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute, had the opportunity to speak about his area of expertise at the 2019 World Affairs Conference as part of a plenary titled Data Daycare. Florian will speak in Hong Kong on Pi Day as part of the inaugural Dean’s Lecture.

Tim Brecht, Omid Abari, Ali Abedi, Farzan Dehbashi from the Cheriton School of Computer Science hit the headlines this past month. Gadget, Science and Technology Research News, Wifi Hifi, and Digital Journal wrote about their new communication mechanism, called WiTAG, that uses battery-free sensors for smart home technologies using existing WiFi networks. Peter van Beek, also from the Cheriton School of Computer Science, was interviewed by eniday to speak about AI and an upcoming national innovation conference he’s attending in April.

Two other researchers from the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization were in the news regarding upcoming talks at conferences. Michele Mosca was featured as a speaker about Commercial QKD & Encryption at the OIDA Executive Forum and Debbie Leung was in the news with regards to her talk at the 2018 AAAS meeting on February 16. Debbie discussed the challenges of scaling quantum computing.

Our talented faculty members and students will be just one of the subjects we discuss with potential students and their families when they visit campus on March 9 for March Break Open House. Our visitors will attend sample lectures, a workshop for the upcoming Euclid contest, and tour our buildings. Thank you to all the faculty, staff, and students who will volunteer their time to help our visitors feel welcome and informed.

As we move forward, I invite you all to look at the 2018 Strategic Plan, which is now published online. As we strive to meet our goals, we look to everyone in the Faculty for implementation ideas. You can send yours to Martha Foulds, Director of Planning (

To close, we want to welcome some new members to the team. In February, Bonnie Yi started as the Financial Coordinator within the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing and Crystal Cooper started with the Math Advancement team as Advancement Coordinator. On March 1, Rebecca Graper will join the Communications team as the Digital Communications Officer, and on March 11, Mona Skuterud, will start her secondment as Executive Officer.

Stephen M. Watt
Dean, Faculty of Mathematics - University of Waterloo

Stephen M. Watt