Dean's Message - May 2018

Welcome back to our students! While most universities slow down in the summer, the University of Waterloo continues to operate at full speed, offering a full range of courses and activities for our students returning from work terms. We are starting the spring term with exciting events including ASA Datafest and Equithon (May 4-6), GIRLsmarts4tech (May 5), and The Data Open (May 12).

Last month we were involved in a number of events, starting with the official launch of the Waterloo Artificial Intelligence Institute on April 6. There was also a digital art exhibition (featured on the @WaterlooMath Instagram account), a grad talk on gamification, a workshop on Algebraic Graph theory and Quantum Walks, an outreach event for girls in high school, and a forum to introduce companies with data science and predictive analytics challenges and researchers focused in that area. Two faculty members, Kate Larson and Maura Grossman, also participated on a panel about AI and ethics in Mississauga organized by Alumni Affairs.

Over the past several months I have travelled to visit alumni and gather support for UWaterloo fintech in the main international financial centres. In April, I had the opportunity to add Bermuda, which has as one of its largest economic sectors offshore insurance and reinsurance. While there, I met with the premier of Bermuda, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, and the Bermuda Business Development Association to discuss blockchain and insurance technologies, as well as Waterloo’s Co-op program. Barry Ferguson and I also discussed mathematics education support with the Director of Academics at the Bermuda Department of Education. Co-operative education and alumni relations were also the topics of discussion during a trip to the Azerbaijan, visiting the National Academy of Science, universities, and the Central Bank.

What we are most proud to share this about the last month are the many achievements of the members of the Faculty of Mathematics. Congratulations to:

  • Jun Liu in Applied Mathematics who received an Early Researcher Award from the Government of Ontario
  • Samer received funding from the John R. Evans Leaders Fund
  • Jiajia Yin, an Actuarial Science student, was one of the 2017 Co-op students of the year for her work term at Travelers Canada
  • Khuzaima Daudjee was elevated to Senior Member by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
  • Three graduate students were honoured for outstanding research papers: Ahmad Abdi of Combinatorics and Optimization and Sam Harris of Pure Mathematics received the Huawei Prize and Michael Cormier of the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science received Murray Martin prize
  • Maura Grossman was recognized as a thought leader by eDiscovery Daily
  • Tristan Potter was honoured at the Federation of Student Leadership Awards for his work with the Feds, MathSoc and various other roles, and Cristian Mustatea for his work with MathSoc
  • WiCS received both the university’s Equity and Inclusivity Award as well as $400,000 from Google
  • Mike Schaekermann received the very prestigious 2018 Google PhD Fellowship
  • Sally Dong, an undergraduate student in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, was named the Jessie W.H. Zou Award winner
  • Alex Nicolaou (BMath 1993, MMath 1999) will receive the Graham’s Medal at the June 15 convocation. He currently works as Engineering Director at Google Waterloo- awarded on June 15 at convocation.

In addition, at the President’s Reception for Excellence in Teaching and Research on April 10, so many of our #mathies were honoured:

  • Anton Mosunov (Pure Math) UW Amit and Meena Chakma Awards for Exceptional Teaching by a student
  • Teaching award honourees were Sanjeev Bedi (CS) Brian Forrest (Pure Math), David Jao (C&O), David McKinnon (Pure Math), Mary Wells (SAS) 
  • Research award honourees included Raouf Boutaba (CS), Janusz Brzozowski (CS), Richard J. Cook (SAS), Don Cowan (CS), Brian Forrest (Pure Math), Ian Goldberg (CS), Maura R. Grossman (CS), Ric Holt (CS), Matthew Kennedy (Pure Math), Lap Chi Lau (CS), Edward Martin-Martinez (Applied Math), Ron Mullin (C&O), Ian Munro (CS), Tamer Özsu (CS), Ken Salem (CS), Ken Seng Tan (SAS), Daniel Vogel (CS), Ruodu Wang (SAS), Mary Wells (SAS),

Many of this past month’s achievements were captured by the media. The AI launch was widely covered, including The Record, Waterloo Chronicle, Breakfast Television, BetaKit, and TechVibes. Google’s announcement about the $400,000 investment in WiCS for outreach work with girls K-12 including Technovation also received wide media coverage, including an article in the Globe and Mail featuring Jo Atlee. In addition, computer science PhD student Amira Ghenai talked about her research on CBC News and 570 News.

We would like to welcome two new people to the Dean of Mathematics Office, Janette Auxillou, Assistant to the Dean and Christina Proctor, Development Officer. We also have a list of faculty and staff who were honoured April 23 for their long-standing service to the university. Congratulations to Richard Cook, Penny Haxell, Dan Hergott, and Stephen Mann for 25 years. Chris Roth, George Labahn, Karen Anderson, Kathryn Hare, Prabhakar Ragde, Scott Davis, and Bill Cowan all celebrate 30 years and Gordon Comack celebrates 35 years. We even have two faculty members who celebrate 40 years at the university: Vic DiCiccio and Cameron Stewart. I thank those colleagues who have chosen to make their career at Waterloo.

Finally, I have a message that Professor Al-Kiswany shared about old textbooks. Instead of recycling the books, you can donate them to libraries in Africa through Textbooks For Change. Find a dropbox in the DC library and the organization will collect the books and ship them to Africa. This is a great way to give back and help the environment. Speaking of looking after our environment, the staff of the Dean of Mathematics Office placed 2nd in the small office category for the Earth Month Challenge. Thanks to everyone who participated and Jessica Leung for organizing!

Stephen M. Watt

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics - University of Waterloo

Stephen Watt