Dean's Message - February 2023

Dear Faculty of Mathematics colleagues,

 With January now behind us, as we immerse ourselves in our teaching, research and community, it is really great to see people back and re-engaging on campus, in all things that make campus life so enjoyable. 

This past month we’ve had many exciting and meaningful events and gatherings indoors to add warmth and community to our daily lives. A special highlight for me this month was the Q&A with cofounder and Math alum Ian McKinnon on January 23rd, which kicked off the Entrepreneurship and Impact series. I’m very thankful to our Math Innovation Office for creating this continuing opportunity for our students to connect with graduates and community members.

As always, it is my pleasure to have the chance to share some of the accomplishments of the members of the Faculty of Mathematics, and to let you know about upcoming events and initiatives.

Health and wellness 

The feedback for the fall term’s Living Wellness campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. Participants noted that taking part in these events helped them prioritize their wellness and feel a sense of community and belonging within the Faculty of Mathematics. It’s encouraging to know that this program is having a positive effect, and I would encourage everyone to take a break and engage in the upcoming activities that are planned for February, including cooking classes, an observatory viewing, and a UW Archives tour.

I want to remind you that our Community Well-being and Engagement Officer is currently working on adding a board game cabinet to the MC Lounge (MC 5511) to help promote relational wellness in our community. As we start making a list of games that will be added to the game cabinet, we also ask that members of our community consider donating any old unused games that they have, in order to champion our environmental wellness! If you have a game you’d like to donate, or have a suggestion for a game to add, please connect with our community Well-Being and Engagement Officer, Robert.

As always, we want to hear from you about new activities, workshops, seminars, and resources that the Faculty of Mathematics can offer, or about how we can help improve your health and well-being. Eligible submissions made by students, staff, and faculty from the Faculty of Mathematics will be entered into a draw for a chance to win a $50 gift card for the W Store. Our next draw is Monday, April 10. Submit your suggestions and feedback here.

Equity, diversity, and inclusion

February is Black History Month and we encourage you all to be on the watch for events at Waterloo (and communities local to you) that recognize the many contributions of Black Canadians and their communities to our institution, to Ontario, and to Canada. Some events of particular interest include:

  • The Faculty of Mathematics, along with other units across campus, is sponsoring the BE-STEMM 2023 Virtual Conference from February 1 to 4. The conference will feature research in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine and Health (STEMM). It will include keynote talks by established black scholars, practitioners, students and educators across various disciplines, along with panel discussions and mentorship opportunities for emerging Black scientists. Registration fees for this conference are waived for students and very reasonable for all other attendees. Please circulate to all you feel may be interested. Waterloo is also hosting a virtual booth, supported in part by our Faculty Equity Office, as part of the conference’s career fair.
  • Our February circle dialogues will focus on the topic “Black History Month: Why is it important and how does it inform our actions today?” You can find out more about the circles and register via TicketFi (enter the code EDIFeb 2023 to access the page).
  • On Wednesday, February 22, at noon, our colleagues in Co-operative and Experiential Education are hosting a panel discussion on elevating Black excellence in the workplace. One of the panelists, Colleen Phillips-Davis, will also be a guest at our February Community of Practice circle discussion!

Upcoming events 

  • On February 6, the Faculty of Mathematics is hosting the 35th Annual Undergraduate Awards Celebration to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our talented undergraduate students. Faculty members and staff are welcome to join the event to celebrate alongside our undergraduate students.
  • Join Math Innovation on February 13 for our next event in the Entrepreneurship and Impact Series to hear from Robert Madej, founder and CEO of PureFacts Financial Solutions. Learn more here.
  • The Math Undergraduate Office (MUO) will be hosting a Declare Your Major Information Sessions on February 14 and 15, 2023 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in M3 1006 & Atrium. These sessions will provide students with the opportunity to meet advisors and ask questions about the majors they are considering. Learn more about the event and the schedule for each day and register here.
  • Register to join Women in Math on February 28 for the WiM Winter Colloquium, featuring a 45-minute talk by Professor Matilde Lalín followed by a Q&A session and refreshments.


  • The Math Advancement Team is looking forward to announcing a new Associate Director, Development shortly and is recruiting for an Alumni Engagement Program Specialist. Please feel free to share the job posting with your networks.
  • I will be travelling with President Vivek Goel, as well as our Vice President of Advancement and our Math Director of Advancement, to Jakarta, Singapore, and Hong Kong the week of February 20 to meet with our alumni and present the many exciting directions UW Math is going.
  • In Jakarta I will be attending the launch of the Flood Impacts, Carbon Pricing, and Ecosystem Sustainability (FINCAPES) project, an ambitious new project, between the University of Waterloo Faculties of Mathematics and Environment, and Government Affairs Canada (GAC). FINCAPES is a successor to the highly successful Risk Management, Economic Sustainability and Actuarial Science Development in Indonesia (READI), which worked to establish Indonesia as a regional centre of actuarial excellence.
  • The fourth and final event in the Data + event series, Data + Diversity, will take place on March 7 in Toronto at the Gardiner Museum. Join us for an important discussion of the role of ethical data governance in creating more diverse and equitable institutions. The panel will be moderated by Charmaine Dean (MMath ’84, PhD ’88), Vice-President of Research and Professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science. You can register for the event here.
  • Finally, Pi Day is fast approaching and the Math Advancement Team invites you to celebrate with our alumni around the world.  Watch the Faculty’s social media channels for details and your email on March 14th for a special video that will share the recent accomplishments of the Faculty. Alumni in ten locations around the globe will have an opportunity to visit a local bakery for a free pie and those in other geographic locations will have a chance to share their stories to win a prize. Please help us promote and celebrate! Stay tuned for more details in March. 

Research and media coverage

  • Cheriton researchers [Professor and Director Raouf Boutaba (project principal investigator), Research Professor Noura Limam (project co-investigator and coordinator), and Professor Diogo Barradas (project co-investigator)] are leading a Department of National Defence–funded $1.5 million university–industry consortium to develop secure 5G mobile networks to advance Canada’s security and defence. Read more here.
  • A team of researchers is using machine learning to predict the development of deadly brain tumours. Read more here.
  • A team led by Stacey Watson, a lecturer in Computer Science, has developed a more secure password technology for blind and low-vision users. Read more here.

Faculty awards

  • Ken Davidson of Pure Math was named a Distinguished Professor Emeritus, for his many outstanding contributions to mathematical research, to teaching, and to service to the University of Waterloo as well as to the Canadian mathematical community. This will be awarded at Convocation this coming June.
  • Jimmy Lin, professor of Computer Science, was named a 2022 ACM Fellow for his contributions to question-answering, information retrieval, and natural language processing. He is one of 57 ACM members internationally and one of two from Canada so recognized. Read more here.
  • Anita Layton, professor of Applied Mathematics, received a Graham Seed Fund award to work in conjunction with partners at the University of Toronto, University of Colorado, and NorthShore University Health System on a project entitled “Clinical risk assessment tool for diabetic kidney disease in youth with type 2 diabetes. Read more here.

Student awards

  • Cheriton School of Computer Science data systems researchers (students Jeremy Chen, Yuqing Huang and Mushi Wang and Professors Semih Salihoğlu and Ken Salem) received a 2022 ACM SIGMOD Research Highlight Award for their paper “Accurate summary-based cardinality estimation through the lens of cardinality estimation graphs.” This is the second time their work has been recognized for significance and excellence. Read more here.

Faculty announcements

  • Welcome to three lecturers started in Computer Science in January: Yiqing Huang, Armin Jamshipdey, and Leili Rafiee Sevyer
  • Our condolences to the colleagues, friends and loved ones of Ken Seng Tan, former professor in Statistics and Actuarial Science, who passed away on January 1. You can read about his life and accomplishments here.
  • Our condolences, as well, to the loved ones of Josef Paldus, professor emeritus of Applied Mathematics, who passed away on January 15. We will have more details for an in memoriam soon.

Staff announcements

New Hires: 

  • Welcome to Alissa Trochimchuk who started with CEMC as the Program Coordinator, MMT and Mathematics Teaching on January 23.
  • Jessica Leung (SAS) will be returning to Computer Science as an Undergraduate Advisor beginning on February 1.


  • Shoshannah Holdom (SAS) has taken a secondment opportunity as the Manager, Academic Advising with the Dean of Arts Office beginning on February 6.

Looking forward 

As we work through these snowy days, and connect through our campus activities, I encourage you to take time to also spend with family and friends as well as prioritizing your mental and physical health. I am so grateful for the community of support and encouragement we have in the Faculty of Mathematics as we continued to achieve great things in 2023.  

Yours truly,    

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht