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Dean's message - July 2020

Starting as Dean in July 2020 holds so many challenges that I never expected when I first applied for the position. First and foremost, I’d like to acknowledge the incredible effort that all of you – students, staff and faculty – have undertaken to move all of our educational and research programs online. It is heartening to see this being done with care and quality, but also originality and innovation, in truly difficult circumstances. I really hope that we can take this as an opportunity to re-evaluate and learn something about our core mandates of research and education, and our values of collegiality and inclusion. I will be working with all of you over the coming weeks (and years) to help shape our direction through these turbulent times.

We just celebrated the Class of 2020. It was a different kind of convocation where we couldn’t celebrate in person. Still, we offered videos, gifs, an event with alumni and student stories to celebrate a class entering the next step of their journey during strange times. However, as graduates of the Faculty of Mathematics, our new alumni leave Waterloo with problem-solving skills and resilience, and they are never afraid of hard work.

We’re also busy preparing for the Fall term with many of our 1A students stepping onto campus to start their journey. They will be the only 1A students on campus, taking two of their classes in-person – MATH 135 and MATH 137 – and we are working with the Safety Office to ensure that everyone stays healthy. Most of the undergraduate and graduate classes will happen remotely for the Fall term and we continue to learn and adapt to this style of teaching.

As you may remember, we introduced the Master’s of Mathematics for Teachers (MMT) Indigenous Scholarships as part of the Faculty’s strategic plan. We’re excited to announce that five incoming students are recipients of the scholarship. Also, the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing has given the first Agibcona MMT Scholarship.

We have many faculty and student awards to celebrate this month. Congratulations to:

Just last week, Florian Kerschbaum (Computer Science) moderated a panel that included Douglas Stebila (Combinatorics and Optimization) on Managing the Pandemic through Contact-Tracing Apps: Technological innovation or a Challenge to Privacy and Civil Liberties? Florian was also interviewed for news articles about the safety of contact tracing apps in the Globe and Mail and iPolitics.

Chris Bauch (Applied Mathematics) was mentioned by several Metroland Media Group publications and the Toronto Star regarding why some regions are still locked down. The National (at 39:05) also talked about a preprint of Chris’ research. CovidWatch, an app created by graduate student James Petrie (also Applied Mathematics) and collaborators from US universities, was in the news again as it will be used at the University of Arizona in the fall.

Many new administration roles began yesterday, in addition to my start as Dean, and July 1 is also when we recognize new continuing lecturers, tenure and promotions.

  • Hans De Sterck (Applied Mathematics) becomes the new Director of the Computational Math program. Thank you, Jeff Orchard (Computer Science), for your work during your term.
  • Ryan Browne (Statistics and Actuarial Science) will be the Associate Director, Graduate Studies, Computational Math.
  • Peter Wood (Mathematics, Business and Accounting Programs) takes on the role of Assistant Dean Online Instruction. Thank you to Steve Furino (Combinatorics and Optimization) for your tireless efforts.
  • Raouf Boutaba (Computer Science) is the new Director of the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science.
  • Jochen Koenemann returns as the Chair of the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization. Thank you to Chaitanya Swamy (Combinatorics and Optimization) for all your hard work as the Interim Chair.
  • Martin Karsten (Computer Science) takes on the role of Associate Director of the Cheriton School of Computer Science.
  • Ilham Akhundov (Mathematics, Business and Accounting Programs) is back in his role as Director of Mathematics, Business and Accounting Programs. Thank you to Peter Wood (Mathematics, Business and Accounting Programs) for stepping in as Interim Director.
  • David Harmsworth (Applied Mathematics) continues in his role as Assistant Dean, Students.
  • Kevin Hare (Pure Mathematics) assumes the role of Associate Dean, Operations & Academic after spending the last five months as Interim Dean.
  • Jo Atlee (Computer Science) returns as the Director of Women in Computer Science.
  • Johnny Li (Statistics and Actuarial Science) was appointed to the Munich Re Chair in Predictive Analytics for a seven-year term.
  • Dan Brown starts his role as the next Faculty Association University of Waterloo president.
  • Peter Balka (Statistics and Actuarial Science), Nomair Naeem (Computer Science), Andrew Beltaos and Sean Speziale (Math Undergraduate Office), Shane Bauman and Carrie Knoll (CEMC) have been named Continuing Lecturers.
  • Eduardo Martin-Martinez (Applied Mathematics), Peter Nelson (Combinatorics and Optimization), Edith Law and Meiyappan Nagappan (Computer Science), Matthew Satriano (Pure Mathematics) and Yi Shen and Yeying Zhu (Statistics and Actuarial Science) are promoted to Associate Professor.
  • Brian Ingalls (Applied Mathematics), Ricardo Fukasawa (Combinatorics and Optimization), Jesse Hoey and Eric Schost (Computer Science) and Shoja Cenouri (Statistics and Actuarial Science) are promoted to Professor.

We also welcome Walaa Moursi (Combinatorics and Optimization) back after maternity leave, as well as our new researchers, many of whom won’t be joining us in person quite yet due to travel restrictions:

  • Robert Guglielmi, Assistant Professor (Applied Mathematics)
  • Logan Crew, Assistant Research Professor (Combinatorics and Optimization)
  • Steven Melczer, Assistant Professor (Combinatorics and Optimization)
  • Oliver Pechenik, Assistant Professor (Combinatorics and Optimization)
  • Sophie Spirkl, Assistant Professor (Combinatorics and Optimization)
  • Shane McIntosh, Associate Professor (Computer Science)
  • Lucy Gao, Assistant Professor (Statistics and Actuarial Science)

I also want to give a very special thanks to Kevin Hare for taking on the role of Interim Dean and helping with my transition into the Dean’s role. Kevin has been exceptional during exceptional times, and as the Associate Dean, Operations and Academic, Kevin and I will continue to work closely together. I look forward to leading the Faculty as we continue to recruit excellent students and faculty, conduct ground-breaking research, and teach in more innovative and effective ways, into a decade that has been like no other in our lifetimes. 

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht