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Dean's message - June 2020

Today is the deadline for our next class of students to accept their offer to Waterloo. Our recruitment and admissions team have been speaking with admitted students, answering reams of emails and offering several webinars to more than 200 students at a time. For the Fall term, we have confirmed course details for undergraduate and graduate students, dependent of course on future restrictions put in by the province.

While we prepare for the Fall term, we are also working on how to congratulate our graduating class as best as we can since we have to postpone our on-campus ceremony. We have a few things in the works, including the Faculty of Math Alumni Day and Celebration of the Math Class of 2020, on June 5 and some fun content to share leading up to the official Math Convocation Day on June 19.

We have a few more events to celebrate in June. The Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science is hosting a Department Seminar with Western’s Grace Yi about whether the reported COVID-19 data can tell us the truth. The next Tutte Colloquium is happening on June 5 in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization. Lauren K. Williams of the Radcliffe Institute will talk about matroids, tropical geometry and positivity. Shenghao Yang and Kimon Fountoulakis (Computer Science) will be speaking at the SIAM MDS 2020 Virtual Mini Symposium on June 22.

GEDI kicked off their Post-COVID-19 Reboot series on May 21 which consists of six free, online, weekly panel talks and there is also the COVID-19: Ask our Experts weekly community talks which started on May 27. The University’s podcast, Beyond the Bulletin, has also concentrated much of its coverage on the pandemic and how to best handle the changes we’re experiencing.

COVID-19 remains a popular topic in the news, and many of our researchers have pivoted their research to share their expertise concerning the pandemic. Chris Bauch (Applied Mathematics) has appeared in several media outlets including The Record and the Toronto Star regarding a new study about how the quickest and safest way to restore the Canadian economy is to allow cities and counties to open and close independently based on standardized guidelines. A new AI tool from Maura Grossman and Gordon Cormack, as well as work from Jimmy Lin and PhD candidate Miti Mazumber with Ian Goldberg (Computer Science), was included in an article in The Record.

We also have a great story to share about alumnus and long-time donor Shanku Niyogi (BMath ’94) who supported the Student Emergency Fund. If you’re looking for ways to get involved in volunteer opportunities with COVID-19, or even research funding, go to COVID-19 Resources Canada. The Office of Research also has a COVID-19 and research page with funding opportunities.

It’s been inspiring to see the work that our community has done in the face of the pandemic. Their research on COVID-19 and beyond continues to inspire, and much of it is award-winning. This month, we would like to congratulate:

  • Charmaine Dean (Statistics and Actuarial Science) who was named a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematical Statistics (IMS)
  • Matt Kennedy (Pure Mathematics) and Aaron Tikuisis (who completed his undergraduate degree in Pure Mathematics and is now an Associate Professor at UOttawa) have been awarded the Israel Halperin Prize. The Canadian Annual Symposium on Operator Theory and Operator Algebras only awards this prize every five years, someone working in operator theory or operator algebras with a Canadian connection who is within 10 years of their PhD.
  • Jun Liu (Applied Mathematics) who was awarded the Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society and Pacific Institute for the Mathematical Sciences (CAIMS/PIMS) Early Career Award for 2020
  • Jo Atlee (Computer Science) who received the 2020 IEEE TCSE Distinguished WISE Leadership Award
  • Maura Grossman (Computer Science) who received a 2020 Faculty Teaching Award from Osgoode Hall Law School
  • Shixiao Zhang (Statistics and Actuarial Science) who was awarded the prestigious SSC Pierre Robillard Award for Best PhD Thesis in Statistics and Probability in Canada
  • Wanchun Shen (Pure Mathematics), who was awarded the Jessie W.H. Zou award for undergraduate research. Honorable mentions went to Steven Yuanshuo Feng (Computer Science) and Zhenyuan Zhang (Pure Mathematics)
  • Women in Computer Science (WiCS) received a $90,000 SciencePromo grant from NSERC to develop technology entrepreneurship programs for girls and young women
  • Changbao Wu and Mary Thompson (Statistics and Actuarial Science) who released a new book called Sampling Theory and Practice

We would also like to congratulate Ihab Ilyas and his graduate students Mina Farid, Omar Attia, Joshua McGrath and Ryan Clancy on the sale of their company Inductiv to Apple. This is very exciting, and it’s Ihab’s second startup.

We have even more good news – two babies join the Math community. Congratulations to Ashley Sorensen (CEMC) and her family as they welcomed Callum Bryce Sorensen on April 19 and Caroline Bhaskar (Dean of Mathematics Office) and her family, who welcomed Sophia Christy Nikhil on May 2. We also welcome Nadine Collins, the new Associate Director of Advancement, who started on May 26.

The Advancement team threw a virtual event to celebrate International Women in Mathematics Day on May 12. Alumni from Canada, the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Great Britain, Norway, Switzerland and Australia joined together to attend virtual coffee, multiple panels, a screening of Secrets of the Surface: The Mathematical Vision of Maryam Mirzakhani and connected on social media with the hashtag #IAmGoodAtMath and on the Waterloo Math Digital Community. You can find all the videos, including one highlighting some of our students, in the Women in STEM playlist on YouTube.

This is my last This Month in Math, as Mark Giesbrecht takes over the job on July 1 on his first day as Dean. When I stepped in as interim Dean in January, I could not have predicted what that five months would look like – I certainly didn’t expect to work through a pandemic. I urge you all to take care of yourselves, and each other, through these challenging times. Keep an eye out each Wednesday for Mathie Wellness tips that will be shared on our social media channels and the Math website.

Kevin Hare
Interim Dean, Faculty of Mathematics – University of Waterloo

Kevin Hare