For our newest cohort of Mathematics graduates, June 2021 marked a milestone. Graduating from the University of Waterloo is a significant achievement, and I am incredibly proud of the dedication and hard work demonstrated by all graduating students. On behalf of the Faculty of Mathematics, congratulations.

On June 18, the Faculty of Mathematics hosted its virtual convocation ceremony. The ceremony included 1,298 undergraduate students, 182 master’s students, and 40 PhD candidates who crossed the virtual stage. Thank you to all the staff and faculty members who participated in the convocation ceremony and other activities. It truly made for a special ceremony amid challenging times. Watch the convocation ceremony and read about the class of 2021 here.

A special congratulations to the Spring 2021 undergraduate and graduate valedictorians who epitomize resilience and excellence:   

  • Monica Xu (BCS ’21) graduated with a degree in computer science and a minor in statistics. Like so many of our students, Monica learned about Waterloo when she participated in our mathematics contests. Monica saw the Faculty of Mathematics as a place brimming with potential, and she realized her potential with us. Watch her valedictorian address here.  
  • Seda Albayrak (PhD ’21), our graduate valedictorian, decided to continue her studies at the University of Waterloo after completing her master’s degree in pure mathematics. Her PhD research focused on applications of algebra in finite automata. Even more exciting, Seda has joined us now as a lecturer with the Mathematics Undergraduate Group (MUG).

We also recognized other graduating students for their achievements:

  • Mike Schaekermann (PhD ’20), a recent graduate in computer science, won the CS-Can|Info-Can Distinguished Dissertation Award.
  • Ryan Ira Goldford (BMath ’21) and Luwei Zhang (BMath ’21) received the Actuarial Science Award for outstanding academic achievement.
  • Junhan Fang (PhD ’20), a recent doctoral graduate in statistics, won the Pierre Robillard Award from the Statistical Society of Canada.
  • Guanzhong Chen (BSE ’21), a graduate of the software engineering program, received the Sandford Fleming Foundation Medal for Academic Excellence.
  • Shenghao Yang, a first-year PhD student in computer science, received the Borealis AI Fellowship.
  • Shane Raymond Hickman (BSE ’21), a graduate of the software engineering program, received the Sandford Fleming Foundation Award for Co-operative Proficiency.
  • Nashid Shahriar (PhD ’20), a recent doctoral graduate in computer science who is now an assistant professor at the University of Regina, is a university finalist for the Governor General’s Gold Medal at the doctoral level and also received the Faculty of Mathematics Doctoral Prize.
  • Ishan Bansal (MMath ’20), a recent master’s graduate in combinatorics and optimization, is a university finalist for the Governor General’s Gold Medal at the master’s level.
  • Robert John Cummings (BCS ’21), a graduate in computer science, received the Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal, which is awarded to students with the highest standing in an undergraduate degree program.
  • Spencer Nicholas Whitehead (BMath ’21), a graduate in pure mathematics, received the University of Waterloo Alumni Gold Medal, and is also the recipient of the Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research.

Along with our wonderful students and their graduation success, June also allowed us to celebrate the achievements of some of our professors. Please join me in congratulating the following members of our community who received awards over the last month:  

I am pleased to announce the 2020 Math Faculty recipients of the Outstanding Performance Award, which the University of Waterloo established to recognize faculty members for outstanding contributions in teaching and scholarship. Recipients from the Faculty include: Byron Becker, Jason Bell, Eric Blais, Raouf Boutaba, Lori Case, Jan Marius Hofert, Ihab Ilyas, Mohammad Kohandel, Pengfei Li, Anna Lubiw, Kirsten Morris, Alexander Peter Nelson, Jennifer Nelson, Pascal Poupart, William Slofstra, Nathaniel Stevens, Ian VanderBurgh, Chengguo Weng, Dan Wolczuk, Peter Wood, and Karen Yeats.

It is also my pleasure to announce that Vivek Goel, the incoming president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo, was named a Fellow of the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Science. The award recognizes his significant contributions to biostatistics and data analysis.

Other noteworthy achievements and appointments from June:

  • The Waterloo AI Institute (Waterloo.AI) recently appointed Jimmy Lin, professor and Cheriton Chair in the School of Computer Science, as a new co-director. Join me in wishing the best to him as he leads expansion of Waterloo.AI to encompass the University’s leading research in data science and artificial intelligence.
  • David Del Rey Fernandez will be joining the Department of Applied Mathematics as an assistant professor on July 1. Please join me in welcoming David to the Faculty.
  • Postdoctoral Fellow Gurjit Randhawa was appointed assistant professor at the University of Prince Edward Island’s School of Mathematical and Computational Sciences. Congratulations, Gurjit.
  • Master’s graduate Abbas Abou Daya (MCS ’19), Research Professors Mohammad A. Salahuddin and Noura Limam, and School of Computer Science Director Raouf Boutaba received a CNOM Best Paper Award for research presented at the 16th IFIP/IEEE International Symposium on Integrated Network Management. Read more about their paper and accomplishment here.
  • Computer Science PhD student Brad Glasbergen, recent CS graduate Fangyu Wu (BCS ’20), and Professor Khuzaima Daudjee received a Best Demonstration Award at SIGMOD/PODS 2021.
  • Computer Science master’s graduate Iman Akbari (MMath ’21) received a Best Student Paper Award at SIGMETRICS 2021.
  • Maura Grossman and Robin Cohen are co-applicants on a successful $1.65 million NSERC CREATE grant on Responsible Artificial Intelligence

Please take note of some upcoming events in the Faculty for July.

The Employee Health and Well-being Committee is hosting its annual community assemblies July 14-29. These assemblies are an opportunity for staff and faculty to discuss the current state of employee health and well-being, to identify opportunities for growth and improvement, and to help inform the future work of the Committee. The community assemblies will be held in a confidential and safe environment where employees can discuss challenges and raise concerns about their health and well-being. More information about the community assemblies can be found on the Employee Health and Well-being Committee’s webpage. Register for an upcoming community assembly here.

The WatITis is a one-day conference for those involved in IT planning, support and decision-making at the University of Waterloo. This is an opportunity to see what others are doing on campus in the field of information technology, to share ideas, and network. I invite all related staff and faculty to actively participate as a speaker or panel participant. To present at WatITis, please submit a brief synopsis of your presentation idea here. Submissions are due by Thursday, July 8, 2021.  

Some events that took place through the Faculty this month included Research Talks, which presented the final installment of its A Year of COVID-19 series on Thursday, June 17. A Year of COVID-19 is a three-part series that took place in April, May, and June. This month’s panel included Diana Skrzydlo, a lecturer from Statistics and Actuarial Science. The event was open to all university faculty, staff, students, and the public.

On June 21-24, the University of Waterloo virtually hosted the annual Canadian Applied and Industrial Mathematics Society conference (CAIMS). Conference papers focused on new work in mathematics in relation to topics such as health, technology, finance, COVID-19, and more. Read more about the conference and presentations here.  

New hires for this month: Jon Parsons joined the Dean of Mathematics Office as a communications officer on June 7.

We also have a very special baby announcement. Congratulations to Lucie Galinon from the CEMC who welcomed her baby boy, Alix, on Thursday, June 3 at 1:35 PM. Both mom and baby are doing well!

Welcome back to Lindsey Webster (Survey Research Centre) and Olga Zorin (Computer Science) who will be returning from maternity leave in July.

Finally, I remind you to monitor the Waterloo COVID-19 information website to see campus-specific rules, dates, and procedures related to teaching schedules and building access. Please continue to be vigilant and stay safe and healthy. I hope you will join me in my cautious optimism as we head towards the end of the pandemic and the re-opening of campus through the summer and fall.

Mark Giesbrecht
Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht