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Dean’s Message – May 2019

The University of Waterloo is known around the world for its co-operative degree programs. In April, the Risk Management, Economic Sustainability, and Actuarial Science Development in Indonesia (READI) Project helped Prasetiya Mulya University open its first Indonesian Co-operative Education Office. This endeavour took two years of coaching university and employer partners, as well as financial support. This led to the Indonesian Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education (Kemenristekdikti) drafting a Ministerial Decree to approve and regulate the implementation of Co-operative Education programming in Indonesian Higher Education legislation.

In other international news, on behalf of the Faculty of Math, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Petersburg Steklov Institute of Mathematics (PDMI) to support the mobility of faculty, joint research, and student exchange. Please contact the Associate Dean, Research if you have projects you would like to pursue.

Back here in Waterloo, we welcomed more than 80 people to discuss quantitative risk management and fintech during the first ever Waterloo Conference in Statistics, Actuarial Science and Finance. Christiane Lemieux was one of the local speakers, and we also had speakers from Stanford, Columbia, Boston, Cornell, Western, Alberta, ETH Zurich, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Two industry experts also presented – one from Prime Re Solutions and from d1g1t Inc.

Starting today, CEMC will welcome a team of 270 people (most of whom are volunteers) to mark just under 40,000 contests. The EFGH Marking Event will wrap up on May 3, which is also when the ASA Datafest kicks off. Over the weekend, undergraduates will work around the clock to find and share meaning in a large, rich, and complex data set.

We will welcome the Spring term students back to campus on May 6 – just in time for the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series with Margo Seltzer on May 7. On May 25, we will welcome prospective students to campus for You @ Waterloo Day, which is our last opportunity to meet students before they decide to accept our offers.

The end of May brings us to an important celebration, the Master of Actuarial Science 10th Anniversary. We are pleased to have this opportunity to connect with current students, faculty, industry supporters and former students. We will also have the chance to connect with all of our math alumni on June 1 as we celebrate the first Alumni Weekend.

We had a number of reasons to celebrate this past month, as we saw several accomplishments within the faculty. Congratulations to all.

  • Professor Mu Zhu (Statistics and Actuarial Science) was elected a Fellow of the American Statistical Association.
  • Pascal Poupart (Cheriton School of Computer Science) was named a Canada CIFAR AI Chair.
  • Achim Kempf’s Physics of Information Lab (Applied Mathematics) was awarded a Google Faculty Research Award to work with Google on Quantum Machine Learning. PhD student Guillaume Verdon and Master's student Evan Peters are at the forefront of this work.
  • Three of our researchers – Kate Larson (Cheriton School of Computer Science), Sri Namachchivaya (Applied Mathematics), and Matthew Kennedy (Pure Mathematics) – were named University Research Chairs.
  • Benoit Charbonneau (Pure Mathematics) won one of the Faculty Association 2019 Equity and Inclusivity Awards.
  • Hanmeng (Harmony) Zhan (Combinatorics and Optimization) placed first in the inaugural Faculty of Mathematics Doctoral Prize competition, a value of $1,500. Boyu Li and Ruizhang Jin (both in Pure Mathematics) won second ($1,000) and third prizes ($500), respectively.
  • John Harris (Cheriton School of Computer Science) placed third in the Velocity Graduate Student Fund finals, which were the result of alumnus Sam Pasupalak’s generous gift.
  • Kevin Hyun (Cheriton School of Computer Science) was awarded the 2019 Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award. All nominated students had impressive research accomplishments, including James Yu (Combinatorics and Optimization) and Christopher Lang (Applied and Pure Mathematics).
  • Nine teams placed as category award winners at the 2019 Computer Science and Software Engineering Capstone Design Symposium, and CircleChek (a group of Computer Science students) won the inaugural Pasupalak Velocity CS Capstone Award.
  • Joakim Blikstad (Computer Science, 3B), Sean Purcell (Software Engineering, 3B), and Jason Yuen (Computer Science, 2A) tied for 41st at the world-wide ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. Each of the 133 participating teams was a leader in its own region. The Waterloo group solved five problems finishing strong on a very challenging task set.

With a number of press releases going to the media this past month, we experienced a number of media hits. Bahareh Sarrafzadeh, a PhD candidate, was featured on CBC Radio, CTV News and CBC News for her research with Microsoft about why people do not answer your emails. Lila Kari appeared in Science Daily, Science Codex, R&D Mag, Industrial Equipment News, and other publications regarding the development of a tool that combines supervised machine learning with digital signal processing that could make it possible to definitively answer questions on the relatedness of different species that exist on Earth and in the oceans. Another new tool, HoloClean, developed by Ihab Ilyas and his collaborators also appeared in the news, including Education News Canada and Semiconductor Engineering. HoloClean is the first to use artificial intelligence (AI) to sift out dirty data and correct errors before processing it.

There is also a new video that has been receiving a lot of hits. If you have not yet seen the video of Jochen Koenemann and Ricardo Fukasawa (Combinatorics and Optimization) as part of the University’s Beyond campaign, I would suggest that you have a look. Their research has made a difference in the lives of infants suffering from craniosynostosis.

In closing, we have a few changes in the Faculty to announce. First, we welcome Janine Blair to the Mathematics Graduate and Research Office as the new Research and Graduate Studies Assistant. Secondly, the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization welcomes a new Administrative Coordinator, Chloe Potovszky. At the same time, we celebrate Chris Godsil and his retirement, effective today. We wish Chris all the best.

We mourn the loss of our accomplished Professor Emeritus Ric Holt who passed away on April 12, 2019. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

Stephen M. Watt
Dean, Faculty of Mathematics - University of Waterloo

Stephen M. Watt

Please note: Today, staff and faculty will receive a link to an Employee Engagement Survey from KF Surveys Canada. The survey is an excellent opportunity to share your ideas, feedback and insights around your experience. Find out more on the Employee Engagement Survey website.