Dean's message - May 2021

With the month of May comes the beginning of our Spring term, and once again we are completely online. Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, we delivered a Winter term where students, faculty and staff aspired to and achieved a great educational experience, both online and in person.  I also know that we have gained enormous knowledge and experience in delivering online courses and online educational programs, experience that will serve us well going forward. We can see more fully the opportunities and the deficits of online and hybrid education that the pandemic has forced upon us. As we started Spring term on May 10, Math continues to provide the same support and effort to ensure quality learning opportunities and build our (virtual) university community. Waterloo Math is also driven by exceptional research, from our faculty and students. Some of the accomplishments are listed below, but many more are still under development in our always active research programs. While we cannot overlook the pressure that the pandemic has placed on our research, as we struggle to cope with many other tasks, we can still celebrate the many successes that we have had.

On May 12th, we virtually celebrated Women in Math Day. With the help from Waterloo Women Impact Network (WWIN), we took this opportunity to promote women in STEM. I’m confident in our ability to not only foster but to ignite women’s enthusiasm and passion for mathematics.

Please join me in congratulating the following people in our community who received awards over the last month:

To further celebrate women in Math the Cheriton School of Computer Science Research Professor Maura Grossman has been ranked in Band 1 by Chambers and Partners for her expertise in technology-assisted review (TAR) in electronic discovery, for the application of machine learning in processing thousands of documents to find relevant legal information.

Thank you, Heather Steinmetz, from the Undergraduate Recruitment and Admissions Office for leading the creation of the new Math Tour Video. The video takes viewers on a virtual tour, exploring math and computer science buildings. While seeing what Waterloo campus has to offer, viewers learn about the Faculty of Mathematics’ rich history, unique learning opportunities, and distinguished programs. Watch the video here.

You@Waterloo Day, our campus-wide information event for newly admitted students, was held virtually on Tuesday, May 25th. It had a total of 9,157 views across 41 presentations, where 77% of 1909 registered people tuned in. Read more about the event here. The Math Faculty hosted the following sessions:

  • Next steps in Math and Computer Science;
  • Why Math or Computer Science;
  • Student panel;
  • Alumni panel;
  • Living Learning.

St. Paul’s University College (STP) and the Faculty of Mathematics have partnered to create a unique Living Learning Community (LLC) focused on supporting first-year students entering the Financial Analysis and Risk Management (FARM) degree. This LLC is designed to provide the participants with additional opportunities to expand their learning and development beyond the classroom experience. The LLC will be running this upcoming Fall 2021 term, read more about the LLC here.

During this month, the International Tobacco Control (ITC) Project at the University of Waterloo has been awarded one of six Governor General’s Innovation Awards for 2021. Let’s celebrate the innovation that makes a positive impact on quality of life in Canada. The honour was awarded jointly to the interdisciplinary ITC team that included Mary Thompson, Professor of Statistics and Actuarial Science.

Exciting new research conducted by Professor Edith Law of the Cheriton School of Computer Science examines human-robot interaction, if a robot peer expresses curiosity does its inquisitiveness spark curiosity in students. Read more about her research here.

I’m happy to announce that Professor Sue Ann Campbell of Applied Mathematics and Professor Bin Ma of Cheriton School of Computer Science have been appointed University Research Chairs in recognition of outstanding contributions in their fields. You can read about Professor Campbell’s and Professor Ma’s research accomplishments here.

COVID-19 restrictions are not stopping Pure Mathematics PhD student Adina Goldberg from taking on initiatives to encourage cooperation and community building.  A self-described “huge extrovert” Adina proclaims the mantra “Make things happen if they don’t exist – just build it yourself” to inspire community in Math.  This essential idea of cooperation also shows up in her PhD research, where she explores how accessing a quantum state could help people collaborative solve problem. You can read more about Adina’s research here.

As a reminder, Alumni weekend is taking place on June 5th. The Faculty of Mathematics will mark the occasion with a fun-for-all-ages-event to learn about the math behind the Rubik’s Cube and to get hands-on tips and tricks for solving the world’s best-selling puzzle toy. Find out more and register here.

This year’s virtual Canadian Computing Olympiad, where 37 secondary school students tested their ability to design, understand, and implement algorithms over two days of competition, hosted by the University of Waterloo. Zixiang Zhou from London Central Secondary School won top marks. Zhou and three other top contestants—Thomas Guo, Allen Pei and Christopher Trevisan—will represent Canada at the International Olympiad in Informatics, to be hosted by Singapore on June 19-25.

In the media this month, Cheriton School of Computer Science Professor Kate Larson and her international colleagues published a commentary in Nature on May 4, 2021 about the need for cooperative artificial intelligence to benefit AI with social understanding. You can read more about their research here.

In addition, Combinatorics and Optimization Professor Stephen Melczer’s book An Invitation to Analytic Combinatorics: From One to Several Variables has been published by Springer. The book is a new mathematical tool that examines the broad computability and complexity questions in enumerative combinatorics, mathematics, theoretical computer science, and physics.

Please join me in wishing the following people the absolute best as they take on new staff roles:

  • Heather Zunic has joined the Dean of Math Office on a contract basis as Events Manger.
  • Raffe Kachichan has joined to the Math Graduate Office on a contract basis as Graduate and Research Assistant.
  • Rubin Kataki has joined Math Advancement as a Development Officer, on secondment.
  • Yibei Zhou will be joining the Math innovation Office, as a new Research Partnership Manager effective June 14, 2021.

I would like to congratulate the award winners once again and to recognize the researchers and professors who continue to strive towards excellent teaching and research breakthroughs. We welcome staff members joining our team with open arms.

Finally, I remind you to monitor the UW’s 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 an end to the pandemic and a re-opening of campus.

With convocation approaching, to celebrate the achievements of the Spring 2021 graduates a presentation of “advice” from faculty that will be included in the virtual convocation program. I invite you to share a message of wisdom for our graduates by June 9th, 2021. Share your message here.

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht