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Dean's message - November 2020

Just over a week ago, we wished our graduates well at Convocation as they joined our alumni community. Thank you to everyone who left a note on the Kudoboard for our graduates, attended the live virtual celebration and sent in a photo to include in the celebration slideshow. This was my first convocation as Dean, and I look forward to celebrating more of these celebrations in the future, hopefully in person.

Beyond celebrating our graduands, we had more to celebrate in October. Maclean’s ranked mathematics and computer science at the University of Waterloo #1 in Canada, tied with the University of Toronto and University of British Columbia. We also congratulate the following members of our community:

  • David Saunders (Statistics and Actuarial Science) was appointed the Director of the Centre for Financial Industries at the Fields Institute
  • Joel Wallman (Applied Mathematics) made the highly commended category for the IOP International Quantum Technology Young Scientist Award
  • Nashid Shahriar (Computer Science) was the 2020 Alumni Gold Medallist
  • Ishan Bansal (C&O) was a 2020 University Finalist for the Alumni Gold Medal for a Master’s program
  • PhD students Yechao Meng and Wenyuan Li were named the 2020-2021 James C. Hickman Scholars and Ou Dang was selected for a renewed scholarship for the year (Statistics and Actuarial Science)  
  • Seda Albayrak received the Pure Math Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student, and Christopher Hawthorne, John Sawatzky and Caleb Suan received the Pure Math Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award
  • Nicholas Richards (Applied Mathematics) was awarded the K.D. Fryer Medal
  • Yuyu Duan was awarded the James D. Leslie Undergraduate Prize

In addition to holding celebrations online, we’ve had to change how we recruit students. I want to thank all of the volunteers that helped out at the virtual Ontario University Fair. More than 4,600 students attended, and Saturday’s presentations have been watched over 13,000 times, and that number continues to climb. More than 1,500 people attended the Faculty of Mathematics sessions hosted by Amelia Burton and Ashleigh Rosary. Next up for recruitment is the Waterloo Virtual Open House on Saturday, November 7.

Some of our contests are even online such as the Beaver Computing Challenge (BCC) from November 9 through to the 20th, while the Canadian Senior Mathematics (CSMC) and Canadian Intermediate Mathematics Contests (CIMC) will take place November 18-19.

Here on campus, though still virtual, we have a few other upcoming events in November. The Risk Management, Economic Sustainability, and Actuarial Science Development in Indonesia (READI) program celebrates the program’s success as it comes to an end on November 4. The following day, everyone’s invited to attend the UW Conference on Student Mental Health Research.

Sportsnet, Rogers, the NHL and Intel have teamed up with Concept, GEDI and the Stratford School to put on the newest hackathon: The Sportsnet Hockey Hack Powered by Rogers 5G. Encourage students who are interested to register for the weeklong hackathon by November 9. Participants can take home incredible prizes from the partners, unlock job placement opportunities, work with cutting-edge technology, and receive increased support after the event to continue developing their ideas and potentially create a partnered venture.

We’re doing more work in the Faculty to encourage researchers and students to think about entrepreneurship. You may have heard that we split the Associate Dean, Research into two roles last year. Anita Layton ( became our Associate Dean, Research and International in July 2019 and leads the Math Research Office (MRO) to provide faculty-level support for government funding programs (tri-agency and provincial), award nominations, bibliometrics and rankings and international collaborations. Anita also chairs the university-level Research Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Council in addition to co-chairing our faculty’s working group.

In keeping with the Faculty’s Strategic Plan, we added an Associate Dean, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Jesse Hoey ( started in this role in January 2020. He leads the Math Innovation Office (MIO), which supports industrial collaborations, matching and infrastructure grant proposals (NSERC Alliance, ORF, Mitacs, OCE), faculty and student entrepreneurship (startups), and social innovations. Camelia Nunez ( recently joined the MIO as Director of Innovation and Research Partnerships and helps faculty members in entrepreneurial enterprises and industry-funded research. You can also contact Brittany Reiche, Technical Writer (, to help review and develop grant proposals (NSERC Discovery Grants, Alliance, ORF, etc.) and facilitate awards nominations.

We are pleased to announce that we’re the first Faculty of Mathematics to hold Sponsoring Institutional Membership of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM). AWM provides various programs and platforms, including meetings, career resources, awards and networking for active undergraduate and graduate students.

In other news, Raouf Boutaba, Samer Al-Kiswany and Martin Karsten (Computer Science) are all involved in the Rogers 5G smart campus project and were featured on Rogers TV while Chris Bauch (Applied Mathematics) continues to be quoted regarding COVID-19 here in Canada (Toronto Star and all its affiliates, Global News, CTV, CBC), the US, Australia, India and the UK. Michele Mosca (Combinatorics and Optimization) was part of the announcement about Quantum Industry Canada. Michele is the association co-chair as he co-founded two quantum companies (evolutionQ where David Jao is CTO and softwareQ which he co-founded with researcher Vlad Gheorghiu). The startup Quantum Benchmark, co-founded by Joseph Emerson and Joel Wallman (Applied Mathematics), is also a member of the association.

Moving into the Winter term, the University has announced that we will be continuing with mostly remote courses and the majority of people working from home. I would also like to remind you to continue following the guidelines set out for campus for COVID-19, and please refer to the tips for staying healthy while working at home and make use of the available resources to you.

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht