Dear Faculty of Mathematics colleagues,

September saw the much-anticipated return to campus for many of our students, faculty and staff. It was heartwarming to see life return to the classrooms and hallways, and I am encouraged by the first month back on campus. We have had to continue to adapt to changing circumstances, but overall things have been going extremely well so far. 

In early September, I was pleased to have the opportunity to welcome a new cohort of students into the Faculty of Mathematics at orientation. Part of my message to new students, and what I encourage all faculty and staff to convey at every opportunity, is that there are many supports in place to help ensure personal and academic flourishing, both within the Faculty of Mathematics and in the broader university community. There are also supports in place for employees, and in October there are a few opportunities to learn more about these supports, some of which I highlight below. 

Once again, I want to extend my gratitude to all of you, our faculty members, staff and graduate and postdoctoral students, for all you do in service of our students and the Faculty of Mathematics. Thank you all. 

Territorial acknowledgement 

I would like to draw your attention to a new section on our Math website, which provides language for territorial acknowledgement and context for reconciliation as it is being fostered by the university. This resource page can be referenced in documents or presentations, and links to the central Indigenous Initiatives Office. 

Here in the Faculty of Mathematics, we recognize that universities have a significant role to play in both acknowledging and addressing the history of colonialism in Canada and the impacts the past has on the present. I encourage everyone to take a moment to visit the webpage and to think about ways territorial acknowledgement and reconciliation can be integrated into work and teaching practice. 

Upcoming events 

There are a few events coming up in October that I want to highlight. The first is one that my office is organizing the Dean’s Town Hall, a virtual event taking place on October 12 from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. The main topics of the event are 1) the return to campus, 2) outlining the faculty’s strategic plan and 3) health and well-being initiatives. There will also be lots of time for questions from faculty and staff, so please send any questions in advance to by October 6. 

For the second year, the Math Innovation Office is offering the eCapstone program, a free extracurricular entrepreneurial initiative for upper-year computer science undergraduate and graduate students to explore the market potential of class projects, as well as any personal projects they are keen to commercialize. Learn more about eCapstone and how to get your students involved at this link

October will see the launch of a new institute at the university, the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Aeronautics (WISA). One of our faculty members, Sander Rhebergen from the Department of Applied Mathematics, is affiliated with the new institute. Learn more about his research in this article in Waterloo News. You can register for the official WISA launch event, taking place October 5, at this link

Also at the university level, check out the Safeguarding Science Workshop, for faculty, staff and students involved in research using biological, chemical, radiological or nuclear materials or technology. The virtual workshop is being hosted by the university in collaboration with Public Safety Canada, Wednesday, October 6, 1:30 to 3:45 pm. Register for the event at this link

Finally, fall convocation for the Faculty of Mathematics will be taking place on October 22. This will once again be a virtual ceremony, the details of which you can find at this link. I hope that all faculty members will join me in celebrating the success of our graduates. 

Community health and well-being 

The Faculty of Mathematics kicked off its Living Wellness Campaign in September with a focus on physical wellness. We were proud to offer a mix of on-campus and virtual programming, such as disc golf and rock climbing to our students, and Zumba, yoga and an eat well workshop to our employees. 

As we move into October the Living Wellness Campaign will switch its focus to emotional wellness. Be sure to find out what activities and workshops will be available by visiting the Community Health and Well-being webpage

Faculty awards and accolades 

Each month as we put together this newsletter, I am reminded of how exceptional our faculty members are and the significant impact their research has on the world. Join me in congratulating a few of our colleagues who received special awards and commendations in the past month. 

  • Richard Cook, from the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences, has been named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). Richard was among the few recipients of the prestigious RSC fellowships from Waterloo this year. Read more here
  • Anita Layton, from the Department of Applied Mathematics and the Faculty of Mathematics’ Associate Dean Research and International, was named a fellow of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) for 2021. Congratulations, Anita! Read more here
  • The Faculty of Mathematics recently named its 2021-22 research chairs. We are extremely proud to announce the research chairs for this academic year are Kirsten Morris, from the Department of Applied Mathematics, and Matthew Satriano, from the Department of Pure Mathematics. Read the feature article on Kirsten’s research here and on Matthew’s research here
  • Xi He, from the Cheriton School of Computer Science, recently published a new book, Differential Privacy for Databases, that focuses on techniques, algorithms and systems for answering database-style queries with differential privacy. Read more here.

Student awards and accolades 

Along with the successes of our faculty members, it is a pleasure to learn about the awards that our stellar students have won. If you have any of the following students in your courses, I hope you will take an opportunity to offer special congratulations and celebrate their success. 

  • The Faculty of Mathematics has the honor of welcoming six new Schulich Leaders Scholarship winners, Saptarshi Bhattacherya, Alicia Bremer, Andrew Dong, Heidi Hon, Kushal Mujral and Eric Pei. Read more about these exceptional students here
  • The student-run hackathon, Hack the North, entered its eighth year this September. Software engineering students Emily Wang and Jessica Zhang were the co-directors of this year’s event, which involved hundreds of students from across the Faculty of Mathematics. Read more here.

Faculty of Mathematics media and outreach 

Communicating the impact of our research to the public is a priority for the Faculty of Mathematics. Through their outreach efforts in the past month, faculty members have connected with enormous audiences and been featured in hundreds of media outlets worldwide. Here are a few noteworthy news and outreach stories. 

  • Chris Bauch, from the Department of Applied Mathematics, was featured in a widely syndicated media release on new research examining artificial intelligence and tipping points. Read more here
  • Maura Grossman was interviewed by Insajder, an investigative TV program in Serbia, on ethical uses of artificial intelligence. The 45-minute program is scheduled to be aired in late October. 
  • Ronak Pradeep, a PhD student in the Cheriton School of Computer Science, and his supervisor, Jimmy Lin, were featured in a media release on new research related to limiting COVID-19 misinformation online. Read more here.

Community announcement  

Congratulations to Leanne Zonneveld (Undergraduate Admissions & Outreach) on the birth of her son, Maverick, on Monday, September 27.  

Staff hires and departures 

Join me in welcoming new staff members to the Faculty of Mathematics and bidding adieu to those moving on to other positions. We wish them all the best in their new roles. 

  • Congratulations to Erin Kelly, who has accepted a full-time permanent role as administrative coordinator, undergraduate studies with the Department of Applied Math. 
  • Welcome to Tetyana Reichart who joined MFCF as the financial and facility administrator. 
  • The Dean of Math Office welcomes Marie Kahkejian from computer science, who began a one-year secondment as events coordinator. 
  • Welcome to Kumudinie Kariyapperuma who joined the Math Research Office as the manager, research to cover Brittany Reiche’s maternity leave. 
  • Welcome to Raneem Al-Halimi who has joined the Dean of Math Office for a three-month contract as our community engagement program evaluator. 
  • Congratulations to Raffe Kachichian who has accepted a full-time permanent role as graduate studies coordinator within the Math Graduate Office. 
  • Congratulations to Angie Hewitt who has taken a two-year secondment as the administrative manager in the Human Rights & Equity Office. 
  • Alice Pfeifer-Hanov recently left Statistics and Actuarial Sciences to pursue other opportunities. All the best, Alice! 

Onwards to October 

As we move into October and the last quarter of 2021, I am reminded of how different things were one year ago. It is not to say that we are out of the woods, but compared to fall 2020, things are looking up. Once again, I want to express my gratitude to everyone, our faculty members, staff, students and the entire Faculty of Mathematics community, for the way we have come together in the face of adversity. Thank you all so much. 

Yours truly, 

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht