Dear Faculty of Math colleagues,  

It’s been a whirlwind September, with students returning to campus for what is looking to be a far more normal school year, even as we carefully navigate and monitor our “new” environment.   It has been a pleasure to spend time with so many of you at orientations and welcome back events. For many of us this has been the first time in years that we get to spend this kind of time together.  We are still not taking the pandemic for granted, and assure you we stand ready to react to changing circumstances.  I hope that many Math staff members will join me this Wednesday, October 5, from 2:00-3:30 pm in DC 1302 and online, for our Staff Town Hall.  

It seems like we’ve shifted from summer to autumn overnight: the trees are changing, there’s a blustery chill in the air as I ride in every morning, and stores and markets are overflowing with apples and pumpkins. I hope as the season changes that you each have the opportunity to spend meaningful time with family and friends, whether you’re staying cozy inside or enjoying outdoor activities.  

September has kept us all very busy, and I am looking forward to an October of settling into the semester’s routines. That being said, there is still much to look forward to! Most prominently, we will be celebrating our graduating students during our fall convocation ceremony on Friday, October 21, 2022 at 2:30 pm. Students can register for convocation here.  

It was great seeing many of you this past weekend at the Wes Graham Symposium on October 1. We enjoyed talks by 2020 Graham Medal Computing and Innovation recipient Joanne McKinley, Graham Research Fellow Edith Law, and PhD student in Public Health and Health Systems Pedro Elkind Velmovitsky. An honorary J. W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation was presented to distinguished professor emeritus Don Cowan. 

As ever, I am pleased to share with you some of the many achievements of our students, faculty, and staff as well as upcoming events and initiatives taking place in the Faculty of Mathematics.  


We had a great start to our second annual Living Wellness Campaign, with nearly 200 participants registering for wellness-inspired events and activities. Keep an eye on the community health and well-being webpage for our upcoming programming in October, and be sure to take some time to prioritize your own wellness as we move forward into the fall term.  

During September, 23 teams comprised of 168 students, postdocs, staff, and faculty competed in a three-day long puzzle-solving competition, in pursuit of being crowned the first-ever Engima Cup Champions. This year our winning team was “Not So Great Ideas”: Gautam Kamath (captain), Dave Tompkins, Kam Chuen Tung, Sara Kodeiri, Vijay Ravi, Sabrina Mokhtari, Abhiroop Sanyal, and Abhibhav Garg. You can visit the Engima Cup in its display case on the fifth floor of MC.  

Our Community Well-being & Engagement Officer Robert Bruce is leading the Faculty in the construction of a community art project, which will be a 7ftx7ft pi symbol made up of tiles with messages from our students, postdocs, staff, and faculty. A “pop-up” table will be appearing throughout October, and I hope that you will stop by and write a comment about your understanding of wellness and community.  

Equity, diversity, and inclusion  

While we are entering October, I do want to take a moment to reflect on some of the important events hosted in September related to truth and reconciliation and gender equity.  

On Thursday, September 22, Waterloo held an Indigenous Commitment Ceremony, where the Indigenous Peoples of the University of Waterloo asked President Vivek Goel for a full commitment to reconciliation, Indigenization, and decolonization. It was great to see representation from the Faculty of Mathematics both to honour the event and acknowledge our commitment to this important work. On Friday, September 30, our campus observed the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation – a day for further reflection on this important work. Of course, this work continues year-round and our EDI-R + Indigenization Strategy/Lens Development Committee has formed a working group focused on Indigenization to explore how our Faculty can contribute to these important and necessary efforts.  

On Saturday, September 24th I had the privilege of introducing the Truth Values play and panel sponsored by Women in Math (WiM), our Faculty, and the Faculty of Engineering. The event was a great reminder that while we have made progress, we still have work to do promoting gender equity in Mathematics and Computer Science. Thank you to Ghazal Geshnizjani for leading the organization of a thought-provoking evening.  

There is always a lot happening at Waterloo, and it can be challenging to decide what to include in these monthly updates. I know many of us find it hard to stay up to date on these developments: as such, this month’s Capacity Building Circle might be for you. The topic is “Staying up to date with equity, diversity, inclusion, anti-racism and Indigenization efforts – without being overwhelmed.” You can register at this link: enter the code “EDIOct2022.”  


September was a jam-packed month, with plenty of opportunities to welcome new and returning students, post-docs, staff, and faculty. One of the highlights was the return of the Faculty Reception and Dinner on September 8. It was such a pleasure to spend time together and celebrate the accomplishments of our colleagues over the past few years. Special thanks to our events team for their work planning and executing a wonderful event.  

We have several events and activities of interest in the month ahead:  

  • We’re kicking off Research Horizons, a new speaker series, on October 5 from noon to 1 p.m., with a visit from Kate Geddie, Senior Director of Research at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. Please follow this link to register for either the in-person or virtual option for this session and read more about upcoming speakers.  
  • On October 14 and 15, the Waterloo Student Conference in Statistics, Actuarial Science and Finance will highlight exciting graduate research and recognize graduate student accomplishments. Read more here.  
  • On October 14, Viktor Todorov will be giving the David Sprott Distinguished Lecture on “Recalcitrant Betas: Intraday Cross-Sectional Distributions of Systematic Risk.” Read more here.  
  • Claudia Klüppelberg, world-renowned professor of statistics and the 2022 recipient of an Honorary Doctorate of Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, will be giving a Distinguished Lecture on “Max-linear Graphical Models for Extreme Risk Modelling” on October 20 at 4 p.m. Read more here.  

Research, Advancement, and Media Outreach  

  • The Math Business Finance Lab is now open!  The lab is located in MC #3004. It is open for use to Math Faculty Monday- Friday 9:00am - 4:30pm. It contains 6 Bloomberg terminals that are located along the wall with appropriate labelling.

  • The Graham Seed Fund is now accepting applications for new projects that will work towards the university’s strategic priority of creating a global recognized hub for innovative and transformative health technologies. Funding is available up to $25,000 and is available for all faculties. Read more here.  
  • The Math Advancement team is on the road again, with a donor and alumni roundtable in Toronto on October 13 and a visit to California from October 17-21.  
  • Stacey Watson (Computer Science) and their colleagues Manisha Kamarushi, Garreth Tigwell, and Roshan Peiris at the Rochester Institute of Technology, received a best paper award at MobileHCI 2022 for their research developing and evaluating a PIN-based authentication method for blind and low vision users. Read more here.  
  • Professor Jeffrey Shallit (Computer Science)’s book The Logical Approach to Automatic Sequences: Exploring Combinatorics on Words with Walnut will be published this September by Cambridge University.  
  • Five projects led or co-led by professors from the Faculty are receiving funding from the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation in order to research urgent issues around public health, technological advancement, and the climate crisis. Read more here.  

Faculty awards and accolades 

Many of our colleagues received awards and commendations in this month: continuing evidence of the stellar talent in the Faculty of Mathematics. Congratulations to the following:  

  • Anita Layton, Professor of Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Pharmacy and Biology, was awarded the Royal Society of Canada Fellowship. The prestigious award is the highest honour an individual can achieve in the arts, social sciences, and sciences in Canada. Read more here.  
  • Rahim Moosa, Professor of Pure Math, and Pengfei Li, Professor of Statistics and Actuarial Science, won the Math Faculty Research Chairs. The chairs run for three years and come with $50,000 of research funding and a teaching reduction of one course per year. Read more here.  

Student awards and accolades 

Some of the best and brightest students in Canada are part of the Waterloo family, whether they are brand-new to university or recent graduates.  

  • Six of the ten incoming 2022 Schulich Scholarship winners at Waterloo are studying computer science or software engineering (offered jointly by the Faculties of Mathematics and Engineering). Congratulations to Tudor Barsan (CS), Norman Chen (SE), Maggie Liu (CS), Ashwin Roperia (CS), Sarah Wilson (CS), Michael Xu (SE). Read more here.  
  • A special congratulations as well to Biostatistics and Marriage, Family, and Sexuality Studies graduate Jalisa Karim, who will be receiving the K. D. Fryer Gold Medal at Fall Convocation. Read more here

Faculty hires and retirements 

Join me and welcoming new and continuing faculty members. Congratulations to:  

  • Mikko Pakkanen, Associate Professor of Statistics & Actuarial Science  
  • Sujaya Maiyya, Assistant Professor of Computer Science   

Staff hires and departures  

Congratulations to the following:  

  • Nathan Fish (CSCF) moved from a contract role to an ongoing position as an Information Technology Specialist on September 19.  
  • Jessica King joined MFCF as an Information Technology Specialist on September 26.  
  • Mary Nikolakakos will be joining the Math Advancement team, on contract, as a senior Development Officer beginning on October 3.  
  • Alexandra Kraushaar will be moving from Computer Science to join the Math Innovation Office, on contract, as the Research Partnerships Officer beginning on October 3.  
  • Jessica Leung will be moving from Computer Science to join Statistics & Actuarial Science as the Graduate Studies Manager beginning on October 20.  

All the best to the following as they start the next stage of their journeys:  

  • Yibei Zhao (Math Innovation Office) has taken a secondment in the Office of Research effective September 19.  
  • Tina Cochrane (Math Business) has moved to a new ongoing role in Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering on September 26.  
  • Josh McDonald (CEMC) has moved on to opportunities outside of UW, effective September 30.  
  • Lisa Liu (Computer Science) has taken a secondment in the Dean of Engineering Office beginning on October 3.  
  • Kumudinie Kariyapperuma (Math Research Office) will be leaving on October 7, as her contract is coming to an end.  
  • Amelia Burton (Undergraduate Admissions & Outreach) has taken a new ongoing role in Waterloo International beginning on October 19.  
  • Paula Roser (Computer Science) has taken a secondment in English Language & Literature beginning on October 19.  

Welcome back to:  

  • Brittany Reiche (Manager, Research – Math Research Office), who returns from maternity leave on October 3.  
  • Monique Bevan (Recruitment Coordinator – Computer Science), who returns from maternity leave on October 24.  

Looking forward  

Thank you to everyone who has made the beginning of this school year a great success! As we move mindfully into this season of abundance and gratitude, I am reminded of what an honour it is to work alongside such a hardworking and brilliant group of people. I can’t wait to see what this semester brings.  

Yours truly, 

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht