Dear Faculty of Mathematics colleagues,

The end of August and the start of September heralds the beginning of a new academic year and a new cohort of first-year students. As summer ends, I hope you have been able to take the time to enjoy the fine weather and environment and take some much-deserved time off. Welcome back, everyone!

The upcoming fall semester will undoubtedly have its share of challenges, not least of which is the emerging fourth wave of the pandemic in Canada. While there are still many uncertainties, the last few weeks have seen strides in establishing a rigorous vaccine mandate for all those coming to campus. It is through broadly applied, science-based public health measures like this that we will be able to move past this pandemic towards normalcy. As UW President Vivek Goel has noted in his recent article in the Record, we also need to recognize the priority of an excellent on-campus experience for our students, and provide them with the quality of education and full academic experience we are renowned for. The Faculty of Mathematics has been a leader in delivering on-campus and online education to our students throughout the pandemic so far, and I know we are ready for any challenges before us.

I do hope you will join me in a renewed sense of optimism as this new academic year begins. I am confident we will continue working in the service of our students, and more generally towards our educational and research mandates. Even more so, I am confident that we can do this with the enormous collegiality and spirit you have all shown over the past year and a half. Thank you to everyone for your dedication and professionalism.


There were a few noteworthy events through August and a few occasions to note coming up in September and into the fall.

Henry Wolkowicz, from the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, organized the first in a series of Fields Institute-hosted seminars on optimization. Read more about the first event in this news story. Register for upcoming workshops here.

The Centre for Teaching Excellence hosted the annual New Faculty Teaching Days on August 9 and August 17. Workshops included “Who Are Our Learners,” “Blended Course Design” and “Copyright, Library Services and Academic Integrity.” For upcoming teaching and learning events, contact Monica Vesely at CTE or the Faculty of Mathematics teaching fellow Diana Skrzydlo.

Community Health and Well-being

The month of September sees the launch of the faculty’s new Living Wellness Campaign, which provides staff and faculty members with the opportunity to participate in different wellness programming each month. In September, the campaign’s focus will be physical wellness and includes opportunities to join yoga classes, Zumba classes and an eating well workshop. Learn more here.

Thanks to the many staff and faculty who participated in the community assemblies, the Employee Health and Well-being Committee now has a much clearer understanding of the current state of employee health and well-being. A summary of key discussion points is on their website for all community members to review. Over the upcoming weeks, the Employee Health and Well-being Committee will build a work plan to address these concerns and much more. Read about the committee’s work at this link.

Finally, the Community Health and Wellbeing Committee has a brand-new initiative called Have Your Say starting in September. It’s an opportunity for faculty, staff and students to provide direct input on the direction and programming for health and well-being in the Faculty of Math. The committee is expected to make an official announcement in the first weeks of September. For now, check out how the program works at this link.

Co-op Fund

The Faculty of Mathematics is launching a brand-new Co-op Fund to help students interested in less traditional co-op paths. Less traditional co-op paths may involve investing in a cause close to their hearts through working at a charitable organization or taking a risk on an early-stage startup. Read more about the fund in this story.

Faculty awards and accolades

It is always extremely gratifying to have the opportunity to highlight some of the achievements of our faculty members. Please join me in congratulating the following colleagues.

  • Charmaine Dean, the University of Waterloo’s Vice President Research and International and a professor in the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, was appointed chair of the NSERC council. Read more here.
  • M. Tamer Özsu from the Cheriton School of Computer Science received the 2022 IEEE Innovation in Societal Infrastructure Award. Read more here.
  • Ruodu Wang from the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences was the first recipient of the Society of Actuaries Actuarial Science Early Career Award. Read more here.
  • Cecilia Cotton from the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Sciences and Martin Pei from the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization were named winners of the Faculty of Mathematics Awards for Distinction in Teaching. Read the news story on the announcement here.
  • Bill Cook from the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization was part of a team that won the Amazon Last Mile Routing Research Challenge. Read more here.
  • Brian Forrest from the Department of Pure Mathematics recently stepped down as the Faculty of Mathematics teaching fellow. We recognize Brian’s contributions and extend our thanks for his work in the service of teaching and learning in the faculty.

Faculty appointments

It is always a pleasure to be able to welcome new faculty members to our ranks. I hope you will join me in extending the warmest Faculty of Mathematics greetings to our most recent colleagues.

  • Meng Xu joins the Cheriton School of Computer Science at the rank of assistant professor.
  • Zille Huma Kamal joins the Cheriton School of Computer Science at the position of definite term lecturer.

Faculty retirement

Barry Ferguson from the CEMC retired at the end of July 2021 after 35 years on faculty. Barry’s CEMC career included, among other things, work on math contests and workshops in schools near and far. Additionally, he was an early proponent of computing contests and led Canada’s participation at the International Olympiad in Informatics. Barry was the long-time director of the Mathematics/Teaching undergraduate program until recently and served as associate dean (co-op) for many years. We congratulate Barry on his retirement!

Student and postdoc awards and accolades

Along with the outstanding achievements of our faculty members, our students continue to distinguish themselves as they become the future leaders they are destined to be. Some of our students, and some of our prospective students, shone even brighter this past month. Here are a few of those exceptional students and their achievements.

  • The University of Waterloo programming team consisting of computer science students Jason Yuen and Ildar Gainullin, and software engineering student Wesley Leung, were champions of the North America Division of the 2021 International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC)! Our team beat out 47 other teams from the top universities across North America, and will now advance to the 45th annual ICPC World Finals. Read more on the winning team here.
  • Two teams affiliated with the Faculty of Mathematics were named among the Concept $5K Challenge winners. Congratulations to teams House AI and SAFI. House AI consists of computer science student Matthew Jiao, computer engineering student Adam Lam and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry student Amrit Bhogal. Team SAFI consists of Faculty of Mathematics double degree students Miraal Kabir, Alex Shehdula, Daria Margarit and Martin Turuta. The team also includes Hanna Rao from McMaster University and Kiana Dhindsa from Wilfrid Laurier University. Read more on the winning teams here.
  • The Department of Pure Mathematics awarded four silver medals to academically excellent undergraduates, Ziyu Chi, Anzo Zhao The, Xinyue Xie and Weixi Zhuo. The department also gave an undergraduate research prize to Zhi Ying Daniel Yu for work with Barbara Csima. All five prizes come with a $1000 cash award.
  • Leili Rafiee Sevyeri from the Cheriton School of Computer Science received a 2021 Applications of Computer Algebra Early Researcher Award. Read more here.
  • And although they are not our students quite yet, congratulations to team Aiuto Solutions who were named among the global winners of the Technovation Girls app development contest. Team members Ellen Brisley and Leya Oommen are Faculty of Mathematics prospects once they complete their secondary schooling. The faculty’s Women in Computer Science (WiCS) outreach committee supported the team. Read more here.

Staff and administrative appointments/retirees

Please join me in welcoming new staff members to the Faculty of Mathematics and wishing all the best to those retiring or leaving for other opportunities.

  • Lauren Fitzgerald joined the Math Advancement team as a donor relations officer on August 9 for a nine-month contract. Lauren is filling this position for the remainder of Christina Young’s maternity leave. Diana McGaughey, who has been filling this role since April, is leaving to take a development officer position in Athletics and Recreation.
  • Bethany Davidson-Eng joined us on August 30 as a proposal development officer, a role shared between the Math Research Office and the Math Innovation Office to support the development of competitive funding proposals, award nominations and other research-related documents.
  • Laura Jane Watkins will be joining the Undergraduate Admissions & Outreach team as an undergraduate recruitment coordinator, for a 19-month secondment, to cover Leanne Zonneveld’s maternity leave.
  • Welcome back to Lauren Hartman in Math Advancement who has returned from maternity leave.
  • Rachel Kehl and Vanessa Sartor, two of our co-op employees, will be wishing us adieu as they return to their studies for another semester. Warmest thanks and best wishes for continuing academic and professional success to both.

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.

  • Anita Layton from the Department of Applied Mathematics featured in an article in Clinical Research News for her work on mathematical models and simulations for COVID-19 clinical trials. Read the full article here.
  • Marek Stastna from the Department of Applied Mathematics and his recently graduated PhD student, Aaron Coutino, featured in a widely syndicated news release for their research on Yucatan Peninsula hydrology. Read more here.
  • Spiro Karigiannis from the Department of Pure Mathematics featured a special Q & A article and video on string theory. Karigiannis kindly participated in a somewhat novel Faculty of Mathematics outreach effort to communicate academic research in an accessible way. Many thanks, Spiro! See more here.
  • Siv Sivaloganathan from the Department of Applied Mathematics featured in a widely syndicated media release for his team’s research on high intensity focused ultrasound as a developing cancer treatment. Read more here.
  • Gautam Kamath from the Cheriton School of Computer Science featured in a popular story in Wired Magazine, discussing machine learning and unlearning. Read more here.
  • Urs Hengartner and Daniel Vogel from the Cheriton School of Computer Science featured in The Record on personal data left on discarded hardware. Read more here or check out the feature article on the computer science website.

Community announcement

Congratulations to Monique Bevan from Computer Science on welcoming her second daughter, Raegan Delilah Carr. Everyone is happy, healthy and doing well!

Alumni engagement

Are you looking for alumni volunteers to participate in an event or to profile? If so, please fill out this form, and Kristine McGlynn, alumni engagement program specialist, will connect with you about next steps.


While I am very pleased to see the relatively high vaccination rate in Ontario and have reason to be hopeful for low COVID case numbers, the delta variant continues to warrant concern. As noted above, the University of Waterloo has implemented important requirements for verified vaccine status for all those entering campus, despite somewhat ambiguous political support. We are proceeding with our plan from earlier this summer for 50% classroom capacity, and remain committed to being 100% on campus for Winter term, with the exception of having Math core courses available online as well. Should health conditions require, we will maintain the ability to pivot to online delivery.

I reiterate my belief that the on-campus experience for our students is essential to their educational experience and quality, and we will do everything possible to ensure this can be delivered in a safe way for students, faculty and staff alike.

Looking forward to September

As the bard said, “summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” But as summer ends and the fall semester begins for the Faculty of Mathematics, there is a sense of hope and excitement. Let’s all continue to work together and continue to support one another in our important work. Thank you, once again, for all you do in the service of our students and each other.

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht