Dean's Message - June 2017

As we come to the end of the academic year, it is a natural time to think about what we have done and where we are going. The current Faculty of Mathematics strategic plan comes to an end in 2017. Following discussions that began last year, we are on the road to develop the next strategic plan. Over the coming year, the planning process will help shape the Faculty’s future and will enable us to provide meaningful input into the next University of Waterloo strategic plan. Watch for invitations to engage in the process, and share your thoughts any time with Martha, our Director of Planning.

One element of the Faculty mission is to “produce graduates that are in worldwide demand.” Based on the latest jobs ranking, where 7 of the top 10 can start from a BMath or BCS degree, we’re doing just that! The top careers are: statistician, operations research analyst, information security analyst, data scientist, university professor, mathematician, software engineering – and actuary (ranking 11th).

These fields are also reflected in student enrichment activities that have taken place recently. The Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science hosted ASA DataFest, a celebration of data in which teams of undergraduates work around the clock to find and share meaning in a large, rich, and complex data set. On the same weekend, Waterloo’s first gender equity hackathon – Equithon 2017 – brought together student hackers, 50% of whom were women. A few days later, the first Datathon was held on campus. Datathon students were given a set of materials and asked to solve a structured problem working with a dataset and predictive modeling, then interpret and present their results.

The Waterloo ACM team continued the fine tradition of representing us admirably at the International Collegiate Programing Contest world finals as this year’s North American Champion. Congratulations to team members Timothy Li, Antonio Molina Lovett and Jacob Jackson – with coaches Troy Vasiga, Andy Huang and Ondřej Lhoták. They tied for 13th place out of 128 universities, coming in ahead of teams from MIT, Princeton, Berkeley, UBC and others. I echo Troy, who notes “this is a huge accomplishment!”

I am pleased to note that Don Cowan and research associate Kyle Young received the Award of Merit from the Volunteer Action Centre of Kitchener Waterloo and Area for developing their widely-used volunteer-matching software.

Also recognized recently was Professor Daniel Vogel, recipient of an Early Researcher Award from the Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science for his proposal to explore the potential for human-computer interaction in fully interactive physio-digital spaces. You can read more about Dan’s work in Releasing the Computational Genie from the Bottle, by Joe Petrik.

You are invited to the Recognizing Excellence Series, featuring talks by Vicki Iverson (2017 J.W. Graham Medallist) and Efim Zelmanov (2017 Honorary Doctorate recipient) on June 15.

Finally, welcome to Jessica Won, who will begin her new role as Administrative Assistant to the Dean on June 5th.

Stephen M. Watt

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics

University of Waterloo

Stephen Watt