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Dean's Message - September 2018

I would like to start by thanking everyone for their patience and flexibility during our recent building shutdowns while the electricity was turned off for work that needed to be done. Thanks to the Math Faculty Computing Facility and Computer Science Computing Facility for all their hard work during this period. We are powered back up in the Faculty of Mathematics and ready for the start of a new academic year.

This week we welcome many new faces to the Faculty of Mathematics. I look forward to greeting our new undergraduate students at the annual Pink Tie Ceremony, and to meeting our new graduate students and new faculty at other special events. They join a unique peer group with shared interests in a faculty that offers many opportunities to get involved, to reach the forefronts of specialties, and to have fun.

In August in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization, they kicked off the Tutte Distinguished Lecture Series on the 3rd with Federico Ardila from San Francisco State University and for the last two weeks the chair, Jochen Koenemann, was in Bonn, Germany for a summer school at the Hausdorff Center for Mathematics and a workshop at the Hausdorff Research Institute for Mathematics he co-organized.

In September, the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science will host another Waterloo Datathon where students have the chance to win $100,000 in cash prizes. For those interested in statistics and data science, the Fields Institute invites anyone interested in statistics and data science to join them for a four-day workshop on Statistical Models, Learning and Inference for Big Data.

We are excited to launch the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute on September 28. The day is scheduled to include a keynote by Christine Binne, Director - Policy and Issues Management - National Cyber Security at Public Safety Canada, panels on post-quantum security and the security of Internet of Things, as well as a poster session.

While we are busy welcoming everyone new to campus this month, we welcome our alumni back to campus at Reunion on September 22. We have a full schedule of events which includes class reunions, a loop elimination pool tournament, a pancake breakfast, and of course, walking tours so that our alumni can learn about our achievements and how we are constantly changing to help develop the best and brightest.

This month, there are several achievements to share: 

  • The Financial Analysis and Risk Management (FARM) Program (Risk Management Specialization) was awarded PRMIA accreditation. It is the first bachelor’s degree program in North America to gain the official PRM accreditation.
  • Neuberger Berman announced a quantitative investment research partnership with David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. This will be led by George Labahn, Yuying Li, and Peter Forsyth.
  • The National Institute of Statistical Sciences granted Matthias Schonlau (Statistics and Actuarial Science) the NISS Distinguished Alumni Award.
  • The University of Waterloo received Center for Actuarial Excellence Research Grant from the Society of Actuaries.
  • Matthew Kennedy (Pure Mathematics) received a $120,000 Discovery Accelerator Supplement from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
  • Two incoming students, Yunfei (Robin) Wen (Mathematics) and Advait Maybhate (Computer Science) won two of the four Schulich Leader Scholarships awarded to University of Waterloo students. Each will receive $80,000 towards their university education.
  • PhD candidate Joseph Haraldson (Cheriton School of Computer Science) won the ACM SIGSAM Distinguished Student Author Award.
  • Cheriton School of Computer Science professors John Brzozowski and Lila Kari, and Bai Li (BCS 2017) and their colleague Marek Szykuła from the University of Wrocław won the Sheng Yu Award at the 2018 Conference on Implementation and Applications of Automata.

Some of our research made the headlines in the past month. The findings with regards to mathematical modelling to show how human behaviour spreads infectious diseases by Chris Bauch and PhD candidate Joe Pharaon were covered by publications such as, the Health Medicine Network, Infection Control Today, and The Economic Times. News of the Neuberger Berman partnership, mentioned in the achievements above, made several German publications and was the top story in Citywire Selector. Moojan Ghafurian, a postdoctoral fellow in computer science, also made the news based on work he completed at Penn State about how a body clock trick makes us more patient.

This month we reach another important milestone in the development of the Faculty of Mathematics Strategic Plan. The plan is scheduled to be presented at the September Faculty Council Meeting. The University’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan also reached a milestone, moving to its consultation phase, and the President has asked for participation in the consultation sessions.

The Office of Research announced that the new research ethics system is now available. It supports the development, review, and clearance of research ethics applications. We have also been asked to share another note from the university: the Third Annual HeForShe Writing Contest opens September 5 as part of the commitment to the UN Women’s HeForShe IMPACT 10x10x10 initiative. Students, faculty, and staff have until October 1 to submit their writing.

We have much to be proud of and the beginning of a new academic year is a chance to gain more knowledge, start more exciting collaborations, and raise the bar once again. I look forward to seeing what this year brings.

Stephen M. Watt
Dean, Faculty of Mathematics - University of Waterloo

Stephen Watt