Dean's Message - September 2019

This week we welcome students back to campus and begin the cycle of the fall term. Our incoming undergraduates will receive their pink ties, and our senior students will return to their studies. The summer has been a busy one, and there is a lot of news.

We are incredibly proud to announce that one of the Canadian International Olympiad in Informatics team members, Zixiang (Peter) Zhou placed third globally in Baku, Azerbaijan. Accompanied by team leaders Troy Vasiga and Carrie Knoll, all four team members had a strong showing with three medals in total. Congratulations to all the winners, and we are glad they enjoyed their experience in Baku.

We have several other people to congratulate this month. We are proud to announce that:

  • Three researchers received the John R. Evans Leader Fund (JELF) from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation funding for infrastructure:
    • Anita Layton (Applied Mathematics): The virtual physiological human project ($100,000)
    • Ali Mashtizadeh (Computer Science): Scalable systems software for next generation architectures ($101,000)
    • Omid Salehi-Abari (Computer Science): Intelligent connectivity lab: Software-hardware systems for the Internet of Things ($150,000)
  • Mario Ghossub and Mirabelle Huynh (Statistics and Actuarial Science) were named Fellows of the Society of Actuaries
  • Ian Goldberg (Computer Science), his colleagues David Wagner, Randi Thomas, and former PhD supervisor Eric Brewer won the 2019 USENIX Security Test of Time Award for their research that identified the vulnerability of helper applications used by early web browsers. This work also received the Best Paper Award at the Sixth USENIX Security Symposium in 1996.
  • Laura Sanità (Combinatorics and Optimization), Ben Webster (Pure Mathematics), and Jesse Hoey (Computer Science) all received the 2019 Golden Jubilee Research Excellence awards from the Faculty of Mathematics
  • Moojan Ghafurian and Jesse Hoey (Computer Science) and Kerstin Dautenhahn (Electrical and Computer Engineering) received a catalyst grant from the University of Waterloo’s Network for Aging Research
  • PhD student JC Chang, Christopher Batty and postdoctoral fellow Vinicius Azevedo (Computer Science) won the best poster award at the 2019 Symposium on Computer Animation
  • Incoming student Jason Amri (Computer Science) won a Schulich Leader Scholarship

With the start of the term, we have several upcoming events:

David R. Cheriton will be in Waterloo for this year’s Cheriton Research Symposium on September 20, along with Dan Brown and Urs Hengartner. The David R. Cheriton Graduate Scholarship recipients will also have the opportunity to present their posters and discuss their research with Cheriton.

The following week, Luke Postle and Michelle Delcourt (Combinatorics and Optimization) will host the Water Colouring Conference from September 23-27. Speakers from Australia, China, Denmark, France, Japan, the US, and the UK will present plenary talks. The Combinatorics and Optimization department will also be holding their Tutte Distinguished Lecture on September 27 with Carsten Thomassen. Carsten is the Dean’s Distinguished Visiting Professor for 2019. He will be teaching a topics course in graph theory, CO 749 Colouring, flows, and orientation of graphs on Tuesdays and Thursdays of the Fall term. Bruce Richter, who officially retired on September 1 after 20 years department, nominated Carsten.

That same week, the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science will hold their David Sprott Distinguished Lecture on September 26. Hans Follmer will speak to the interplay between entropy, large deviations, and optimal couplings on Wiener space.

October will kick off with the Waterloo Innovation Summit on October 1. Anita Layton (Applied Mathematics) is part of a Mathematics for medicine panel along with Dr. James Drake from SickKids who recently partnered with Jochen Koenemann and Ricardo Fukasawa (Combinatorics and Optimization) to develop mathematical algorithms to assist surgeons in the correction of craniosynostosis in infants. Two alumni, Jodie Wallis (BMath ’93) and Charmaine Dean (PhD ’88), will also be speaking. 

On the same day as the Waterloo Innovation Summit, the Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute is co-hosting the inaugural CyberCity Conference at Catalyst137. The next day, CPI will hold its Annual Conference, which will include keynote speakers, panel discussions, and industry talks. Then on October 5-6, CPI will co-host the Blockchain and Security Workshop with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Just as these events will build awareness about the Faculty of Mathematics, so has the press we received throughout August. The work by Anita Layton’s Master’s student Mehrshad Sadria with regards to early detection of autism continued to receive press, but the most press this month covered work by Alexandra Vtyurina (Computer Science) and Microsoft that makes web browsing easier for the visually impaired. It received coverage around the world including Mashable India, South Africa News.Net, Herald Globe, the New York Post, and others.

Stefan Steiner and Jock MacKay (Statistics and Actuarial Science) also received many media mentions. Their research about speed being the best predictor of car crashes appeared in Forbes, CBC, and Insurance Business Canada.

In the area of cybersecurity and privacy, PhD student Anastasia Kuzminykh was interviewed by 570News about her research with Ed Lank (Computer Science) about children's online privacy. The news also appeared in The Record as well as other media sources. Fellow Computer Science PhD student, Christian Gorenflo and his research with Srinivasan Keshav and Lukasz Golab's on using blockchain to secure transactions at electric vehicle charging stations appeared in and Science Daily.

We also saw theoretical research get picked up by several scientific publications, including Eduardo Martin-Martinez (Applied Mathematics) and his colleagues in Spain came to a new understanding of how quantum gravity affects low-energy physics.

We look forward to promoting the research of several new faculty members who are starting the 2019/2020 academic year with us. In Computer Science we welcome Nadarajah Asokan, Jian Zhao, Yizhou Zhang, and Chengnian Sun. We also have new lecturers and adjunct lecturers including Arash Dahaj (Dean’s Office/Math Business), Amanda Garcia (Dean’s Office/MUO), and Diana Castaneda Santos and Valentina Hideg (Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing). The CEMC also added Ashley Congi and Alexandra Rideout as Outreach Activities Administrators. In the Dean’s Office, Colleen Richter has joined as the Community Engagement Co-ordinator and Brittany Reiche as a Technical Writer. We would also like to recognize Chaitanya Swamy as he begins a 10-month term as Acting Chair of Combinatorics and Optimization.

Please join me in making the newest members of our community – students, staff, and faculty – feel welcome. I wish everyone a successful term.

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

Stephen M. Watt