Dean's Message - October 2017

The Faculty of Mathematics welcomed more than 1,400 new undergraduate and 380 new graduate students in September.  As always, it is inspiring to see such an influx of talent and energy joining us in Waterloo.

The Women in Mathematics committee, led by Judith Koeller, held ‎two events this month to kick off the academic year. Female graduate students, post-doctoral candidates, and faculty were treated to a brief talk on achieving work-life balance as a woman in the world of mathematics.  This was led by Associate Dean ‎Lori Case and Postdoctoral Fellow Akahaa Vatwani‎ and was enhanced with a tasty two-tier chocolate fountain!  The evening prior, a whopping 88 undergraduate women were invited to ‎hear stories about What I Wish I Knew Then from upper year students and first year instructors. Laughs, robust conversations, and ‎even a photo booth rounded out the entertaining event.

Six HeForShe IMPACT scholarships were awarded to exceptional first year STEM students, five connected to Math. Congratulations to Jiayue Cheng (Business and Computer Science), Teresa Kang (Computer Science),  Heather Musson (Software Engineering), Guia Janelle C. Pucyutan (Mathematical Physics) and Alex Rynard (Mathematical Physics).

Waterloo hosted the 2017 Hack the North competition September 15-17.  This event was opened by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and brought together 1,000 students from around the world. During the opening ceremonies, when asked what he would suggest students study, Balaji Srinivasan, Founder and CEO of, said:

“Definitely computer science and statistics. I’d say, absolutely learn that. Whatever other major you have is almost downstream of that as an application area.”

He also listed the Princeton Companion to Mathematics as his favourite book.  We didn’t even pay him to say that!

Congratulations to Florian Kerschbaum who received a $120,000 Discovery Accelerator Supplement from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council for a proposal titled “Systems for computation on encrypted data. Congratulations also to recent PhD graduate Martin Derka, his supervisor Professor Therese Biedl and colleagues Markus Chimani and Petra Mutzel who received the best paper award for “Crossing number for graphs with bounded pathwidth,” which will be presented at ISAAC 2017.

David Jao and Pengfei Li were this year’s recipients of Faculty of Mathematics Award for Distinction in Teaching; the awards were presented at the Faculty Reception on September 21, 2017.

On Friday, September 22, almost 500 students participated in the Small c Contest for first-year and second-year students. Our top-performing students include Runhe Lyu, Anthony Pham, Rui Ming Xiong, Timothy Jacob Wahyudi, Yue Weng, Jason Yuen, Anzo Zhao, Yang The and Yuxuan Zhang. Jason Yuen earned the sole perfect and very impressive score of 150 out of 150. 

The David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science unveiled a new lab on Thursday, September 28, 2017. The recently completed 5,000 square foot data systems lab is an open-concept space for more than 70 undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and other researchers to conduct innovative, high-impact research in big data and data science.

The Cheriton School of Computer Science held its annual Cheriton Research Symposium September 28-29.  David Cheriton’s talk about “The Age of Incompetence and Software Evolution” was complemented by talks from Steven Woods and Verna Friesen of Google and Matei Zaharia of Stanford University. As always, the student poster presentations were a highlight of the event and illustrated the incredible scope of research conducted in the school.

This past weekend, the Faculty of Mathematics held a special 50th Anniversary Reunion in conjunction with the university’s annual fall reunion event.  Alumni came from far and wide to attend, ranging from Australia to right next door. Events included a pancake breakfast, a time capsule, the Amazing Math Race, the Decades Forum and the memorable Pink Tie Party, sponsored by Huawei.

Looking to next month, 40 female students in computer science will be attending this year’s Grace Hopper conference in Orlando, Florida from October 3-6th. Jo Atlee, Dan Brown, Kate Dal Castel and Lori Case will be joining the team of students. Students who attended last year’s conference have shared how much they have benefited.

The Faculty of Mathematics’ strategic planning process is in active consultation phase. To build the best plan for the Faculty of Mathematics, input is needed from all the Faculty’s communities. If you haven’t yet, please consider completing the survey or joining a focus group to help shape the Faculty’s future.

Finally, I would like to welcome Jessica Leung who has joined the Dean of Mathematics Graduate Office as our Graduate and Research Coordinator.


Stephen M. Watt

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics - University of Waterloo

Stephen Watt