During his tenure in the Department of Pure Mathematics, Dr. Brian Forrest has supervised 18 master’s students, 10 doctoral students, and 11 postdoctoral fellows who have gone on to build successful careers in academia and industry. It came as no surprise to any of them that Dr. Forrest received the 2020-21 Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision.
According to Dr. Forrest, successful graduate supervision is a team effort. The second doctoral student he ever supervised, Nico Spronk, returned to Waterloo as a fellow professor of pure mathematics in 2004. Now, Dr. Forrest and Dr. Spronk jointly supervise several students every term. “It’s all about creating a team philosophy,” says Dr. Forrest. “Having a large, collaborative group of people in our Department has made a real difference for our students.”
By all accounts, Dr. Forrest has left an impression on countless students for his humility, friendliness, and passion for helping his students become effective teachers in addition to effective researchers. He created the Master of Mathematics for Teachers program to instill his teaching philosophy in the next generation. “We help our graduate students understand that standing up in front of other students and lecturing is not the same thing as teaching,” he reflects. “Effective teachers help guide and inspire students to make the most of their skills by their own efforts.”
Dr. Forrest has won national teaching awards in addition to the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award, but there is something particularly affirming about receiving an award for graduate supervision, he says. “I genuinely like all of my students and I view them as part of a family. The fact that they would appreciate any contribution I’ve made to their careers is important to me.”