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Honouring excellence in undergraduate research

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wanchun Shen by a frozen riverWanchun (Rosie) Shen, a pure mathematics major at the University of Waterloo, has been awarded the 2020 Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. Shen has focused much of her work on the multifractal analysis of self-similar measures of finite type.

Professors Kathryn Hare and Kevin Hare of the Department of Pure Mathematics worked on three projects with Shen. On their first project on Garsia entropy, Shen added another section to the paper they had already started, advancing the problem in a new direction. This paper has been accepted by Acta Math Hungarica. Another paper has been submitted to Asian J. Mathematics that provided a theoretical explanation for examples of Bernoulli convolutions with Pisot contractions and convolutions of Cantor measures.

In their nomination letter, Hare and Hare described an "incredible raw talent, creativity and passion for mathematics." Shen will continue her study of mathematics at Harvard University.

With so many top-notch nominees for the awards this year, the committee named two honorary mentions as well. Honorary mentions go to Steven Yuanshuo Feng, a computer science major in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science and Zhenyuan Zhang also from the Department of Pure Mathematics.

Steven FengFeng has worked on robust machine translation as an undergrad research assistant with Professor Pascal Poupart’s group since Spring 2019 while a Mathematics and Business double degree student. Prior to his work with Poupart, Feng had already written two papers working with Professor Jesse Hoey while working on building a chatbot that could be given a distinct “personality” for a mobile device. Feng has been accepted by both Carnegie Mellon and the University of Toronto for graduate studies.

Zhenyuan Zhang on a path in the woodsZhang, also a pure mathematics major, worked for the past two years on projects in probability theory with Professors Alexander Schied and Yi Shen from the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science. The work resulted in one paper accepted, one in submission, and the other two in preparation. Through his undergraduate studies, Zhang took three PhD-level courses, and one cross-listed course and ranked first in all four courses. Now Zhang will attend Stanford for his PhD after being accepted there as well as Berkeley, Cornell, and New York University for his graduate studies.

About the Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research

Professor Ming Li and his family created the Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award to honour the memory of his late wife, Jessie Wenhui Zou.

Born in Wuhan, China on August 27, 1968, Zou received a PhD degree from Wuhan University in physics at 26 years old. Jessie loved the field of finance and continued to pursue her studies and graduated from the University of Waterloo’s statistical finance master’s program in 2000. During this time, she also studied computer science and took a course in Java programming (CS 134). Upon graduation, she worked at the Bank of Montreal, specializing in risk control management.

Her passion for education, led her family to create this award to support research activities at the undergraduate level within the Faculty of Mathematics. Valued at $1,000, the Jessie W.H. Zou Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research is presented annually to an undergraduate student enrolled in his or her final year of any program within the Faculty of Mathematics. The awardee has demonstrated excellence in research and nominated by a faculty member who has supervised that research. The awardee is chosen by the Faculty of Mathematics Research Advisory Committee, chaired by the associate dean, research and international.

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