Math in the news: 12 great stories from 2022

Friday, December 23, 2022

From helping combat Covid-19 misinformation to climate change research, we look back at twelve big research stories from the Faculty of Mathematics in 2022.


Researchers use AI to analyze tweets debating vaccination and climate change

Using artificial intelligence, researchers found that between 2007 and 2016 online sentiments around climate change were uniform, but this was not the case with vaccination. A joint team examined massive numbers of tweets over a ten year period, and discovered that Twitter users overwhelmingly believed climate change was a human-made and urgent crisis, but were much more split on vaccination.

Computational models reveal effects of pregnancy on kidneys

Researchers used computer simulations to better understand the impact pregnancy can have on kidneys. The new research helps medical practitioners better understand the physiology of the kidneys during pregnancy and develop appropriate patient care and treatments to improve health outcomes.

Computer model shows the best ways to slow the spread of COVID-19

Researchers at the University of Waterloo created the first computational model that simulates many variables affecting the transmission of COVID-19 to slow the spread of variants. The model takes raw data already in use to forecast case numbers and hospitalizations, and then adds other factors, such as vaccination rates, the use of masks and lockdowns, and the number of breakthrough infections.

Computer drug simulations offer warning about promising diabetes and cancer treatments

Using computer drug simulations, researchers found that doctors need to be wary of prescribing a particular treatment for all types of cancer and patients. The drug, called metformin, has traditionally been prescribed for diabetes but has been used in clinical settings as a cancer treatment in recent years. The researchers said while metformin shows great promise, it also has negative consequences for some types of cancers.


Machine learning can help address stigma of substance abuse in developing countries

In developing countries, people with substance-abuse issues can sometimes face shame and find it difficult to get help. A research team used machine learning and anonymized data to get a clearer picture of the underlying factors that influence tendencies to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Combining certain medications with ibuprofen can permanently injure kidneys

New research showed that anyone who is taking a diuretic and a renin-angiotensin system (RSA) inhibitor for high blood pressure should be cautious about also taking ibuprofen. Researchers at the University of Waterloo used computer-simulated drug trails to model the interaction of the three drugs and the impact on the kidney. They found that in people with certain medical profiles, the combination can cause acute kidney injury, which in some places can be permanent.

Mathematical beauty at the limits of the possible

Patrick Naylor, a new PhD graduate from the Department of Pure Mathematics, won the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the University of Waterloo at the doctoral level. He works in the field of low-dimensional topology, exploring the characteristics of dimensions beyond those we experience as reality.

Research breakthrough means warp speed ‘Unruh effect’ can finally be tested in lab settings

A major hurdle for work at the forefront of fundamental physics is the inability to test cutting-edge theories in a laboratory setting. A research team found an innovative way to experiment on the Unruh effect through a novel use of high-intensity lasers. They discovered that shining a high-intensity laser on an accelerated particle can amplify the Unruh effect so much that it actually becomes measurable.

New diabetes monitor can detect glucose levels using breath

A next-generation diabetes monitor that analyses breath might soon mean no more needle pricks to check blood sugar levels. The device uses gas sensors to measure breath instantly, then links via Bluetooth with a program on a mobile device to give a readout.


Waterloo researchers discover security loophole allowing attackers to use WiFi to see through walls  

A research team based out of the University of Waterloo developed a drone-powered device that can use WiFi networks to see through walls. The device, nicknamed Wi-Pee, can fly near a building and then use the inhabitants’ WiFi network to identify and locate all WiFi-enabled devices inside in a matter of seconds.

A three-pronged approach to helping Indonesia cope with climate change

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced $15 million in funding for the University of Waterloo’s Faculties of Mathematics and Environment to work with Indonesian partners on climate-change adaptation and mitigation strategies in the country.

Using math to better treat cancer

Researchers identified a new method for scheduling radiation therapy that could be as much as 22 percent more effective at killing cancer cells than current standard radiation treatment regimens. The new algorithm can generalize the differing radiation resistances of stem cells and non-stem cells, allowing doctors to predict how a tumour will respond to treatment before gathering exact data on an individual’s cancer.