Amir-Hossein Karimi had already worked as a software engineer at Facebook, BlackBerry and even founded a startup when he realized he wanted to go back to school.

“I missed math. As a software engineer, I had a great job...I enjoyed the types of projects and technologies I was working with, but the studying math part, which I geeked out on, that was missing,” said Karimi. “And coming back to school, to the University of Waterloo, and especially the computer science program, was the perfect place to be for something like that.”

After graduating from the University of Toronto, Karimi spent two years in industry and co-founded Brizi, one of a handful of teams selected nationally to take part in Canada’s Next 36 Entrepreneurship Institute. In his final year as a master’s student, Karimi was a Scientist in Residence at Next AI, a Toronto-based incubator, where he consulted a new generation of entrepreneurs.

This week, Karimi will be awarded the Alumni Gold Medal for Outstanding Academic Performance in a Master’s Program at Waterloo’s convocation ceremonies.

Even with his love of math, the decision to return to his studies did not come without its challenges. The stark contrast between industry and academia—in both an economic and scholastic sense—warranted some major adjustments. Despite these challenges, Karimi gained valuable experience while working alongside fellow graduate students and world-class instructors, such as Ali Ghodsi, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science and Alexander Wong, a professor in the Department of Systems Design Engineering.

Currently, Karimi is pursuing his Ph.D. at the Max Planck ETH Centre for Learning Systems in Germany. While participating in research and expanding his horizons, Karimi hopes his work will have a great impact on the understanding of human and computer intelligence.

“I just want to have an intelligence-themed career,” said Karimi. “Whether that’s consulting intelligence-based startups, or doing research in A.I. and cognitive science, or anything else.”

For Outstanding Academic Performance in a Doctoral Program:

Robie Hennigar began at the University of Waterloo in 2013 as a master’s student under the supervision of Robert Mann, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. From there, Robie continued under the supervision of Mann to complete his PhD in physics. While at Waterloo, Robie's research was in the field of theoretical physics, specializing in black holes, and he graduated with 20 papers published, along with another one currently under review.

Robie’s lifetime citation record of 594 cites is the highest of any other students in the university’s physics program.

For his excellent achievements as a Ph.D. student at Waterloo, Robie will be awarded the Alumni Gold Medal for Outstanding Performance in a Doctoral Program. Robie will be continuing his research on black holes at the Memorial University of Newfoundland as a recipient of the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship.