Conceptual image of radiating lines

2020/21 Recap and Outlook

Thomas Hillen, Jan 15, 2021
CAIMS / SCMAI President
University of Alberta


Thinking back to 2020, your first thought is probably that this was the year when the CAIMS-blog started! We have published eight blogs over the past year. Several of them were directly related to the coronavirus pandemic with “Fighting Coronavirus with Mathematics” by Dan Coombs, “Are we there yet?” by the Analythium group, “A Mathematical Record from the Pandemic” by Anthony Bonato, and “Why heterogeneity matters” by Morgan Craig. Furthermore, Anita Layton discusses the importantce of sex-specific modelling in biological sciences and John Braun offers thoughts about different standards of expectations in Math and Stats. These articles express burning issues of Society members, and they inspire the community for further discussions on thought-provoking issues. 


A pen writing on paper

Having eight blog contributions is a terrific start for our first year, and I encourage all our members to contribute blogs. Corona is not yet beaten and blogs about the impact on science and society are always welcome. Other topics are of importance too such as climate change, computation, the modern trend of machine learning, or equity, diversity, and inclusion. 


CAIMS has made large strides in our activities related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. We extended the mandate of the Membership Committee and formed a new Equity Diversity Inclusion and Membership Committee (EDIM), which will “monitor the position and interests of women, those with disabilities, LGBTQ+ communities, as well as other underrepresented groups in Canada and in our Society; to recommend actions to the Woman sitting at computer holding child's hand.Board of Directors which will assure equitable treatment of these groups in the mathematical community; and to encourage their participation in applied and industrial mathematics at all levels.” Many thanks to Amy Hurford (MUN) for chairing this new committee.


The coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected Applied Mathematics on many levels. Working from home is still a challenge, which affects young families much more than others. The effort of online teaching has also increased and it has become hard for all of us to balance our duties. Many of us have just finished a monster-application to the NSERC call on Emerging Infectious Disease Modelling (EIDM). No matter how this competition ends, it will have a large impact on our Society, and CAIMS is ready to work with the various groups in organizing seminars, conferences, schools etc. On this occasion, our Society journal MSI (Mathematics in Science and IndustryMathematics in Science and Industryinvites contributions for a special issue on “The Mathematics of COVID-19”, contributions are welcome. See details here:


Speaking of MSI, after our first successful issue in 2019, we are now getting ready for issue #2. We are also hosting two Special Issues, the coronavirus issue mentioned above, and a special issue on  Biochemical Problems, Mathematical Solutions. 


The Annual CAIMS meeting 2021 will be hosted by the University of Waterloo and it will be held remotely. The local organization team is led by our colleagues Anita Layton, Justin Wan and Brian Ingalls. Thank you Anita, Justin and Brian for your efforts for this meeting. Information about session submission, speakers, abstract deadlines etc. will be posted during January:

For 2021 we plan a new and exciting event: The CAIMS-BIRS Workshop & Atelier SCIAM-CRM  on Effective Communications Skills for Applied Mathematicians: Engage Diverse Audiences and Broaden Your Impact. It is aimed for faculty and graduate students looking to hone their ability to communicate with the general public via live interviews, op eds, blogs, or expert witness, etc.  There will be two separate workshops, one delivered entirely in English, and the other entirely in French.  


Prof. Hillen speaking into a microphone

There are Five modules: 

  1. Communication with non-scientists: Why me?
  2. Effective communication principles: Communicating mathematics to the lay audience
  3. Writing compelling commentary
  4. Becoming more effective in media interviews 
  5. When research results are controversial

Registration will be organized via the BIRS Websites. Keep tuned. 


When I looked at the past year I noticed that CAIMS has been able to work with almost all Mathematical Institutes and Societies in the Country. Let me go West to East: 


Pacific Institute for Mathematics LogoBanff International Research Station LogoFIELDS Institute LogoCentre de Recherches MathematiquesAtlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences LogoCanadian Mathematics Society LogoSociety for Industrial and Applied Mathematics Logo

  • PIMS: Together with PIMS we hosted the first Coronavirus Modelling Conference in June 2020, which attracted about 150 remote participants on short notice. We also offer annually the CAIMS-PIMS Early Career Award.
  • BIRS: CAIMS has been instrumental to support the BIRS  Career & Innovation Hub running from October 16, 2020 to March 2021. The Career & Innovation Hub is an online series of monthly seminars and workshops culminating in a three-day virtual career fair in March 2021.The program’s aim is to bring our upcoming math science workforce together with science and technology companies in emerging fields. Students will learn how their expertise is suited to today’s job market and what employers are seeking when hiring employees with mathematical, statistical, and computational backgrounds.  I heard through the grapevine that Alejandro Adem, our NSERC President, will give a talk in March. 
  • FIELDS: CAIMS and FIELDS are hosting a weekly Coronavirus Lecture Series, organized by Huaiping Zhu. We are jointly hosting the annual CAIMS/FIELDS Industrial Research Prize.  Furthermore FIELDS is a regular supporter of our annual meetings. In 2020 the meeting was hosted online, and CAIMS had no costs for the meeting. So FIELDS got a freebie last year. But we will be back this year!
  • CRM + AARMS: CRM and AARMS are co-hosts of the BIRS Career and Innivation Hub mentioned above. 
  • CMS: CMS and CAIMS have been starting to work more closely together. One example is the newly started CMS/CAIMS Books in Mathematics, published by Springer. But our connections run deeper. The mandate of our new EDIM Committee  is to some extent based on the new EDI Committee guideline of the CMS. Moreover, we have outsourced some of our accounting to the CMS office. Thanks a lot to the CMS leadership and office staff for this fruitful collaboration, and I hope we can continue on this avenue. 
  • SIAM: Last summer we had the joint SIAM/CAIMS annual meeting. Planned as a signature event in Toronto we were surprised by the Coronavirus pandemic. First we collected minisymposia, speakers and fees – then we canceled the meeting – then we reset as an online meeting. This was an amazing hectic time, fees needed to be reimbursed, speakers and sessions needed to move online, and an entirely new online platform needed to be developed. The SIAM staff and the organizational committee pulled together and we were able to run a wonderful meeting! Thanks for all of you who  supported the online meeting and made it a big success.   

I am very proud that we, as a Society, have been able to build new synergies with these Institutes and Societies. It shows the strength of Canada’s mathematical community, and this is the direction we will continue to grow.  

Dear members, thank you for your continued support in all of our CAIMS activities! The Society would not work without the engagement of its members. And, as a little reward for you, here a little trivia: 


  1. Are you an applied or industrial mathematician working in Canada?
  2. Are you interested in applied and industrial mathematics and like to support the Society?
  3. Do you think applied mathematics is important for an improved society?
  4. Do you think politicians should listen to mathematical models to install pandemic control measures? 
  5. Do you think Python is better than matlab?
  6. Do you think applied mathematics can help to control financial markets and prevent financial crashes?
  7. Do you think machine learning is really a branch of Statistics? 
  8. Do you like the opportunity to write blogs, publish papers, and publish books in applied and industrial mathematics? 
  9. Do you like to be nominated to one of the CAIMS awards
  10. Do you like to attend CAIMS annual meetings? 

If you answered “YES” to any of these questions you should reward yourself with a CAIMS membership: 


I wish you an excellent year 2021.

Thomas Hillen