The David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science has...

  • More than 100 faculty members
  • More than 60 administrative, instructional and technical staff
  • More than 4,000 undergraduate students
  • More than 400 graduate students
  • Been cited consistently as a top computer science school in Canada and among the best internationally
  • Eight Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, six Fellows of the Association for Computing Machinery, six Fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, three Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs, and 16 Ontario Early Researcher Award winners
  • Graduated the youngest graduate student, Erik Demaine, who was just over 14 years old when he enrolled at Waterloo and is now a professor of computer science at MIT
  • Research collaborations with institutions in China, France, Brazil, the United States, and many more
  • Participated in the annual International Collegiate Programming Contest for more than 25 years — we are the only Canadian institution to ever win the International Collegiate Programming Competition, taking the prized title in 1994 and again in 1999!

Our research spans the field of computer science, from core work on systems, theory and programming languages to human-computer interaction, DNA and quantum computing to theoretical and applied machine learning, just to name a few.  

Think about this...

The first computer we acquired, an IBM 610, was purchased for student use in 1960.

In 1966, we bought an IBM 360/75 for $3 million more than the cost of the entire MC building. It was the largest and most powerful computer in Canada at the time and was housed in the famous Red Room.

In the 1980s, the University of Waterloo was producing roughly one-third of Canada's computer science graduates.

The pink tie originated as one of Ralph Stanton’s eccentric habits. It is speculated that the founder of the Faculty of Mathematics merely did his laundry in the runoff from a red roof after a friend accidentally dyed his undergarments a similar colour while staying there.

Waterloo’s developments

Waterloo had a hand in creating both Maple Software and OpenText. Maple Software spawned from a symbolic algebra system created here and OpenText was a spin-off of the project to computerize the Oxford English Dictionary.

Our alumni form the backbone of the local tech economy in Waterloo, and we are extremely proud of the entrepreneurs among them, including the founders of and of Maluuba.

Some Academy Award winners are graduates of Waterloo’s Computer Graphics Lab. This is the same lab that has created a computer brush model that learns to mimic the style of its user.

Amazing accomplishments

Tony Lai

Mr. Lai is the youngest graduate student of the University. He was 14 years old when he entered Waterloo. He turned 18 when he successfully defended his thesis, “Efficient Maintenance of Binary Search Trees,” in 1990 — the same age as the average first-year student.

Marceli Wein

Marceli Wein, adjunct professor of computer science, won an Academy Award in 1997 shared with Nestor Burtnyk for their work on computer assisted key framing for character animation. A demonstration of this technique can be found below.


I often fancy that the most practical thing in the world is a good general theory when it’s continually tested and refined against reality.

— David Johnston, former University of Waterloo President and former Governor General, May 28, 2012

We have heard about prime numbers, and squaring of the cube, and the good life at the University of Waterloo

— A whiffenspoof song composed by Ken Fryer  

Hard-won funding

It’s 1966. The Government of Ontario is willing to pay 90% of the cost of all university buildings, including furnishings. The University of Waterloo needs a larger, faster computer.

Wes Graham had the solution.

After meeting Wes to hear him out, the provincial minister of education announced the University of Waterloo’s plans for a new Mathematics and Computer building had been approved for funding. However, included in the plans was an IBM 360/75, the largest and fastest computer in Canada at that time. It was carefully marked under “furnishings,” ensuring 90% payment by the government.

Directors of Computer Science

Years in office Director

Mark Giesbrecht

On sabbatical
Jul 1 – Dec 31, 2018

2018 Dan Brown

Acting Director
Jul 1 – Dec 31, 2018

David J. Taylor

2007–2010 M. Tamer Özsu
2006–2006 George Labahn

Interim Director
Jul 1 – Dec 31, 2006 
2003–2006 Johnny Wong
2002–2003 Frank Tompa
Years in office Chair
2001–2002 Frank Tompa
1997–2001 Nick Cercone
1992–1997 Frank Tompa
1989–1992 Per-Ake G. (Paul) Larson
1987–1989 Janusz A. (John) Brzozowski
1984–1987 R. Bruce Simpson
1978–1984 Janusz A. (John) Brzozowski
1974–1978 J. Douglas Lawson
1972–1974 Patrick C. Fischer
1966–1972 Donald D. Cowan