Prestigious ‘Apple Math’ Program Celebrates 50 years at Homecoming

Apple Math 50th Logo

Apple Math, the beloved engineering program for students with a deep interest in both mathematics and engineering is hosting 50th anniversary events at this year’s homecoming.

Officially known as Mathematics and Engineering, Apple Math is a collaborative program between the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

It was a different world when Queen’s launched the program in the late 1960s. A time that university historian, Dr. Duncan McDowell calls the ‘Sputnik age’ when the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science was, overhauling its programs to work more pure science and math into the curriculum.

Fifty years later, Mathematics and Engineering alumni will be celebrating the program’s success during the 2017 Homecoming weekend.  If there were times in the past when there was concern for the survival of the program, new Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science Dean Kevin Deluzio (Sc’88, MSc’90, PhD’97), is confident of the program’s future success. “It is a truly unique program because of the way it is set up, we didn’t create a separate engineering stream. Instead, we train students deeply in mathematics and have them work with traditional engineering disciplines,” says Dean Deluzio.

Current Department of Mathematics and Statistics Undergraduate Chair Dr. Abdol-Reza Mansouri says that in response to big changes in the fields of applied mathematics and engineering, the program has continued to evolve and remains as successful as ever.

As Dr. Mansouri likes to say, the program has a very special ‘zip code’ in the engineering landscape, and that is part of what makes the program so unique.  Unique in North America, in fact. Despite being a program that is offered by a mathematics department, the students graduate as engineers.

Dean Deluzio, an Apple Math alumnus, is giving the opening address at the Saturday morning conference and is looking forward to reconnecting with fellow alumni. “It is a really special program with an incredible sense of connectedness. I hope that stepping back on campus will reinvigorate the same sense of community we had as students,” says Deluzio.

It takes a particular kind of curiosity and ambition to be a good fit for the program. As Dr. Mansouri explains, “These are students who want to understand everything in depth and understand exactly where all the equations come from.”

While a certain number of students still go on to pursue conventional careers in engineering, many Apple Math graduates work outside of traditional engineering fields.

The program launched in 1967 and at that time, graduates were likely to end up in big traditional engineering or technology firms like Bell-Northern Research, IBM or Inco.  The landscape has changed for graduates with the advent of start-up culture, ‘Big Data’, and the explosion of computing power, all which have created new opportunities. Now, students are as likely to pursue a career in small start-ups, finance, or research, as they are in established technology firms.

When he graduated in the late 1980s, Dean Deluzio recalls that the program provided him with a brochure students could use to explain Apple Math to prospective employers. In recent years, Dr. Mansouri argues that the importance of having mathematics to secure a career has been more explicit.” By specialising in math alongside engineering, students are actually expanding their range of capabilities,” says Mansouri.

While Apple Math used to be one of the smaller engineering undergraduate programs at Queen's, Dr. Mansouri says the numbers have doubled in the last few years and remain healthy.

As demand for applied math grows, the program continues to be supported by deeply engaged alumni. Alumni are involved in the program’s governance, advising on curriculum changes options based on their experience in the industry.  This year’s 50th reunion provides an additional opportunity for alumni to reconnect with the program and meet current students. 

Dr. Mansouri feels strongly that the alumni are key to the program’s success, “I would like to tell our alumni that they should be proud to be associated with such a program and that the program is proud of them. I invite them to stay in touch, and we do our best to stay in touch with them as well.”

Learn more about the activities planned for the Apple Math 50th Reunion at Queen’s 2017 Homecoming, October 13-15th