Media Release – February 2, 2021
Canadian Mathematical Society

The Canadian Mathematical Society Mourns the Loss of Matthew Brennan

The Canadian Mathematical Society is shocked and saddened by the news of Matthew Brennan’s passing and would like to offer its heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and the mathematical community. This is a great loss which has left the community heartbroken.

Matthew Brennan passed away suddenly on January 26, 2021, at the age of 26. He was exercising on his bike when his heart stopped. Matt was born in Toronto and attended Upper Canada College from Grades one through 12. In 2012, he started at the MIT, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and in Mathematics in 2016, and a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 2018. His Master’s thesis, entitled “Reducibility and Computational Lower Bounds for Problems with Planted Sparse Structure”, was awarded the Ernst A. Guillemin Award for Best Thesis in Electrical Engineering. At the time of his death, Matt was in the final year of his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT and had been awarded a Miller Fellowship at UC Berkeley starting in fall 2021. Matt’s main research interests were the theoretical aspects of machine learning and probability theory.

Matt represented Canada twice at the International Mathematical Olympiad, earning a bronze medal in 2011 and a gold medal in 2012. He returned to the IMO as deputy leader observer in 2014 and 2017, and was the leader in 2019. Matt was passionate about Olympiad math, and had served on the Canadian Mathematical Olympiad committee since 2014. He also contributed extensively to problem creation and selection. In addition to having had two problems included on to the IMO shortlist, in any average year three of the five CMO problems were proposed by Matt. His dream in life was that after a long academic career, he would do contest problems all day as a professor emeritus.

When Matt was not doing research or Olympiad problems, he was likely playing basketball. In addition to spending hours and hours practising and playing pick-up, he played on three different intramural teams. Even at the IMO training camps, he was constantly itching to play.

Matt led the IMO team twice with his close friend and chair of CMS’ IMO Committee, James Rickards:

Matt and I met in 2011 through the IMO program. We quickly became the closest of friends, attending the IMO together twice as students, twice as leaders, and talking nearly every day. He had an incredible talent for creating contest problems, and an unparalleled love for trying new problems. Every time a contest came out, he would drop everything to give the problems a good go. We will miss him dearly.

The CMS Executive director, Termeh Kousha, also expresses her sadness and shock at hearing the news:

Matt was a brilliant mathematician, an excellent leader and a great person. This is a great loss for us. I would like to send my sympathies to his loved ones.

In Matt’s honour, the CMS is creating the “Matthew Brennan award for best CMO solution”. It will be awarded every year to the student(s) who have written the best solution to a single problem on that year’s CMO. Their solution will be included in the official solutions, and they will receive a monetary prize.

For more information please contact:

James Rickards
Chair, IMO Committee
Canadian Mathematical Society


Sarah Watson
Meetings and Events Manager
Canadian Mathematical Society