Don Cowan PhD, DSc, PEng

Distinguished Professor Emeritus

Research Interests

Dr. Don Cowan’s current interest in software engineering focuses on design and implementation of Web-based and mobile software systems, particularly in reducing the number of abstractions required to produce and validate such software. Reducing the number of abstractions will lower the technological barriers for individuals and organizations to build and maintain such software.

This research has produced the Web Informatics Development Environment (WIDE) technologies and toolkit that have been used to create over 80 operational web-based and mobile software systems for many different partner organizations in areas such as volunteerism, environment, socioeconomic development, tourism, population health, aboriginal affairs, arts and culture, and built heritage. The partners with whom Dr. Cowan works very closely in requirements, design, implementation, deployment and maintenance, range from local NGOs, businesses, universities and research centres, to all levels and types of government including First Nations groups and the United Nations.

Professor Cowan is a member of the Water Institute and the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology, both at the University of Waterloo. Dr. Cowan is also active in the CHEC initiative at the University of Waterloo developing software systems for City of Stratford in built heritage, volunteerism, economic development and community indicators.

Curriculum Vitae

(last updated Septemeber 6, 2023)


Don Cowan has lived through a fascinating time in both the growth of the University of Waterloo and the field now known as Computer Science having been involved in both since 1960. His family encouraged him to consider recording some of his memories and experiences. This information has been captured in two documents, a memoir and a history of the first 25 years of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. The memoir is Don’s own recollections of his life and the history was written by Professor Peter Ponzo, a friend and colleague at the University of Waterloo.

Don Cowan – A Memoir

(last updated August 3, 2020)

Computer Science at the University of Waterloo


Dr. Cowan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Director of the Computer Systems Group at the University of Waterloo. He holds appointments at the University of Waterloo in the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science and the School of Environment, Resources and Sustainability.


Major Honours

J.W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation 2022.
CS-Can/Info-Can Lifetime Achievement Award in Computer Science 2017.
AWARD OF MERIT, for contributions to software development for the Volunteer Action Centre, 2017.
Doctor of Science, honoris causa, University of Guelph, 2011

ACM Distinguished Scientist 2010
Waterloo Award 2009 - the City of Waterloo's highest civic honour for outstanding contributions to the Waterloo community
Grand Cross of Scientific Merit, Brazilian National Order of Scientific Merit, - Brazil’s Highest Civilian Scientific Honour (2007)
Award of Excellence in Graduate Supervision – University of Waterloo (2006)
Distinguished Professor Emeritus - University of Waterloo (1999)

Other Honours

50 year founding member IEEE (2012)
Innovator, 1957 Society, University of Waterloo (2007)
Canadian Pioneer in Computing, IBM Center for Advanced Studies (2005)
IBM Innovation Award (2003)
Information Management Excellence in the Public Sector - Silver Medal (1999)
Compaq Award for Scientific Production (best scientific publication in 1995)
Founding Fellow of the Institute of Combinatorics and its Applications (1989)
Brazil-Canada Scientific Exchange Award (1970)
Brazil-Canada Scientific Exchange Award (1969)


How to Contact Don Cowan

Internet Mail:
Telephone:           519-888-4690
Cell:                      519-588-4511
 FAX:                    519-746-5422
Traditional Mail:   Don Cowan
                            David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science
                            University of Waterloo
                            200 University Ave. West
                            Waterloo, Ontario
                            CANADA N2L 3G1

COMAP Office:  Centre for Commuity Mapping
                           206 - 50 Westmount Rd N
                           Waterloo  ON  N2L 2R5
Telephone:         519-489-2575 X1505

Home Office:     519-885-3327