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Friday, April 27, 2001

  • National medal for physics professor
  • Bad marks lead to stereotyping
  • Scribbles on the weekend calendar

Giant tree comes down

The venerable maple tree on the hill west of South Campus Hall lies in ruins this morning, cut down to make room for the planned Co-op Education and Career Services building.

Many people on campus will mourn the loss of the tree, which has been on this site longer than the university. At least they'll have something to remember it by: plans are to preserve the wood and use it in some way in the new building.

"It's a shame to see lovely old historic trees go," says Bruce Lumsden, director of CECS, "but trees do have a lifespan."

National medal for physics professor

[Gingras] One of Canada's leading experts in condensed matter, Michel Gingras (right) of UW's physics department, has received the Herzberg Medal from the Canadian Association of Physicists.

The medal, first introduced in 1970, recognizes outstanding achievement in any field of research by a physicist who, in the year of the award, is not more than 40 years old.

Gingras, who joined UW in 1996, received the medal for his theoretical work on the role of random disorder in condensed matter physics. He has performed several key computer simulation studies of important statistical mechanics models aimed at describing complex randomly disordered condensed matter systems.

These studies have been recognized internationally by researchers in his field as providing significant improvement of the fundamental understanding of the effects of random disorder -- for example, impurities -- in systems such as superconductors and magnetic systems.

"One of the key strengths of Gingras is his ability to interact fruitfully with experimentalists, providing theoretical guidance and constantly suggesting new directions to experimental projects," says the citation for the award.

Gingras received his bachelor of science degree in physics from Laval in 1983 and a master's degree in physics from Laval in 1985. He earned a PhD from the University of British Columbia in 1990, winning a Governor General's Gold medal for most outstanding PhD student in that graduation year. He was a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council post-doctoral fellow in 1990 and spent two years at the Laboratoire de Physique Statistique of the École Normale Superieure, and at the Laboratoire de Magnetisme des Solides at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, both in Paris.

From 1992 to 1996, he was a research associate in the theory group at TRIUMF, Canada's national subatomic laboratory at the University of British Columbia. In 1997, Gingras received a Research Innovation Award from Research Corporation of Tucson, Arizona, for his work on the important role of weak perturbations in novel magnetic materials. As well, he was the only Canadian to receive a Cottrell Scholar Award in 1999, also from Research Corporation. The award enabled him to carry out theoretical studies of modern synthetic oxide magnetic and superconducting materials. Two years later, he was presented with a Premier's Research Excellence Award from the Ontario government in recognition of his work on the effects of random disorder in superconducting and magnetic systems.

He joined the superconductivity program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research in 1999. Last year, he was one of the four recipients of UW's inaugural Award for Excellence in Research.

Bad marks lead to stereotyping -- from a report by Bob Whitton

A student who gets a bad mark from a female professor will typically jump to applying a negative stereotype to her, says a UW psychology researcher, and that's true whether the student is male or female.

[Kunda] Ziva Kunda (left) of the psych department collected data that led to that conclusion as part of her continuing study of stereotyping -- which, she says, has lately become "a hot topic" in social psychology.

"When you first meet someone who belongs to a different group from yours, say someone of a different ethnicity, that group's stereotype is likely to spring immediately to your mind," she says. "Then, as you continue to interact with this individual, get engrossed in the conversation, and start learning about what your new acquaintance is like as a person, you tend to forget about the stereotype. But all sorts of things can happen during the interaction that immediately bring the stereotype back to the fore. Sometimes this is triggered if the person criticizes you about something, or says something you don't want to hear. You seize on any relevant negative stereotype, and use it to dismiss this person."

That's what's happening with the students who got low marks, Kunda says. It was an easy experiment to do: walking around the campus a week after students got their grades, the researchers asked students to complete a brief questionnaire in which they listed each course they had taken the previous term and rated the quality of the instructor.

Students were then asked to indicate their grade for each course. Using the course numbers, the researchers were later able to find out each instructor's gender.

"We found," says Kunda, "that when students got a high grade from a female instructor they tended to feel she was competent, and they rated her just as highly as they rated a male instructor. But when they got a low grade from a female instructor, they rated her as less competent than a male instructor who had given them the same low grade."

Kunda points out that both male and female instructors were rated as less competent by students who got low grades than by students who got high grades, but the drop in perceived competency after giving a poor grade was much larger for female instructors than for the males.

It seems, she says, that after being criticized people try to disparage the person who delivered the criticism so as to blunt its sting. When this person belongs to a group that has a negative stereotype, "this furnishes one with extra ammunition that can be used to discredit the person." In this case, the students were calling on traditional stereotypes that say women are fundamentally less competent than men.

She notes that both female and male students participated in this study, and that the female instructors' ratings declined whether the student who got the low grade was a male or a female, which suggests that even women students may sometimes, consciously or not, make use of the "women are inferior" stereotype.

Scribbles on the weekend calendar

The Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry holds its annual meeting and seminar today, this year at the University of Guelph. The speaker (3 p.m. in the Thornbrough Building) is Gary Dmitrienko of UW, whose title will be "Three Little Atoms, All in a Row: The Mysterious Affair of the Kinamycin Antibiotics". A poster session, awards presentations and a reception will follow.

A number of graphics copy centres will be closed from 9 a.m. to noon today for staff training: those in Humanities, Engineering II, and Math and Computer, plus the Pixel Pub. (in the Student Life Centre) and main graphics (in the General Services Complex). Staying open all day are the Davis Centre copy centre and Graphics Express in the Dana Porter Library.

And the bookstore and computer store, as well as the UW Shop and both Techworx locations, are closed today for year-end inventory.

As for nourishment . . . well, many of the food services outlets are closed, reopening on Tuesday as the spring term begins. Available today are Tim Horton's in the Davis Centre, Browsers in the Dana Porter Library, Pastry Plus in Needles Hall, and Brubakers in the Student Life Centre; that's about it.

An unveiling celebration for this year's Formula SAE car is scheduled for 4:00 this afternoon in parking lot A, across University Avenue from the campus main entrance. Look for the tent, says Jason Weir of the Formula SAE team, who adds that he and his colleagues are optimistic about UW's chances of a top placing in the competition this year, scheduled for May 16-18 in Pontiac, Michigan.

A bake sale and garage sale runs from 4 to 6:30 this afternoon at the Paintin' Place day care centre in the UW Place apartment complex. Proceeds go towards equipment and programs at the day care.

The University Club offers a California wine tasting tonight -- cocktails at 6:30, dinner at 7:00, tickets $75 (phone ext. 4088).

The Kiwanis Travel and Adventure Series for this year winds up with a session in the Humanities Theatre at 8:00 tonight. Buddy Hatton presents "Song of Ireland". Admission to the show is $6, children $3.50.

The annual Women Alive conference runs this weekend, a Christian event with speakers this year including Marilyn Laszlo of the Billy Graham Crusade and musician Deborah Klassen. Workshops are on such topics as "Marriage, God's Great Plan" and "Making the Internet Positive for Children". Sessions take place in the Physical Activities Complex, and several hundred delegates will be staying in Ron Eydt Village.

The UW libraries are open until 6:00 this evening (reference and circulation services close at 5:00) and will be closed Saturday and Sunday. Spring term hours begin Tuesday, May 1.

Exhibitions by four graduate fine arts students will open with receptions tomorrow afternoon, and continue through May 19. In the Modern Languages gallery, the shows are "Dark Reflections" by Sandra martin and "Paintings" by Ron Salway; an opening reception there runs from 2 to 4 p.m. In the galleries in East Campus Hall, the shows are "Threadbare" by Sheila McMath and "Sway" by Michael Ambedian; the reception there runs from 4 to 6 p.m.

The Queen Helena Canadian-Croatian Association has the Humanities Theatre booked for a show Sunday at 3 p.m.

An international student orientation day is scheduled for Monday. "We will meet at 9:15 a.m.," writes Darlene Ryan of the international student office, "at the turnkey desk in the Student Life Centre. The details are still being worked out," but the day will involve visits to the Davis Centre, the athletics department, health services and the library, and lunch at the Graduate House.

An information and registration session about the Weight Watchers at Work program is scheduled for Monday at 12 noon in Humanities room 373. Susan Baumbach in the registrar's office (sebaumba@admmail) can provide more information.

Dave Mason of the Student Information Systems Project sends this notice for people who already use the new computerized system: "The SISP production computing environment will not be available from midnight on Tuesday, May 1, until approximately noon on Wednesday, May 2. We are undertaking some technical activities in preparation for the next major cutover in June. Users of the PeopleSoft Student Administration System and the Cognos queries (WINQ) will not be able to access the system during this period."

Next Thursday and Friday will bring the ninth annual Graduate Student Leisure Research Symposium in the department of recreation and leisure studies. "Both paper and poster presentations are likely to be presented, and one can expect to see and hear philosophical pieces, case studies, literature reviews, conceptual development papers, as well as completed empirical studies," an announcement says. Theme speakers will be Doug Kleiber of the University of Georgia and Judy Cukier of the faculty of environmental studies. Attendance is free, but people are asked to register in advance (like today) -- otherwise there may not be space, or an adequate supply of the symposium Proceedings. E-mail pmorden@ahsmail to register.


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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