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Wednesday, February 14, 2001

  • E&CE prof wins Steacie fellowship
  • Profile of a student who teaches
  • From the Council of Ontario Universities
  • Where to take your Valentine
  • [Nathan in lab]

    E&CE prof wins Steacie fellowship
    -- based on a news release from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

    Folding a map can be one of life's little challenges. For Arokia Nathan (right), it's a big one. But then, the thin, flexible plastic maps he's developing are digital.

    The Waterloo electrical and computer engineer's research is at the cutting-edge of work to develop electronics, including sensors and displays, on flexible plastic. It's highly innovative science for which Nathan is receiving an E. W. R. Steacie Memorial Fellowships -- one of Canada's premier science and engineering awards.

    "With the NSERC Steacie Fellowships, six of our best scientists and engineers will do what they do best -- pushing forward the frontiers of innovative research and improving the quality of our lives," said Brian Tobin, federal minister of industry. "Dr. Nathan is at the front of the pack in a fast developing field. The Steacie award will allow him to focus on the contribution he can make to Canadian innovation."

    Potential products of Nathan's research range from smart cards, in which bank information could be digitally displayed, to the creation of digital X-ray images, replacing the need for film. The researcher's long-term goal is to create the ultimate smart-plastic device -- a Personal Digital Assistant.

    "This is the beginning of a new technology revolution," says Nathan. "Can you imagine a generation of children who will be able to unroll a digital book or computer from a tube?"

    The underlying technology for sensors and displays is similar, says Nathan. For sensors, a device captures light energy (visible or X-ray) and converts it into an electric current. For displays such as computer monitors, the opposite occurs -- electrical energy is transformed into light. In both cases the technical challenge lies in creating thin-film silicon circuits on flexible plastic.

    These silicon circuits -- the logic behind these devices -- are currently fabricated at about 300 degrees C. Plastics, however, will lose their essential physical properties at this temperature. Nathan must therefore develop techniques to make these circuits at much lower temperatures, without compromising performance.

    "My research is still in the proof of concept stage," explains Nathan. But he's already overcome major technical challenges in the basic science underpinning thin-film silicon technology and related integrated circuit design.

    The new Steacie Fellow is confident that he will have working prototypes of flexible plastic displays within the two-year period of the fellowship, and be able to make the technology available to Canadian industry. "The time gap between science and product is getting narrower and narrower."

    Since 1997 Nathan has held a chair in sensor technology, sponsored by Dalsa Inc. and NSERC.

    Profile of a student who teaches

    A third-year student has been teaching a third-year course in UW's department of combinatorics and optimization, says the Teaching Matters newsletter from UW's teaching resources and continuing education office.

    The student, Richard Hoshino (pictured below), is also the subject of a recent release from the UW news bureau which is published in today's Gazette.

    From the article in Teaching Matters:

    [Hoshino] At first, co-op officials were a little reluctant to let a 3B undergraduate student teach fellow undergrads in C&O 380. However, co-op officials were obviously swayed by Richard's keen initiative and his extensive teaching experience.

    As a Math/Teaching Option student, he's already received a Bachelor of Education Degree from Queen's University and completed two co-op terms teaching math to high school students. He also coaches some of the top problem-solving students in the country through his work with the Esso National Mathematics Camp and the International Mathematical Olympiad.

    Richard's qualifications were solid. Still, he had never taught a university class before, let alone one full of his peers. But Richard was determined to rise to the challenge. "I knew if I got the ball I could run with it," he says. And run he did, with a class of enthusiastic students in tow.

    Richard firmly believes in the power of student-centred pedagogy, and modelled his teaching on a problem-based approach rather than the traditional content-based approach to teaching math. In his C&O 380 class, students would often "begin with a math problem and then develop theories and concepts from that problem, rather than the other way around," he explains. It's a method that requires active critical thinking on the part of students, along with sharp analytical skills and an ability to synthesize ideas.

    Also in today's Gazette: a front-page story about Chandrika Anjaria, of UW's department of information systems and technology, who was visiting family in India during the recent earthquake there. She was having tea at the home of relatives in Ahmedabad when the earthquake hit at 8:46 a.m. on January 26. "The ground started thumping. It began with a little tremor, then increased. The cupboard doors shook open and the dishes began falling out. A computer slid off a desk onto the floor." She helped with relief efforts during the rest of her trip, and since her return to Canada has been involved in fund-raising for Red Cross relief work.

    Camp plans March break program

    Activities to "stimulate curiosity and creativity, complement the science and technology curriculum (and) make learning science fun" are promised at the Engineering Science Quest camp during school kids' March break.

    From March 12 to 16 at UW, the fourth edition of the camp features hands-on programs geared for kids in grades one to three in Camp Darwin, and grades four to six in Camp Franklin.

    Programs run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, with extended supervision from 8 to 9 a.m. and from 4 to 5 p.m. Since some activities are repeated from day to day, it is recommended that children attend the camp for a maximum of two days. The cost is $40 per day.

    From the Council of Ontario Universities

    Ontario universities have produced some new numbers to support their claim that similar institutions in the United States get much more support from government.

    The Council of Ontario Universities says in a newsletter that it recently finished a study entitled Comparing Ontario and American Public Universities "that expands on the peer concept developed by the Operating Revenue and Budget Committee of CUPA (Committee on University Planning and Analysis) in a 1999-2000 report.

    "The new study compares Ontario universities with a peer group of four-year public institutions in the U.S. on the basis of student-faculty ratios, revenues and expenses. It finds that, in 1998, Ontario universities would have needed to hire 36% more faculty to reach the student-faculty level of its peers; they collected 37% less revenue primarily due to lower contributions from the provincial and federal government; and they spent 34% less, mostly due to lower academic support, student services, institutional support and scholarship expenses."

    COU has also issued a statement about the progress of high school curriculum changes in the province:

    "In June 2000, the Ministry of Education released the new Grade 11 and Grade 12 courses, and Ontario universities set out to develop admission regulations based on these new courses. To inform students about these new regulations and how they affect their course selections for future university studies, Ontario universities will publish a 48-page booklet detailing the requirements for admission to programs offered at each university. The booklet will be distributed to Ontario secondary schools by the end of January.

    "The information contained in the booklet will help Grade 10 students to make informed choices when selecting their Grade 11 courses for September 2001. Requirements may be subject to change, however."

    Where to take your Valentine

    For those who are going out to eat today, options run from the straightforward to the elegant: And what's food without music? Conrad Grebel College presents "Jazz from the Heart" at noontime today, a concert by the Michael Wood Trio. They'll play "Like Someone in Love", "You Stepped Out of a Dream", "Emily" and other such romantic stuff. The melodies start at 12:30 in the Grebel chapel; admission is free.

    How about a date tonight? The basketball Warriors are playing against Windsor -- the women's teams at 6:00, the men's teams at 8:00, in the Physical Activities Complex. "If we win, we clinch a playoff spot," says Curt Warkentin, assistant coach of the men's team. "A large and noisy home crowd would be fantastic!"

    Or maybe there are tickets left for "totally durang-ed", the drama department's current production, which starts the second and last week of its run in Studio 180 in the Humanities building. Showtime is 8:00. Tickets: 888-4908.

    Now forget love: let's talk taxes. A session on "Tax Tips for Students" is set for 4:30 this afternoon in Needles Hall room 3001. It's free, sponsored by the co-op education and career services department. The speaker will be Tim Rollins of the personal financial counselling group at Ernst & Young accountants.

    Here's a reminder of a major event tomorrow -- a public lecture on "Sustainable Livelihoods in Today's World", at 4 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre. The speaker is Naresh Singh, who's visiting UW this term as Canada Trust Walter Bean Visiting Professor in the Environment. More about him in tomorrow's Bulletin. Lecture tickets are free -- call 888-4973.

    Looking ahead a little: the Canadian Engineering Competition is not, in fact, being held this weekend, as yesterday's Bulletin said. Fakhri Karray, coach of the UW students who will be going on to the national competition in Victoria after triumphing in the Ontario Engineering Competition last week, says he got a little ahead of himself; the national event is actually scheduled for March 1-4.

    Meanwhile, next week is study week -- officially "winter study period" -- and, as I've been mentioning, classes will be cancelled: all week in four of the six faculties, Thursday and Friday in engineering and math. But that doesn't mean the university is shut down for the duration, not by any means. This reminder arrived yesterday from Olaf Naese in the co-op department: "Although classes are cancelled during Study Week/Days, employer interviews continue at full throttle for co-op and graduating students who are taking part in the interview process this term. Because of the sheer size of our system here at UW, CECS simply can't afford to shut down interviews for even a few days. Doing so would result in lost time and cause more students to be still looking for employment by the end of classes."

    Reminder: the last day to file a "Notice to the Registrar of Intention to Graduate" form is March 1, at least for those who are hoping to graduate at spring convocation. These forms are available in the registrar's office, second floor of Needles Hall, or from department offices. A printable version of this form is also available on the web. Convocation dates are June 13, 2 p.m., applied health sciences, environmental studies, and independent studies; June 14, 2 p.m., arts; June 15, 2 p.m., science; June 16, 10 a.m., mathematics, June 16, 2 p.m., engineering.

    And finally, let me pass along this plea from math student Maria Morland: "On Tuesday evening my Palm Pilot IIIe, its leather case and stylus, and my WatCard were lost or stolen. I'm a student with a disability and I use the Palm to keep my medical information as well as my schedule. The WatCard has been deactivated but it has sentimental value because it has all twelve stickers from the six years it has taken me to get through my degree. Please return it. No questions asked. Call me at 725-2185 or 729-0989 or e-mail me at meandrus@uwaterloo.ca." She's even offering a reward.


    Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
    Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
    credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
    http://www.bulletin.uwaterloo.ca Yesterday's Bulletin
    Copyright © 2001 University of Waterloo