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Monday, April 15, 2002

  • This place is for the birds
  • Proposed rules on changing marks
  • Students on the cutting edge
Chris Redmond

The 106th Boston Marathon

A happening place

The elevator in the Optometry building will be out of service from today through May 3 for maintenance, the plant operations department says.

Electrical power will be off at the Columbia Icefield tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The LT3 technology centre presents Tony Bates of the University of British Columbia tomorrow, giving a seminar (1:30 p.m.) on "The Impact of Technology on the University of the Future". Information and reservations: ext. 7008.

Tomorrow at 3:30, the cancer control seminar series presents two speakers: John Goyder of the sociology department, talking about the 2000 K-W Metropolitan Area Survey, and Susanne Santi of the health behaviour research group, talking about the regional "smoke-free bylaw". Location: Clarica Auditorium.

This place is for the birds

So I go away for a couple of days, and what do I find when I get back? Spring weather, for one thing -- somebody won the weather station's contest late last week, for the best prediction of what day and time the temperature would first hit 20 Celsius. (And they're talking about 28 tomorrow.)

And much more news, on the day that Ontario gets a new premier and cabinet:

Furthermore, the goose menace in the engineering quadrangle, which I reported in this Bulletin last Tuesday and Wednesday, has turned into a national [Circles and arrows] news story. International, in fact, because not only did the Toronto Star papers have it on Thursday, but it's drawing worldwide comment on the Fark website, which picked up Alex Matan's year-old article from Iron Warrior (with the graphic seen at left) about what's surely the same goose.

Or maybe not -- it's hard to tell one goose from another, and the occasional inter-species conflict is nothing new. Student research teams in the WatGreen course have reported more than once on geese as an ecological and aesthetic issue on campus.

And here's a world exclusive: a member of UW's senior administration was also attacked by the Feathered Fiend the other day. He tells me: "In my case the gander launched itself about 40 meters from where I was and made a kamikaze air attack. Fortunately, I had an umbrella up, which I lowered so it smacked into that at full speed -- after which it grabbed the edge of the umbrella and tried to eat it!"

Proposed rules on changing marks

UW's senate holds its monthly meeting tonight (4:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001) and will discuss proposed rules for the awkward cases where an administrator thinks the marks assigned by a professor need to be changed before they go onto a student's record.

The proposed four-point statement on the subject was written by the senate undergraduate council at the request of the provost, in the wake of last year's controversy over marks assigned in a "advanced" calculus class two years ago.

The council is recommending "that each faculty has a process for reviewing and, as necessary, making changes to class marks submitted by instructors, as follows:"

  1. Instructors are required to submit class marks to the department/unit chair or director, who will be responsible for reviewing (e.g., vis-a-vis failure rate, class averages) the marks before forwarding them to the registrar's office.
  2. If the chair has concerns with the assigned marks, he/she will discuss these concerns with the instructor. If, following discussion, the chair continues to have concerns, he/she will ask the instructor to consider adjusting the marks.
  3. If agreement on the marks cannot be reached between the instructor and the chair, the chair will consult the faculty dean. If the dean shares the chair's concerns, the dean will strike a committee, or instruct an existing committee, to consider the situation and make a written recommendation to her/him (copied to the instructor). The committee normally should consist of three or four members, including at least one representative from the instructor's own discipline. Before arriving at a recommendation, the committee shall provide an opportunity for the instructor to meet with it; the instructor may choose to be accompanied by a UW academic colleague. The dean's decision will be communicated to the committee and the instructor; if the dean chooses not to accept the advice of the committee, then he/she will provide the committee and the instructor with a written explanation. It is imperative that this process be completed in a timely manner, as grades must be submitted to the registrar's office by the 'fully graded date'.
  4. In the event that changes are made to the marks by the dean without the agreement of the instructor, it shall be made clear (i.e., by a letter to the students) that the marks were assigned by the dean.

    The chair may decide to delegate this responsibility to the associate chair or undergraduate officer. For faculty-based courses, instructors should submit grades to the associate dean, undergraduate affairs.

    Upon request, the registrar will provide individuals with the necessary tools to generate a diagnostic report showing class averages and standard deviations; this report could be scanned quickly for anomalies. Another option would be to ask instructors to indicate course average and failure rate on the grade submission form.

Also on the agenda for tonight's senate meeting are a presentation about graduate students at Waterloo; the annual report of the library; a change to the English language admission requirement for graduate students; and a proposed regulation that "Assignments (including lab reports and essays) may not be due between the last day of classes and the last day of examinations."

Students on the cutting edge -- by Jessica Jones, from the Recruiter newsletter for co-op employers

While some students spent their summers waiting on tables, processing paperwork, or chasing summer camp rugrats, second year Engineering students James Hong and Tejinder Virk, were conducting leading-edge biomedical technology research among Canada's brightest minds.

At the renowned Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, both James and Tejinder independently made significant research advancements in the fields of Virtual Reality and imaging technology respectively. And they had fun doing it, to boot!

[Headset and handset]

What is real? James Hong demonstrates the Virtual Reality city he developed at Sunnybrook.

"When I first got there, they had all this equipment sitting on a table. They needed software to make it work," says James, a Mechanical Engineering student specializing in Software Engineering. He tackled this challenge head-on by developing a virtual reality hardware and software platform to be used for psychological testing. For us less technical folks, Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr. Konstantine Zakzanis translates: "[James' work] enabled us to take one giant 'virtual' step forward in our goal of developing tools -- to understand brain-behaviour relationships."

Tests being conducted on James's platform may one-day lead to the early detection of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's. James developed a Virtual City that jarringly mimics the real world, right down to the models of cars on the street. Subjects' brain activity can be compared to expected healthy functions as they are monitored 'walking' through the city. Look out! Even in the virtual world you need to look both ways before you cross the street! This might enable researchers to identify brain disorders in their early stages.

Furthermore, improved treatment and therapy methods could be developed for brain damage like strokes, by helping researchers to understand how the brain reorganizes itself after injury. Common fears like public speaking and flying could be treated by building a subject's comfort level in the VR environment before they attempt the real-world thing. But the possibilities don't stop there. "It's so exciting because it's limitless," gushes James, who plans to return to Sunnybrook for his next work term.

Tejinder, a Systems Design Engineering student, made his own contribution to the world of biomedical technology last summer. Tejinder built a device that generates images from an x-ray machine, eliminating the need for costly x-ray cameras and film. He accomplished this by adapting a common flatbed scanner to an x-ray machine's light valve. In addition to being ten times cheaper than the existing method, Tejinder's device is less bulky and time-consuming than the traditional technology. No wonder his research project nabbed first place in a Sunnybrook Undergraduate research competition!

Besides their obvious technical prowess, both James and Tejinder identified adaptability, innovative thinking, and enthusiasm as the qualities that lead to their success. "You need to be really adaptable. Things change so rapidly. Employers want people who can learn quickly, think on the fly, and come up with solutions," says James. Tejinder also noticed that, among the many student-researchers at Sunnybrook, it was Waterloo's undergraduate students who were most at home in the workplace because of their continuous 'real world' exposure through the co-op program. Asked if anything else distinguished the Waterloo students, Tejinder replies hesitantly, "Well, Waterloo students definitely don't sit at the back of a class."



April 15, 1993: James Downey becomes president of UW.

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