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Friday, January 18, 2002

  • Departments create co-op jobs
  • Chance for a peek at tech conference
  • Cognitive science diploma launched
  • For the weekend, and beyond
Chris Redmond

Canadian institution developing new college for Qatar

[Posing at a gazebo]

Even the co-op department hires co-op students. These nine "who made a difference" during the fall term, just ended, are featured in the winter issue of the UW Recruiter newsletter for employers.

Departments create co-op jobs

It was an offer they couldn't refuse: a memo that went out across campus this week inviting departments to hire co-op students and promising them the money to do it with.

"We've had an overwhelming response," says Joanne Wade, UW's director of student awards, who said yesterday that UW had created 33 new co-op jobs in three days since departments received the memo. Before that, she said, 59 jobs for this term were already in existence under the "work placement program".

The program creates full-time jobs for students, using money from the "local aid" fund that UW is required to set aside from each year's tuition fee increases. This year there's some $8 million to be spent -- much of it in bursaries, but some in job creation. Eligible students must have been "in school full-time at UW during the term immediately preceding the work placement" and returning to full-time study in the next term. They also must have had Ontario Student Assistance Program funding during the past term.

Work placement funds aren't limited to co-op students, and some will be used to create summer jobs for students in regular programs. But at this time of year it's mostly co-op students who need full-time work, especially because at last count there were still 421 co-op students without winter term jobs.

Departments and researchers can create jobs doing practically anything. And -- unlike most co-op jobs on campus -- the department doesn't have to find the salary in its own budget. "Funding for this program is limited and requests will be handled on a first come, first served basis," this week's memo notes. "The average work placement job rate is $10,000 for a 4-month term. Jobs should be rated based on job content."

The winter term is already three weeks old, but departments that still would like to get involved can get in touch with the student awards office in Needles Hall (phone ext. 3583).

Chance for a peek at tech conference

"More than 500 of Canada's most highly motivated young minds" are taking part in the Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference this weekend -- and many of them brought their bodies along too, for the sake of last night's murder mystery dinner and tomorrow's banquet.

And while it's too late to sign up for most of the conference, anyone interested is invited to "Come join us for an exclusive look at the next-generation in technology during our TechExpo Open House," organizers say.

The event, planned and carried off entirely by UW students, is being held at the International Plaza Hotel on Toronto's Airport Road. Participants from across Canada are hearing top speakers from the technology field, seeing demonstrations (including "the real rescue robots that went into the World Trade Center rubble") and meeting in small groups with workshop leaders who can talk about digital media, intelligent systems and other fast-growth fields.

Participants are also promised "hands-on workshops", free software, networking opportunities and pizza.

Capacity was reached several days before the conference opened yesterday, but everybody's welcome to drop in on the TechExpo, a chance to "play with gadgets and see demonstrations". Open hours for the Expo are 4 to 6 p.m. today, and I'm told that new features for the wildly popular XBox game controller are among the attractions.

Cognitive science diploma launched -- by Barbara Elve, from this week's Gazette

"How the mind works is the biggest puzzle that humans have ever tried to put together, and the pieces require contributions from many fields." That line from philosophy professor Paul Thagard's book Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science throws down the gauntlet for students in the new graduate diploma program in cognitive science.

The diploma will take an interdisciplinary approach to the study of mind and intelligence, including both human and machine intelligence, says Thagard, director of the new program, as well as the undergraduate cognitive science option offered at UW since 1995.

The first Seminar in Cognitive Science (CogSci 600), the foundation course for the graduate diploma program, was given last fall with presentations by professors in philosophy, psychology, computer science, systems design engineering and English. The focus was "controversial topics concerning the nature of human and computer intelligence".

Thagard envisions future CogSci seminars including presentations on such seemingly disparate subjects as on language development, neuroscience, visual rhetoric, computational intelligence social cognition, culture, and applied linguistics. He's convinced that advances in the study of mind -- processes of thinking such as problem solving or use of analogy -- will be sparked by cross-fertilization between disciplines. While understanding of the neurological processes of the brain is advancing rapidly, he adds, at present theories are still "too coarse" to explain how the brain draws analogies.

Students of cognitive science are also examining artificial intelligence, the branch of computer science concerned with intelligent systems. By studying both human and artificial intelligence, cognitive science students "can use what we know about how human minds work to improve human-computer interaction." As well, on a broader scale, research is focusing on how to make computers learn, solve problems, "how to get greater intelligence into computers."

Currently, says Thagard, most work involves individual thinkers. "Cognitive science has tended to neglect the social." One new direction is focusing on "distributed cognition", the kinds of interactions among individuals that create group intelligence. While such research has been applied to social coordination in robot soccer, findings could also lead to better understanding of effective group decision making.

Waterloo's diploma will draw on the strengths in several well-established graduate programs across campus. To be eligible for the diploma, a student must be enrolled in a department that already offers an OCGS-approved graduate degree, such as computer science, English, philosophy, psychology or systems design engineering. Students must fulfill their regular degree requirements as well as those for the diploma.

While Thagard is unsure if the addition of a diploma in cognitive science to a resumé will provide any professional cachet, he has no doubt about the intellectual advantages of the program. Exposure to such a broad range of ideas will allow students to "work more creatively, to be better at what they do."

For the weekend, and beyond

The department of psychology offers a colloquium at 2:00 this afternoon (PAS building room 2083) by Lee Brooks of McMaster University, who will speak on "Coordination of Perceptual and Verbal Learning in Diagnosis and Categorization".

And the philosophy department offers a colloquium (2:30, Humanities room 373) by graduate student Christine Freeman-Roth: "Once More, with Feeling".

CTRL-A, the Club That Really Likes Anime, has a big weekend of free showings planned. Films start at 4:30 tonight and 12 noon tomorrow in Arts Lecture Hall room 116.

And today's the deadline for nominations for 2002-03 positions on the Federation of Students executive and on students' council. Voting will be held (on-line) in mid-February.

Planning for September's orientation program is rolling already. This weekend, says Heather FitzGerald of the first year student life office, all Federation Orientation Committee members will get an evening and a day of training: "The committee is composed of approximately 40 student volunteers (I am still waiting for the final number) who will spend the next eight months planning Orientation Week. The committee will meet once a week as a group. The Federation Orientation Committee are the central body who make decisions regarding the activities offered during Orientation Week. Over the next few weeks many of the committees will begin to recruit Orientation Leaders." Last year, she notes, there were more than 800 such leaders, all of whom will also have intensive training as September gets closer.

Scheduled for tomorrow in the Humanities Theatre is the Banff Festival of Mountain Films, with showings at 2:00 and 7:00.

Sports this weekend: the volleyball teams will host Brock tonight in the PAC main gym, the women's teams at 6 p.m., the men's teams at 8:00. Tomorrow, the basketball teams host Western in the same location, women at 12 noon, men at 2 p.m. Also tomorrow, the hockey Warriors take on the Windsor Lancers at 2 p.m. at the Columbia Icefield. Away from campus, the curling squad is at Windsor, the figure skaters are at Queen's this weekend, the track and field team is at Windsor, and the swimmers are at Western today and Laurier tomorrow.

Early next week:

And there will be a blood donor clinic Monday through Friday in the Student Life Centre; a sign-up sheet for appointments is available now at the turnkey desk.

There are still spaces available in the Weight Watchers At Work session running on campus this term. The group meets Mondays from 12 to 1 p.m. in Humanities room 373, and anyone interested can show up there at noon this Monday. The session runs for 14 weeks and costs $203 for faculty and staff, $183 for students. For more information, or to reserve a space, contact Avvey Peters at ext. 2726, or Sandie Hurlburt at ext. 3104.


January 18, 1962: The board of governors agrees to consider a change to UW's name, to end the confusion with Waterloo Lutheran University.

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