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Tuesday, June 3, 2003

  • Presidents lay commuter wager
  • NSERC announces annual grants
  • Feminist lectures on aging
  • Board meets today; other notes
Chris Redmond

June 3 is . . .


Cool research is being carried on by Marilyn Griffith of UW's biology department, as described in a major article by Barbara Elve that appeared in last week's Gazette. She's studying how plants tolerate freezing temperatures, and can report that some plants contain the same antifreeze proteins that allow fish to survive in Arctic oceans. Griffith is holding a Killam Research Fellowship this year to continue her work.

Presidents lay commuter wager

The Commuter Challenge got serious yesterday, as the presidents of UW and Wilfrid Laurier University announced that they've agreed on a bet.

The idea of the annual challenge is for people to get out of the car at least once in the week, and walk, bicycle or find some other way of getting to campus, to cut down on vehicle emissions and traffic congestion. The event runs all this week.

UW's David Johnston and Laurier's Bob Rosehart said they have agreed that the president of whichever university has the lower participation rate in the challenge will wear the winner's colours at a Warriors-Hawks football game.

"There's nothing like a friendly challenge between Laurier and our cross-town rivals to encourage participation at both institutions," says Mary Basler, who's coordinating the event at the WLU end.

To count in the challenge, an individual has to register on a web site maintained by UW's waste management office. (Or, if that doesn't seem to work, e-mail plcook@uwaterloo.ca to report how you travelled.) "All participation counts," it notes, "even if you only do this one way, on one day! . . .

"The Canadian Commuter Challenge was developed around two basic ideas: To recognize, reward, and thank individuals and groups that support environmentally healthy commuting options, and to emphasize the personal, social, and environmental benefits of healthy commuting, and encourage other commuters to make healthy choices.

"The Canadian Commuter Challenge is an excellent opportunity for participating companies and the community at large, to show their commitment to the health of the environment.

"The primary objectives of the Canadian Commuter Challenge are to increase the number of healthy commuters and reduce the number of single occupant vehicles on our roads, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

NSERC announces annual grants

Millions of dollars in "discovery grants" -- formerly called just research grants -- were announced yesterday by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

NSERC is the single biggest source of research funding at UW, providing large grants for equipment purchases and "strategic" projects as well as the grants announced yesterday, which are intended for curiosity-driven research in a broad range of technical fields. NSERC is also a major source of scholarship funding.

The agency announced 2,752 new grants worth $325 million over five years to university professors in 67 institutions across the country.

"NSERC discovery grants are awarded to both new and established researchers," said a statement from Rey Pagtakhan, the federal science minister. "The NSERC awards allow university professors to develop the next generation of scientists and engineers who will be essential to Canada's success in the knowledge-based global economy."

For example . . .

An NSERC backgrounder includes this project description:

"World without wheels. Cars, trains and even planes use them for efficient movement, so why are there no creatures with wheels? It's a question that Dr. Aftab Patla uses as a touchstone in his exploration of the sensory and motor control of legged motion. The University of Waterloo scientist is studying issues such as visual control of step cycle and balance in animals with legs -- research that's useful in creating mobility-support devices and in building legged robots. $51,320 a year, for four years."

"We want Canada to be one of the top five countries in the world for research and development," said industry minister Allan Rock. "NSERC-funded researchers are the bright minds who are making the discoveries that drive tomorrow's innovations."

Each year thousands of professors from universities across Canada apply to NSERC for discovery and related grants. These funds provide the primary support for research in dozens of fields such as chemistry, life and material sciences, mathematics, and civil engineering. Much of the funding provides support for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

NSERC notes that the amount of money available went up this year: "In Budget 2003, the Minister of Finance allocated a further $55 million to NSERC's existing annual budget, thereby raising it to $771 million. In addition, a new program of 4,000 Canada Graduate Scholarships was announced."

Still, there's tough competition, a news release notes: "The number of first-time applicants was at its highest this year at 894, which created enormous pressure on the selection committees' budgets."

The NSERC web site has a full list of grant winners at UW, on topics ranging from "Hydrology of deformable peat deposits" to "Applications of mathematics in medicine".

  • Winners of this year's OCUFA teaching awards
  • U of T foundation will move into MARS district
  • 'Let's get the innovation agenda back on track' (Star)
  • Faculty settlement finally reached at Western
  • Royal Ontario Museum's 'Renaissance'
  • U of Ottawa sells $150 million in bonds . . . it's 'Canada's university'
  • The University: International Expectations
  • 'Defending free speech in tense times' (University Affairs)
  • Royal Society of Canada presents annual medals
  • Feminist lectures on aging -- from the UW media relations office

    "On Human Aging" is the theme of a new lecture series to be delivered beginning tomorrow by a renowned expert on feminist theory and applied ethics.

    Christine Overall, who will give the lectures, is the inaugural holder of the Churchill Humphrey and Alex P. Humphrey Professorship in Feminist Philosophy. The visiting professorship in UW's philosophy department was established by retired professor Anne Minas, in memory of her father and grandfather.

    Overall said the lecture series will be based on her book Aging, Death, and Human Longevity: A Philosophical Inquiry, as well as on work she has done since it was published earlier this year.

    The lectures will be held on five Wednesdays, June 4, 11, 18, 25 and July 2 in Humanities room 373, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Here are the topics to be covered:

    Besides the lectures, Overall is teaching a course on advanced studies in feminism as well as collaborating with faculty members and students in the areas of feminism, women's studies and gender issues across campus.

    "I am delighted and honoured to be the first holder of the Alexander Humphrey Professorship in Feminist Philosophy, an exciting scholarly field," Overall said. She teaches and researches in the areas of feminist theory, applied ethics, philosophy of religion and philosophy of education. Her visiting professorship at UW continues through the spring term.

    Board meets today; other notes

    Thousands of offers of admission are going out today to 18-year-olds keen to know whether they have a place at Waterloo this September. It's the last regular batch of offers to be sent out in this year's admissions process, although work to fill any remaining spots in first-year classes will continue through the summer. Students who are receiving these offers, as well as those who got early offers over the past few weeks, have a June 16 deadline to say if they're coming to Waterloo.

    The university's board of governors will hold its summer meeting today, starting at 2:30 in Needles Hall room 3001. Agenda items range from the Federation of Students fee (rising from $28.02 per term to $29.64) to a presentation on UW's "research intensity". In the confidential session at the end of the meeting, the board is expected to approve appointment of a new dean of graduate studies, to take over from acting dean Gary Waller on July 1.

    The week of special events organized by procurement and contract services today brings a computer show for faculty and staff, running 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Davis Centre "fishbowl" lounge.

    Students in the teaching options who are going out on co-op work terms this fall should fill out ranking forms today in the Tatham Centre. . . . A career development workshop on "Job Search Strategies" starts at 2:30 p.m. (details from the career services department). . . . The office for persons with disabilities is sponsoring a panel discussion today (4 p.m.) on workplace experiences of students with disabilities (last-minute information, ext. 2229). . . .

    The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics offers a special event tonight, a talk by Lee Smolin, author of Three Roads to Quantum Gravity that starts at 7:00 at the Waterloo Recreation Centre. Title: "Why Does Science Work?" Smolin is a world leader in quantum gravity research and co-developer of "loop quantum gravity", an important approach to unifying quantum theory and Einstein's theory of space, time an gravity. He's now a researcher at Perimeter. Tickets for the talk are free but should be reserved in advance -- call 886-2375.

    "We need to reduce our hours," writes Bob Hicks from the Computer Help and Information Place, "as some staff are away on vacation and others in the CHIP help desk are helping with moves in Needles Hall. The CHIP (Math and Computer room 1052) will be closed during lunch (12 noon to 1 p.m.) on Wednesday through Friday. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause."


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