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Friday, March 28, 2003

  • Clinic on the alert for SARS
  • Government promises 'stable' funding
  • Prof receives major science prize
  • Data points and artifacts
  • For today and the weekend
Chris Redmond

Have a happy Holi day

[Beer in plastic cups]

Seems like just yesterday! It was January 10 when the Engineering Society held its beginning-of-term pub -- can it really be eleven weeks ago? Yep; tonight brings the end-of-term sequel in POETS Pub in Carl Pollock Hall. Last day of classes is Tuesday in engineering and math, April 4 in the other faculties. (Photo from the EngSoc web site.)

Clinic on the alert for SARS

The campus hasn't seen any signs of SARS, but UW's health services is taking no chances.

SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, is Ontario's latest public health crisis, with three people dead, several dozen apparent cases in the Toronto area, and the province's hospitals taking special precautions.

Yesterday, on the advice of the Waterloo Region public health unit, health services posted signs on the doors of its clinic: "Do Not Enter If . . ."

The "if" goes on: "You have a fever, cough or chest cold and visited the Scarborough Hospital Grace Division after March 16th, or returned from Asia, especially China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and/or Singapore in the past ten days, or had close contact with a person ill with SARS."

If you're in those categories, you should go home and call health services at 888-4567 ext. 3544, the sign says. "You will be connected with a nurse who will assist you." Other patients are still welcome to come in and be seen in the normal way.

"There is no cause for alarm," says occupational health nurse Linda Brogden from inside the white building. "There is no known concern for our campus at this time, nor is there any known concern in the region of Waterloo. However, because we have a large community of students and staff, many of whom do travel to the higher-risk areas for both business and pleasure, it is prudent to post the risks.

"At this time, for any individuals who do not satisfy these risk criteria, there is no reason for absence from work."

Brogden says anyone with "concerns" -- and anyone aware of someone who has been "advised to stay home" because of the possibility of SARS -- should give her a call at ext. 6264.

Government promises 'stable' funding

Ontario treasurer Janet Ecker said yesterday that the government is making a "multi-year operating grant commitment" to the province's universities and colleges, something they have wanted for decades.

"We will invest in new learning resources, upgraded equipment and student services, as well as expand the number of faculty and graduate teaching assistants," she also said in her budget speech, announcing creation of a Quality Assurance Fund for post-secondary education.

University analysts will be busy today working out how the government's promises will translate into dollars for the coming fiscal year, which begins in five weeks, and the years to follow.

Initial reactions from province-wide organizations were favourable. The announcement is "very good news", said a statement from the Council of Ontario Universities. On the other hand, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations called the announcement "too little, too late", despite "some significant improvements".

Prof receives major science prize -- from the UW media relations office

Spend a day on the slopes with Michel Gingras if you want to understand the essence of his condensed matter physics research. "When I lived in British Columbia, I liked to ski at Apex in the Okanagan Valley," says the UW physics professor. "My favourite run there was an unnamed triple black diamond run. It's awesome. It's about the width of a building corridor and pasted with trees and rocks, and there's a creek that runs in the middle."

Navigating disorder is also at the heart of Gingras's science -- but this time it's about understanding randomness at the atomic level.

It is this world-leading research in the area of frustrated magnetic systems that captured him a top Canadian honour from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The fellowship is one of six announced a few days ago.

Rey Pagtakhan, federal secretary of state for science, notes that "These awards are public recognition for outstanding scientific achievement. Indeed, this is Canada's way of saying 'thank you' and giving outstanding scientists and engineers the opportunity and resources to bring their ideas to a new level of excellence."

Explaining his work, Gingras points out that in a fridge magnet, all of the atoms' magnetic moments (north and south) point parallel to one another. However, in some materials (including many new synthetic metal oxides), the magnetic moments can't arrange themselves in parallel, creating what's known as frustrated magnetism.

Says Gingras: "What you learn from these systems has a scientific market that's much broader than the specific material or model that you're trying to understand." For example, disordered systems are important in the study of high-temperature superconductivity, and in the creation of longer-life batteries and so-called ferromagnetic semiconductors, a class of materials in which the magnetic moments can be used to carry information in electronic devices.

"It's only when a theoretical understanding of these frustrated systems is achieved that it will be possible to efficiently guide the chemical design of useful new materials with significant potential for applications," said Gingras, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Condensed Matter Theory and Statistical Mechanics at UW.

His work involves collaboration with experimentalists at Canada's most advanced particle physics facilities, including the Muon Spin Resonance facility at TRIUMF (the Tri-University Meson Facility) in Vancouver, and a neutron scattering facility at Chalk River. He's been credited with forming important ties between these "nuts and bolts" practitioners and theoreticians.

"I'm like a mediator," said Gingras, who spent four years as a research associate at TRIUMF. "I'm in between the experimentalists and the hardcore theorists who only do pen and paper work. I'm able to understand and dialogue with both groups."

As an NSERC Steacie Fellow, Gingras will take frustration to a new level by considering the role of quantum mechanics in these disordered systems -- a kind of triple-black triangle run for physicists. "In the history of solid state physics from the 1930s to the beginning of the 1990s, very few researchers made an effort to understand frustrated magnets in the presence of quantum fluctuations," he said. "It's an important problem left dangling."

  • Co-op students advised to avoid war protests (uwstudent.org)
  • Academic hiring (including Adel Sedra as UW dean of engineering)
  • Iraq 2003: sources of news (U of Windsor)
  • WLU will open day care centre
  • Ontario government funding for projects in Waterloo Region
  • Retirement rules push out valuable talent (Globe)
  • Voice of America describes programming contest
  • Forty years of growth at U of Victoria
  • Data points and artifacts

    A note from the university secretariat: "The elections for graduate students to Senate closed at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 12; Heather Murray (Science) and Igor Ivkovic (Engineering) were acclaimed, terms May 1, 2003 to April 30, 2005."

    The staff association's social committee just keeps coming up with new events. Tickets for two more are on sale now: an April 6 visit to LaserQuest, and a May 25 outing to hear K-W Storytellers and the K-W Symphony at Centre in the Square. Details have been sent to association members, or are available from Verna Keller in the teaching resources office, vkeller@watserv1.

    UW now has a much bigger virtual pipeline connecting the campus network to the Internet. Upgrades were completed successfully on Wednesday (after some difficulty Tuesday) and Thursday mornings. "We now have 40Mbps of general Internet service, an increase of over 35%," reports Doug Payne of information systems and technology -- plus a 40 Mbps circuit to CA*net, the network that connects Canadian universities and other hot spots.

    Research by two UW geoscientists is being presented at a joint meeting this week in Halifax, the media relations office reports. The findings of Michael Sokal, biology, and Arjan Brem, earth sciences, are being reviewed at the joint meeting of the Geological Society of America Northeast Section and the Atlantic Geoscience Society. Sokal looked at environment changes at a mastodon site in Hyde Park, N.Y. while Brem's study was into early deformation in the Cabot fault zone and on the Little Grand Lake fault in Western Newfoundland.

    Wanda Speek writes from the human resources department: "The Rockway Senior Centre is offering retirement workshop sessions to explore retirement options. The sessions begin on April 15 and continue every Tuesday evening through May 20. the time is 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Rockway Centre in Kitchener. The cost is $45 per person or $75 per couple. For registration information, call Wendy Fifield at 741-2507."

    The UW-published literary magazine The New Quarterly held a special event last night, as I said in yesterday's Daily Bulletin, and I alluded to the magazine's new issue, as fat as a book. Here's more about it, from TNQ editor Kim Jernigan: "Our terrific Wild Writers We Have Known issue is a celebration of the Canadian short story and story writers. At nearly 400 pages, our most ambitious issue yet. What we wanted was to create an environment in which writers could talk: talk to readers, talk to editors, and, perhaps most importantly, talk to each other. And talk they did: about how they write, about what they read, about who is reading them. They talked about the cultural climate in which they write: the influence on their writing of film, of technology, of community or lack thereof. Add to that essays by Steven Heighton and Robyn Sarah on the poetics of the short story, New Yorker editor Alice Quinn on the genius of Alice Munro, Porcupine's Quill editor John Metcalf's take on the situation of young writers in Canada today, and ten great new stories which show something of the range of experiment in the story form." Copies of the issue are $18 from the New Quarterly office at St. Jerome's University.

    "I think it is very important that people show their support for the anti-war movement," says an e-mail I've received from a UW staff member. (That would apply to people who oppose the Iraq war, anyway.) "At Kitchener city hall, every Saturday for as long as the war continues, there will be a family-oriented rally at 2:00. There will be speakers, free food, and a variety of anti-war activities."

    For today and the weekend

    The end-of-term "Clear the Shelves" campaign is under way, in support of the Meal Exchange food program. Volunteers will be collecting food in the residences today, and in off-campus neighbourhoods tomorrow, aiming particularly for students who want to empty the cupboards as the end of term draws near. "The food is then donated to local food banks, including the Feds food bank," says Anne Pathammavong, one of the organizers.

    Renovations begin in earnest today at the UW bookstore in South Campus Hall, which will be closed until Tuesday morning, reopening then with a whole new look. (Bookends Café will remain open for its usual hours.)

    David DeVidi of the philosophy department will speak at a colloquium today (2:30 p.m., Humanities room 334). His topic: "But What Makes It Logic?"

    The weekend will bring concerts by several of UW's music ensembles. The Stage Band, with Accent vocal ensemble, performs tonight at 8:00 in the great hall at Conrad Grebel University College. Saturday, it's the UW Choir ("Laudate Dominum") at 8 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church on Allen Street. And Sunday, it's the Chamber Choir ("Love Songs for Springtime") at 7 p.m. at Parkminster United Church on Erb Street East. Tickets for each event are $10 (students $5).

    "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde", the spring production by UW's drama department, continues tonight and Saturday night at 8:00 in the Theatre of the Arts.

    The Humanities Theatre is listing the Manaveli Performing Arts Group with a Tamil arts festival, Saturday at 4:30 p.m. . . . Monday at 4:00, St. Jerome's University has a reading by Hal Niedzviecki, postponed from an earlier date. . . . And a major event of next week will be the Graduate Student Research Conference, running Wednesday through Friday. . . .


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