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Friday, April 30, 2004

  • UW mourns professor's death
  • Nuclear engineering program coming
  • Small spring demand for residences
  • Big gift announcement; other notes
Chris Redmond

Guelph Spring Festival


UW mourns professor's death

Robert W. (Rob) Macdonald (right), the mechanical engineering professor who was shot in Trinidad a week ago today, died yesterday afternoon at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener.

He had been on life-support equipment and was brought home by air ambulance on Tuesday night. In a news conference late yesterday, doctors said he had been in "critical, not stable" condition from the time of his arrival, and had not emerged from his coma. By decision of family members and doctors, the life-support was removed in early afternoon.

Macdonald was 43. A faculty member at UW since 1996, he worked in fluid mechanics, with much of his research involving the way smoke spreads. Colleagues' testimonials stress not just his brilliance as a researcher but how pleasant, unassuming and hard-working he was.

London Free Press coverage
He was in Trinidad as one of a group of Canadian karate enthusiasts when, on the evening of April 22, they were robbed as they were walking back to their hotel from dinner. Somehow a gun was fired and a bullet entered Macdonald's head. The Record, which has been following the story closely for the past week, has the most detailed reconstruction of events so far, in a story in this morning's paper. No one has been charged, but criminal investigations are now moving into high gear.

UW flags are at half-staff this morning in mourning for Macdonald, and a makeshift memorial has appeared outside his office in Carl Pollock Hall. A memorial service will be announced later.

Davis library reopens in September

[Davis at twilight] The engineering, math and science library in the Davis Centre will close at 6:00 tonight and not reopen until September, when the first stage in a $5 million renovation project will give it an "information commons" area with more computers, improved acoustics and a glass wall opening onto the Davis great hall, among other improvements.

Davis staff will provide library services in the Dana Porter Library over the next few months, says a "frequently asked questions" page from the library. "What do I do if I need to get a book or journal article from Davis Library? Search TRELLIS and display the item you need. Use the 'request item from TRELLIS' button to order the book or article just as you would if it was at Guelph or Laurier. Pick it up at the listed locations."

Most staff in the Davis library will continue working in the office area, which is not affected by the renovations, but a few will move to Dana Porter from now through September. Librarians specializing in engineering, math and science will be available at the Porter reference desk during the spring term.

Nuclear engineering program coming -- by Patricia Bow

Two professors in UW's civil engineering department will be part of a new research and teaching program designed to re-energize Canada's neglected nuclear power industry.

Mahesh Pandey and Wei-Chau Xie are involved with the University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering, an organization established in 2002 by roughly a dozen Canadian universities and nuclear power utilities, and the Canadian government. UNENE's purpose is to encourage more research in nuclear technology and to head off a coming shortage of specially trained nuclear engineers and scientists to run Canada's nuclear power plants. Most professional staff in the nuclear industry in Canada are now in their 40s and 50s, and few young engineers are joining their ranks.

The educational component of the program is a course-based full-cost-recovery MEng in Nuclear Engineering to be offered collectively through McMaster, Toronto, Western, and Waterloo. Students will register at and receive their degree from one of those universities, but may take courses at any of the four, as well as at several other institutions where degrees will not be granted. The program will be taught on extended weekends to accommodate part-time students who will for the most part be fully employed at the same time, primarily in the nuclear industry. Most will already hold degrees in engineering.

At Waterloo, Xie and Pandey will be teaching Engineering Risk and Reliability. The course is based on UW's Civil Eng 601 course of the same name.

Each course will consist of two four-day modules of about 30 hours each, to be taught as often as possible on site at a nuclear power plant. Students will pay a fee of $2,500 per course (employers are encouraged to underwrite the cost), and would need to complete 10 courses in order to graduate. Most students are expected to take two to four years to finish.

The MEng program was approved by UW's senate in March. Approval is expected to come from the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies by June, and course delivery will begin soon after that.

The nuclear power industry is considered critical to Ontario's and Canada's economy, and not only because nuclear plants supply about 40 per cent of Ontario's electricity. The only advanced industries in which Canada is a net exporter are nuclear services and supplies, and aerospace. Nuclear power is also a "clean" source of power, since it doesn't contribute to smog or greenhouse gases.

According to UNENE's brief to OCGS, however, "the cutbacks in the funding of nuclear research in the universities, combined with a vocal anti-nuclear lobby, have deterred young people from pursuing careers in nuclear science and technology. Thus, an assured supply of highly qualified engineers and scientists has become a critical problem for Canada's nuclear industry."

Small spring demand for residences

Some 1,500 students will be moving into UW's residences on Sunday in preparation for the spring term -- enough to fill Mackenzie King Village and parts of the UW Place complex, but far short of the more than 4,000 who cram the residences to capacity each fall term.

Spring term classes start bright and early -- well, early, anyway -- on Monday morning.

"We are looking forward to a straightforward spring registration," says Gail Clarke, director of housing and residence administration, whose office has scheduled undergraduate students into King, Village I, and the Eby (high-rise) and Wellesley (court) sections of UW Place.

Graduate students are being streamed into the new "north" townhouses at Columbia Lake Village, where 54 new houses are available this month in addition to the ones that opened in January. "The balance of the 250 currently planned will be available for September," says Bud Walker, UW director of business services. "The last 50 will come on stream in September 2005 if we decide to go ahead with them."

Parts of the residences are closed this summer, either for maintenance or because demand is slow. "Minota Hagey Residence is off-line," says Walker, "because there are major renovations to the common kitchens planned there this summer. It will reopen for upper-year undergraduates in September.

"Wilmot Court (at UW Place) is closed for renovation into 3-bedroom suites for this September. The other two courts, Woolwich and Waterloo, will close for a similar renovation beginning in January 2005."

Beck Hall, the other UW Place high-rise, is closed for lack of demand, and Ron Eydt Village is hosting conferences for the spring term.

Big gift announcement; other notes

A "major announcement" is due this afternoon "about a major donation to advance quantum computing research at the University of Waterloo and put Canada on the leading edge of the next technological revolution". An advisory from UW's media relations office says "participants" in the announcement -- at 1:15 in Davis Centre room 1302 -- will include Mike Lazaridis, who is UW's chancellor and founder of the spinoff company Research In Motion. "Mike is also the founder of the Perimeter Institute," the advisory adds.

The Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators continues its annual conference, being held at UW through Saturday. Astronaut Chris Hadfield is today's keynote speaker, which would explain that stream of teacher-looking folks heading for the Humanities Theatre. Events later in the day include a lunch at the University Club for UW alumni among the math teachers.

It's the last day of UW's 2003-04 fiscal year, a year in which Waterloo will have taken in and spent something like $430 million by the time the books are closed. Preliminary statements for April, the last month of the year, will be run on Tuesday, the finance office says, and a recent memo added that "Once preliminary April 2004 monthly statements are mailed [to departments], a limited time will be available to address any issues from April that result in additional accounting transactions."

Because of year-end, as I was saying yesterday, a number of departments will be taking inventory today and not open for business. In particular, graphics will do no printing today, although copy centres will be open to deal with customers except between noon and 2:30. Some food outlets will close early today. And the bookstore, UW Shop and Techworx will be closed for the day.

Renison College is involved in a service to be held Sunday at 4 p.m. at All Saints Church in Markham, celebrating the 60th anniversary of the ordination of Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi. . . . The colour copier that's been available at Express Copy in the Dana Porter Library is being removed, UW Graphics says, and from now on, colour photocopying will be available only at Pixel Planet on the second floor of Math and Computer. . . . The UW-based South Western Ontario Research Data Centre is holding a "mini-conference" today at the University of Guelph, showing off the kind of work that can be done in the social sciences with Statistics Canada data. . . .

Roofing work on the Davis Centre is to begin Monday and last for about three weeks. And the plant operations department announces that from Monday through Thursday next week, the main entrance to the Davis Centre from the ring road will be closed off -- for work to "facilitate campus accessibility".


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