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Wednesday, May 26, 2004

  • 'Excellence council' talks teaching
  • Three will receive new special rank
  • Quantum gravity meets digital data
Chris Redmond

What's happening in Ontario

[Ductwork and empty space]

In four months this unfinished space will be the library in UW's old-made-new architecture building on the bank of the Grand River in Cambridge. "The building is still a construction site," says architecture director Eric Haldenby, "but there has been tremendous interest in seeing the renovation of the former Riverside Silk Mill. With the cooperation of the City of Cambridge, the Cambridge Consortium and Alberici Constructors, we are able to do a walk-through that will take visitors to all three floors -- to the future gallery, restaurant, lecture/film theatre, design library and rare book facility, design studios, courts and terraces." The open house is scheduled for Saturday, from 2 to 5 p.m., and all are welcome. "Take in the splendid views of the Grand River and the architecture of old Galt," says Haldenby. "We will have displays, food and other events." Photo by Gemma Selvanera.

'Excellence council' talks teaching

An advisory group of 20 award-winning teachers has been appointed "to provide direction and advocacy to advance teaching and learning at Waterloo," says a memo from Tom Carey, associate vice-president (learning resources and innovation), published in the new issue of the Teaching Matters newsletter.

Says Carey: "Enthusiastic commitments have been received from these 20 faculty members, who were nominated by Deans and heads of our federated college and university units. TRACE director Barbara Bulman-Fleming will co-chair the council."

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  • In preliminary meetings to plan the council's activities, he writes, these issues and working groups were identified:

    Classroom Renewal: "The working group looking at classroom renewal has a list of the classrooms on which work is scheduled for Spring '05, mostly upgrades to data projectors and the like. They will be defining a process to get instructor input on these rooms so they can make some recommendations to address instructional problems with the room layout and design, e.g. traffic flow which disrupts lectures, media controls and placement."

    Teaching Awards: "A working group on Teaching Awards is looking at potential extensions to UW's Distinguished Teaching Awards. Deans' Council has asked that the Teaching Excellence Council examine ways to streamline the awards process and ensure that all excellence in teaching is acknowledged and rewarded. The group is gathering information on the teaching-awards programs at other G-10 universities in Canada."

    Developing Teaching Excellence: "A third working group is thinking about how to promote career-long development of teaching excellence. We have added some programming for new faculty in the last couple of years, and we need to think about how to keep mid-career faculty energized with new teaching ideas."

    Carey adds that other issues will come up as well. "We will be asking TEC members to consider how they might want to participate in the Certificate in University Teaching for graduate students, e.g. offering to observe a couple of PhD students in their initial experience as lecturers and providing feedback to them, or developing a workshop for graduate students on some aspect of teaching. We will also be seeking ideas for two TRACE projects: working with international TAs and promoting a stronger culture of academic integrity."

    [UW Blooms tomorrow]

    Three will receive new special rank

    Three faculty members will receive the new rank of "University Professor" during convocation ceremonies next month, according to the convocation invitations that have just gone out.

    The three professors receiving the new rank are Mark Zanna, a specialist in "attitudes" in the social psychology division of UW's psychology department; Mary Thompson, statistics and actuarial science professor specializing in survey research, and former acting dean of mathematics; and Garry Rempel, a specialist in catalysis and polymer science in the department of chemical engineering.

    Creation of the new rank of University Professor was approved a year ago. The status carries "no tangible reward", the university senate was told then, but high prestige.

    North campus Research & Technology Park project announcement for the "accelerator centre", Sybase building site, Hagey Boulevard, 10 a.m.

    Henry Morawski, plant operations department, funeral service 10 a.m., Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, Kitchener.

    K-W Software Quality Association monthly meeting, 11:45, Davis Centre room 1304, RSVP to info@kwsqa.org.

    Career workshops: "Interview Skills, the Basics", 1:30; "Preparing for Questions", 2:30; "Becoming a Social Entrepreneur", 4:30; "Starting Your Own Business, Next Steps", 5:30; "Becoming an Intrapreneur, Part Two", 6:30. Tatham Centre room 1208; register online.

    'The True Future of Software.' Talk by Larry Smith, department of economics, sponsored by Computer Science Club, 5:30, Davis Centre room 1350.

    WatCHI Design Challenge: Student teams have three hours to find innovative solutions to an assigned problem. 6 p.m., Student Life Centre, details online.

    Centre Stage Dance performances at Humanities Theatre, tonight and Thursday.

    'Wingfield on Ice', math alumni outing to Centre in the Square, 8 p.m.

    Dana Porter Library power shutoff, Thursday and again Friday, 6 to 7 a.m.

    Health informatics seminar, "Attending to Visual Motion", John Tsotsos, York University, Thursday 11:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

    Entrepreneurship seminar, Vinit Nijhawan, Taral Networks, "The Top 10 Qualities of an Entrepreneur", Thursday 12 noon, Needles Hall room 1101. RSVP today to Lisa Collins, Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, ext. 7167.

    'A Study of Aboriginal Suicide', launch of book about artist Benjamin Chee-Chee by Al Evans, St. Paul's United College, Thursday 4:30 p.m. at St. Paul's. Wine and cheese, book for sale, display of Chee-Chee's art.

    Spiritual Heritage Education Network presents Vijaya Kumar Murty, "The Quality of Life", Thursday 7 p.m., Math and Computer room 4021.

    The official description says that the rank is awarded for "exceptional scholarly achievement and international pre-eminence. . . . Once appointed, a faculty member retains the designation for life. Not counting retirees, it is anticipated there will be 14 University Professorships at steady stage, with at most two appointments each year." Nominations are considered and decisions made by the University Tenure and Promotion Committee.

    The first three appointees will be presented at the convocation ceremonies for the faculties in which they serve -- Zanna in arts (ceremony on June 17), Thompson in math (June 19, morning), and Rempel in engineering (June 19, afternoon). Distinguished Teacher Awards, Distinguished Professor Emeritus status and other honours will also be presented at next month's Eighty-eighth Convocation.

    Positions available

    On this week's list from the human resources department:

  • Administrative secretary, sociology, USG 5
  • Systems support specialist, information systems and technology, USG 10-12
  • Software specialist, computer science computing facility, USG 9-12
  • Instructor, chemistry, USG 9
  • Master of Taxation student liaison, accountancy, USG 4
  • Undergraduate advisor/coordinator (mechatronics), engineering, USG 5
  • Secretary, chemistry, USG 4
  • Counsellor, counselling services, USG 11-12

    Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

  • Quantum gravity meets digital data

    "The fabric of space and time appears to be very smooth and continuous, but is it?" asks a research backgrounder issued last week by UW's media relations office.

    It goes on: "The message of Einstein's theory of general relativity is that space-time is infinitely smooth, except perhaps for the centres of black holes. The message of quantum theory, however, is that space-time ought to possess a discrete substructure -- estimated to be visible under a microscope that can resolve distances of 10^(-35)m. No conventional microscope is this sharp.

    "But the question about the true nature of the space-time fabric is so deep and the two messages from relativity and quantum theory seem so contradictory that the issue has spawned a whole range of so-called quantum gravity theories, ranging from string theory to spin foam theory."

    And there's the Waterloo connection. Says the backgrounder: "Achim Kempf of Applied Mathematics at the University of Waterloo has found that the two messages do not appear to be so conflicting after all, if an idea is brought in that is in ubiquitous use in information technology.

    "For example, in digital audio engineering: the amplitudes of a continuous signal, such as music, are recorded at discrete points in time. Later, the continuous music signal can be reconstructed from those discrete samples.

    "Remarkably, the reconstruction can be made perfect even between the sample points -- if two conditions are met. The music signal must have had a finite bandwidth and the samples must have been taken at a high enough rate.

    "Kempf generalizes this mathematical theorem to space-time, suggesting, essentially, that 10^(-35)m represents a maximum bandwidth in nature. Physical fields, such as electromagnetic fields, would be determined everywhere if known only at densely spaced discrete points."

    The full backgrounder is available on the media relations web site.


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