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Monday, March 14, 2005

  • High schoolers visit tomorrow
  • Data is safe after fire
  • Taxes; WPIRG fees; co-op jobs
Editor:
Chris Redmond
credmond@uwaterloo.ca

Brain Awareness Week


[Four in hats, two in low-cut dresses]

Calgary was the site -- couldn't you guess? -- for this year's Canadian Engineering Competition a few days ago. UW engineering students Alice Malisia, Beth Vary, Matthew Millard and Melanie Stern show off the hats they garnered along with first place in the "entrepreneurial design" category for their electronic piano tuning aid. They were one of several Waterloo teams who went to Calgary after victories in the Ontario Engineering Competition, held at UW in mid-February. "We were supervised by professor Stephen Birkett," says Stern, crediting him for the team's original project idea, "but he didn't get to come with us."

High schoolers visit tomorrow

UW holds its annual Campus Day open house tomorrow to welcome thousands of prospective students and their parents. The day brings tours, a chance to meet professors and current students, and information on the things future students are most eager to hear about. That includes special presentations on student life (in the Student Life Centre at 9:00 and noon), financing a university education (SLC, 11:00 and 1:00), and co-op education (Humanities Theatre, 12:00 and 2:00).

'I remember,' a student writes
Most activities begin at 9 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m.; residence tours run from 10 to 3. A 45-minute general campus tour will start regularly from the SLC. Service departments, from athletics to the disabilities office, will have information booths in the SLC throughout the day.

The open house is held each year on the Tuesday of the high school March break, chiefly for students who have applied to UW for next September.

Organizers say the day's events will focus on the students' future programs, as UW's six faculties and the colleges will be holding program activities, tours and sessions. Locations include Matthews Hall for AHS, Arts Lecture for the faculty of arts, the Davis Centre for math and software engineering, Carl Pollock Hall for engineering, ES I for environmental studies, and the CEIT building for science. Visitors are also welcome at the Architecture building in Cambridge, where tours will run from 11:00 to 1:00.

More about the origins of UW spinoffs

I wrote last Tuesday: "Yesterday's Daily Bulletin included an item about research into the history and origins of technology transfer at UW, much of which is credited to computing pioneer J. Wesley Graham. The article mentioned some of the key spinoff companies: Watcom, Waterloo Maple, Open Text. I quickly received a note from a reader: 'Graham didn't have anything to do with Maple and Open Text.' That's strictly true, although I suspect the original article was citing them as examples of a culture that he helped to develop, rather than as companies in which he was involved directly, as he was with Watcom, now a division of Sybase Inc."

Well, there's more to the story, as Keith Geddes writes from UW's school of computer science:

"You are very correct on that point, and the connection with Wes Graham is even stronger than that.

"Gaston Gonnet and I started the Maple project and, later with a few other colleagues, we founded Waterloo Maple Inc. (a.k.a. Maplesoft). Whoever said "Graham didn't have anything to do with Maple" was vastly overstating a point.

"While Wes did not have any part in the technical development of the Maple software, we interacted extensively with Wes Graham around issues relating to the forming of the commercial company. Later on, for a few years, Wes Graham was Chairman of the Board of Maplesoft where he was very influential at the business level.

"It is also very much a case of 'a culture that he helped to develop', as you stated. However, the connection is even stronger than that. I cannot speak for the case of Open Text, but since Gaston Gonnet was also one of the original founders of Open Text, I suspect that interactions with Wes Graham at the business level also existed in that case at the time of founding the commercial company."

The events are detailed in a Campus Day guide, which will be available at the Visitors Centre in South Campus Hall, the Student Life Centre and other locations on campus. More information about the day's activities is available online.

A new feature of Campus Day this year is the first of several President's Scholarship Receptions that will be held this spring for top-ranking students -- those with averages in the 90-plus stratosphere -- who are considering Waterloo and being offered scholarships accordingly. "We are inviting students and their parents to join us for an informal gathering to recognize their achievement and to encourage them to learn more about the University of Waterloo," writes Julie Hummel of the recruitment and marketing office. Tomorrow's reception runs from 3 to 4 at the University Club.

Parking is expected to be in high demand tomorrow, and organizers like to suggest that current students, faculty and staff leave as many parking spaces available for the day's visitors as possible.

Data is safe after fire

It will be some time yet before researchers in electrical and computer engineering know just what was lost in the early-morning fire, a week ago today, in the high voltage laboratory in Carl Pollock Hall.

Catherine Rosenberg, chair of the E&CE department, said late last week that the lab has been "released to the university" by the fire marshal's office -- meaning officials have finished gathering data for their investigation, and UW can move ahead with making the area safe, doing an inventory, assessing the extent of the damage, and cleaning things up.

Imprint report
The rest of CPH is pretty much back to normal after a massive scrub-and-ventilate job that began within hours of the fire. Damage was confined to the lab and the mezzanine above it, but smoke, soot and odours spread throughout the building, the landmark of the engineering complex at the southeast corner of campus.

Not all the equipment in the lab has been destroyed, Rosenberg said, but what survives may or may not be in operating condition, and now needs to be checked and calibrated. That could take a while.

"We are not allowing" the graduate students and other researchers back into the lab, she said, citing safety concerns. She said it appears that some researchers will be affected more than others: "There is a lot of stress for them because nobody has any idea what they will find."

Students are being given temporary space elsewhere, she said, and there's some definite good news: "We don't think they have lost personal data." For the most part, researchers will have kept their data on computers that were not in the lab itself, but in nine offices that surround the mezzanine, and damage to those offices seems to be limited to smoke and dirt. "The computers there have already been cleaned," Rosenberg said, and now the students can get on with checking that their files survived.

What's not clear is what equipment in the lab itself will have to be replaced or how long it will take to get things back in operation, she said.

WHEN AND WHERE
Class enrolment appointments for undergraduates choosing spring term courses, today through April 2 on Quest.

'Operation Campus Wide' training exercise for Campus Response Team, across campus today, 12 to 2.

Chocolate covered almonds for sale in the Student Life Centre in support of Best Buddies disability support group, 12:30 to 3 today, 10 to 3 Tuesday.

Computational mathematics seminar: "High-Dimensional Data Analysis by Action-Respecting Embedding " by Ali Ghodsi, 3:30 p.m., Math and Computer room 5158.

Career workshops: "Interview Skills, the Basics" 4:30, "Preparing for Questions" 5:30, Tatham Centre room 1208.

'The Take', documentary film by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis, free showing sponsored by Federation of Students, 8:00, Humanities Theatre.

Interdisciplinary Coffee Talk Society: "What Is an Acceptable Risk (e.g., for Destroying the Earth)?" Adrian Kent, University of Cambridge, Tuesday 5 p.m., Graduate House.

Charles Caccia, former cabinet minister, "The Elusive Implementation of Sustainable Development", Tuesday 7:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 113. Student colloquium based on the lecture, Wednesday 2 p.m., Environmental Studies II room 173.

'The Incredibles' free showing sponsored by Muslim Students Association, Tuesday 8 p.m., Student Life Centre.

'Mennonites, a Peace Church in Conversation', 2005 Bechtel Lectures by Fernando Enns, Heidelberg University, Germany, March 16 and 17, 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College great hall.

'Marat/Sade', drama department major production, preview performance Tuesday for arts alumni and guests, public performances Wednesday to Saturday 8 p.m., Theatre of the Arts.

'Professionalism in the Classroom' teaching workshop Wednesday 12 noon, Math and Computer room 5158, details online.

Mathematics student exchange information session Wednesday 2:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

Call for nominations

Nominations are requested for the following seats on Senate:

Faculty Representatives: One faculty member of the University to be elected by/from each Faculty of the University, terms from May 1, 2005 to April 30, 2008. One faculty member of the University to be elected by/from the Faculty of Arts, term to April 30, 2007. One faculty member of the University to be elected by/from the Faculty of Environmental Studies, term to April 30, 2006.

Faculty-at-large Representatives: Seven faculty members of the University to be elected by/from the members of faculty of the University, terms from May 1, 2005 to April 30, 2008. Five faculty members of the University to be elected by/from the members of faculty of the University, terms to April 30, 2007. One faculty member of the University to be elected by/from the members of faculty of the University, term to April 30, 2006.

Renison College and St. Jerome's University: One faculty member of Renison College to be elected by/from the members of faculty of Renison College, term from May 1, 2005 to April 30, 2008. One faculty member of St. Jerome's University to be elected by/from the members of faculty of St. Jerome's University, term from May 1, 2005 to April 30, 2008.

Graduate Student Representatives: Two graduate students of the University to be elected by/from the full- and part-time graduate students of the University, terms from May 1, 2005 to April 30, 2007.

Nomination forms are available from the Secretariat (ext. 6125) and from the Secretariat webpage. At least five nominators are required in each case. Nominations should be sent to the Chief Returning Officer, Secretariat, Needles Hall, Room 3060 no later than 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, March 30, 2005. Elections will follow if necessary.

Taxes; WPIRG fees; co-op jobs

It's income tax season, and a number of UW employees will be dealing with an unexpected complication: a demand from the government that they pay taxes -- possibly retroactive for several years -- on the value of the tuition fee discount they received from UW for children or other dependants. The problem came to light last year, when UW officials issued a memo explaining that the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency had ruled against the way tuition discounts had been being handled. "UW acted immediately to change its practice," associate provost Catharine Scott noted then. Now she sends a reminder that the university is doing about the only thing it can do to help employees who are caught in the reassessment: "UW will provide you with a low interest loan repayable through payroll deduction to meet your tax obligations." More information about the loans and the whole situation is available from payroll staff in the human resources department.

The Federation of Students officially announced in Friday's issue of Imprint that there will be a referendum later this month -- March 28 and 29 -- about the $4.25-per-term fee that undergraduate students pay to support the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group. WPIRG's politics are controversial in some quarters, and there's also a feeling, according to those who have pushed for the referendum, that organization fees should be voluntary rather than, like the WPIRG levy, "refundable" with a certain amount of paperwork. Students will be asked, "Do you support the termination of the WPIRG levy?" Imprint's Alex Doukas reported at length in the Friday paper.

Figures are at hand from the co-op education and career services department, indicating that out of 4,528 co-op students who were scheduled to have jobs this winter term, 4,381 are actually employed. That's a 96.75 per cent employment rate, somewhat higher than last winter's 95.42 per cent. Jobless students include 49 in mathematics, 46 in engineering, and smaller numbers in the other faculties.

I'm a bit slow in reporting it, but the UW figure skating team brought home the bronze medal from the OUA championship tournament last weekend. . . . Larry Helfand, a librarian in the UW library's cataloguing department who has been working at UW since 1978, will officially retire April 1. . . . TechWorx in South Campus Hall is holding a "UW Spirit Sale" this week, with a 15 per cent discount on products bearing UW symbols. . . .

And . . . on Friday the Daily Bulletin featured a striking photo of Warrior volleyballer Gaby Lesniak in action. I got the picture from the UW athletics department, but I've been asked to point out (and I'm happy to oblige) that it was taken by Glenn Bartley, who has more of his work, including more Warrior shots, displayed online.

CAR


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