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Monday, May 9, 2005

  • Former dean's photon research
  • MP brings annual NSERC funding
  • Midnight Sun heading for Kansas
  • Just another manic Monday
Chris Redmond

V-E Day anniversary | Day of Europe

Former dean's photon research -- by Patricia Bow

Sujeet Chaudhuri was back on campus last month, fresh from a sabbatical that included extended visits to the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, where he put together a new academic exchange program with UW, and Korea's Pohang University of Science and Technology, where he strengthened an existing one.

The sabbatical was his first break after five years as dean of engineering, 1998-2003. Nearly two years post-dean, he says he is enjoying a somewhat less stressful life and the opportunity to intensify his research program -- which, thanks to supportive colleagues and staff and his six PhD students, never actually sat on the back burner.

[Chaudhuri] Chaudhuri (right) is the first holder of the Val O'Donovan Chair in RF/Microwaves and Photonics. The chair was created in 2004 as part of a $9 million gift to UW from the late Val O'Donovan, former UW chancellor, himself an engineer. One of the chairholder's responsibilities is overseeing a group of researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing and the electrical and computer engineering department who are working on "enabling technologies" for quantum information processes.

His own research will explore microelectronics, optics, and new materials, a convergence which, Chaudhuri suggests, could change the evolution of information technology. "This chair gives me the opportunity to conduct a combination of current, relevant research involving interaction with industry, and future-oriented, visionary research that does not have immediate applications-because the technological know-how has not yet caught up with these ideas," he says.

In a lab in the Engineering III extension, he and his colleagues are working on extremely sensitive high-temperature superconducting signal detectors built of ultra-thin layers of different materials -- layers less than one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair -- to simultaneously bring in optical and ultra high-frequency microwave signals. A key new piece of equipment in the lab is a cryogenic chamber. (The "high" temperatures referred to are around 77 Kelvin -- the temperature at which nitrogen becomes liquid. That is high, Chaudhuri explains, when compared to semi-conductors and low-temperature superconductors operating at a few kelvins.)

The devices will be designed to detect very low-level optical signals of a few tens of photons (light particles). Hence the involvement with IQC, where researchers are working towards linear optics quantum computing. With LOQC, pulses of a few photons can deliver encrypted information.

"In the next year or so we expect to see the first experimental evidence of our theory and design ideas on the lab bench," Chaudhuri says. "We already know the devices will behave in certain expected ways: soon we will be able to measure that behaviour."

A special component of the research chair's program reflects the broad outlook of the chair's founder, Val O'Donovan, Chaudhuri says. With that outlook as a guide, he is planning a visiting professorship that will bring a distinguished scientific or engineering researcher to campus each year, beginning this fall, to engage faculty, students, and the public in a discussion of the social and philosophical implications of advanced technologies.

MP brings annual NSERC funding

Local Member of Parliament Andrew Telegdi filled in for cabinet ministers on Friday at a celebration in the Davis Centre over some $30 million in annual funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

The grants, scholarships and fellowships awarded to UW researchers and students were billed as "part of a major funding investment across Canada announced today by the federal government", including $204 million in Ontario and $510 million Canada-wide.

At Waterloo, the funding included 175 regular NSERC grants (now called "Discovery Grants") of $23,166,312 for this year; 152 scholarships and fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, for a total of $6,298,200; and 185 undergraduate student research awards, worth $832,500.

"This very generous funding will ensure that Waterloo continues to attract leading researchers and students who will initiate new directions for scholarship that will benefit the entire nation," said the vice-president (university research), Paul Guild, as Friday's event took place in the Davis Centre.

As guest of honour, Telegdi was representing David Emerson, the federal industry minister, and substituting for the minister of citizenship and immigration, Joe Volpe, who had to cancel his appearance at the last minute. "The NSERC awards help move Canada to the forefront of international research," Telegdi said.

NSERC funding is awarded after national, peer-reviewed competitions. 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 science, mathematics and engineering. A large portion of the grant funds go to training undergraduate, post-graduate and post-doctoral researchers.

"Canadian universities are appointing hundreds of new professors to replace those who are retiring. It is also very good for Canada that these new people are not only eager, but well qualified to do research," NSERC president Tom Brzustowski said in a news release. "NSERC Discovery Grants are very important because they provide funding to create new knowledge."

Said a statement from Emerson, the federal minister to whom NSERC reports: "The NSERC scholarships are a great investment in people and in Canada's intellectual wealth. These are the bright minds that will generate Canada's future innovations, competitiveness and prosperity."

Midnight Sun heading for Kansas -- by Niharika Bhargava for the media relations office

UW's sun-worshipping road racers are looking forward to the North American Solar Challenge in July, as the solar car Midnight Sun VIII is being readied to compete.

Participants in this year's North American Solar Challenge will make history as the first solar-car racers to cross an international border. The race also sets a new standard for length -- 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometres) -- beating the 2001 and 2003 challenges by more than 100 miles (160 km). It remains the longest solar-car race in the world. There will also be the most teams from outside the United States, with 10 from Canada.

The challenge is normally held every two years within the United States, but in this special international edition of the race, students will design, build and race solar-powered cars across the U.S. and into Canada.

The race begins in Austin, Texas, on July 17 and will finish July 27 in Calgary. Teams from universities, companies and organizations around the world will compete in what each hopes will be the fastest solar-powered car.

The race will follow U.S. Route 75 and the Trans-Canada Highway, with checkpoints in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The race is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Natural Resources Canada. Although Canadian teams have been involved in races for many years, this year's sets a new mark for Canadian participation.

UW's team will travel to Topeka, Kansas, for its first official event this coming weekend. The Topeka Qualifier will put the car through scrutineering and on-track events. It will be checked over by the North American Solar Challenge inspectors to ensure the car is safe and complies with the regulations. After passing all inspection stations, the team will put the car on the track in an attempt to qualify for the race.

The Midnight Sun's latest reincarnation's aerodynamic body is complete as well as the frame. It has been painted and the solar array and battery pack installed. UW's current team hopes to do as well as the one two years ago in a race that involved 20 teams travelling for 11 days along old Route 66 from Chicago to Claremont, California, east of Los Angeles. Midnight Sun came in third with an elapsed time of 58 hours, 18 minutes and 20 seconds, making it the top placing Canadian entry in the event -- the same ranking as in the race two years before.

Just another manic Monday

Joseph Fung, a third-year computer engineering student, has been named "CIBC Student Entrepreneur of the Year" across Canada. Says a news release from the sponsoring bank: "Joseph was awarded $2,000 for the development and operation of the most innovative and entrepreneurial business by a Canadian post-secondary student. Joseph received the distinction for founding and operating Lewis Media, a Waterloo-based web development company. Their flagship product, WebAdmin, allows website owners to easily update their websites without the ongoing cost of a webmaster. Joseph was selected from among three finalists who competed in the ninth annual CIBC Student Entrepreneur of the Year Award presented by CIBC and ACE (Advancing Canadian Entrepreneurship). The award celebrates and showcases the accomplishments of Canadian student entrepreneurs, and is open to full-time university and college students running their own business. . . . The competitors' businesses were judged by a notable panel of Canadian business leaders."

Electrical and computer engineering Distinguished Seminar: Shahrokh Valaee, University of Toronto, "Mobile Hotspots", 11 a.m., CEIT room 3142.

Waterloo Public Interest Research Group volunteer meeting Tuesday 5 p.m., Student Life Centre room 2134.

UW Blooms 2005 exchange day -- plants, seeds, garden supplies -- Wednesday 11:30 to 5:30, Student Life Centre multipurpose room, details online, inquiries to jrochon@rs1.

Arthur Hills, computer science computing facility, retirement reception Thursday 3:45, p.m., Davis Centre lounge.

25-Year Club annual reception, by invitation, June 21, Physical Activities Complex, information ext. 2078.

I had a chat Friday with Linda Brogden, the occupational health nurse in UW's health services, who reported happily on the success of the recent "Employee Wellness Fair". True, the day of the noon-hour walk around the ring road brought weather cold enough to freeze your euphemisms, but still 80 people, from a broad range of departments, turned out for the exercise. On other days of the fair, hundreds of staff (and some faculty members too) visited the 21 vendors who had booths set up in the Davis Centre, and attended seminars and other events. Brogden says the Employee Assistance Program committee, which was behind this year's three-day event, will be starting plans for a similar fair next year, and she (or her colleagues) would welcome comments and suggestions.

A former deputy prime minister of Canada, John Manley, has become a member of UW's board of governors. Manley is one of several "community-at-large" members who have been appointed by the board itself, as of May 1, says an announcement from the university secretariat. Manley, who was a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 2004, is now based in Ottawa as counsel to the law firm of McCarthy Tetrault LLP. Several other new board members were also noted. Election of business leader Paul Koenderman as chair of the board has already been announced; Koenderman had been vice-chair, and taking over from him in that role, and returning to the board after some time away, is Ian McPhee, a technological advisor who's been closely associated with UW spinoff companies for many years. Also returning or newly joining the board are Rob Caldwell, managing director of the investment firm First Associates; Scott Wetmore, a partner in the accounting firm of KPMG; and Bill Tatham of XJ Partners Inc. -- yes, the Tatham.

Fourteen students will be heading to England later this week for Music 355, "Music and Culture in London", led by Kenneth Hull of Conrad Grebel University College's music department. The two-week trip includes tours, concerts, theatre and gallery visits, lectures and seminars, as well as outings to Cambridge and Salisbury.

[Don't Pave Me Over] The sign pictured at right (photo by Steve Chan) showed up north of Biology II on Friday, in a quiet protest against possible use of the site for the planned new Quantum-Nanotechnology building. . . . The red-tailed hawk that's been seen on many parts of campus in recent months was making itself at home on the Conrad Grebel College patio Friday morning, writes Erin McMahon from Grebel, adding that the bird glared at faculty and staff who clicked cameras at it. . . . Work reports from most (not all) co-op students who were on work term in the winter should show up at the Tatham Centre by this afternoon, the co-op department advises. . . .

And . . . the new look of the UW home page, and a cluster of web pages related to it, showed up in browsers yesterday. Comments and suggestions are trickling in, says my colleague Jesse Rodgers, the principal developer of the new site. "It's under construction," adds Martin Van Nierop, director of communications and public affairs, calling it "a test site that will still see some changes in the weeks and months to come, especially as more usability tests happen."


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