[University of Waterloo]


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About the DB

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

  • New leaders for staff association
  • Psych prof researches memory
  • One month into the spring term
Chris Redmond

World No Tobacco Day

[Markan] [McVicar] [Szalai]

New leaders for staff association

The UW staff association will hold its annual general meeting first thing tomorrow morning, as Stephen Markan (far left) takes over from Avril McVicar (near left) as the group's president.

The meeting will also be officially told that Joe Szalai (right) is becoming president-elect for 2005-06, to serve as president starting a year from now. He was acclaimed to that post in the association's recent annual election.

Tomorrow's meeting starts at 9:00 in Davis Centre room 1302 (with "light breakfast refreshments" available at 8:45). "Come and celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Staff Association!" a flyer urges members. "Chat with the staff members who represent you on important University committees."

An agenda for the meeting, as well as committee reports, the budget and last year's minutes, can be found on the association web site.

The flyer announcing the meeting promises an "update on progress" on changes to UW's Policy 18, the one that deals with staff employment, as well as information about a new association initiative: the Workplace Support Network for staff members encountering problems at work.

Most of the positions on the association executive were uncontested when nominations closed for this spring's election, including the presidency. McVicar, of the distance education office, will be past president for the year ahead; Markan, of information systems and technology, moves from president-elect to president. He was appointed last fall to the president-elect position after the regular nomination process turned up nobody willing to take the job.


Computer science professor Bruce Simpson will retire officially on June 1, though he'll still be around the CS school as an adjunct faculty member. A specialist in numerical analysis, Simpson came to UW in September 1971, and has served as associate dean (graduate studies) in the mathematics faculty and as chair of the CS department, as it was called until 2002.

Szalai was the lone candidate for president-elect this spring. "My connection to the University of Waterloo goes back to 1970," he writes, "when I enrolled as an undergraduate student. I have been a full-time staff member since 1988."

Szalai -- who works in the user services department of the library -- says the difficulty in getting nominations for president both last year and this year "speaks volumes about the need for significant changes. . . . My goal is to make Waterloo an even better place to work." He was a candidate for association president in 2000, in the only contested election for that position in recent years, running on a unionization platform, but was defeated by Ed Chrzanowski, who served as president in 2001-02.

Also on the executive for the coming year will be Steve Breen of IST (a former president) as vice-president; Nancy Poole of health studies and gerontology as secretary; Annette Dandyk of the library office as treasurer. And there are four directors. Bev Rodgers of management sciences and Keith Peck of IST are finishing their two-year terms, while Andy Newman of plant operations and Maureen Stafford of computer science have been elected to begin two-year terms.

  • Global Kids, Global World, created by WLU student group
  • Windfest 2005, six chamber concerts in local venues
  • Panel named to select Ontario Research Chairs
  • Berkeley biotech critic awarded tenure
  • Concern over hepatitis at local restaurant
  • Lazaridis joins federal task force on commercialization
  • Keep your online student alive, win prizes
  • British faculty union ends Israel boycott
  • US National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, 2004
  • Anglican college in Saskatchewan is saved
  • Psych prof researches memory -- from the UW media relations office

    Memory is intimately involved in most domains of human cognition, from the ability to remember a phone number to the acquisition of language and to defining who we are. UW psychology professor Myra Fernandes researches how people encode (learn) new information, how it is organized and represented in the brain and how the information is reactivated during retrieval. Her research examines these cognitive functions using a combination of computer tests and neuroimaging.

    "I am developing a model to describe how we remember information and, more importantly, how failures in memory are produced," she said. "I place particular emphasis on understanding the brain changes and patterns of memory decline associated with normal aging."

    In the laboratory, young adults and seniors perform memory tasks while simultaneously doing a distracting task. By examining the amount and type of interference produced by different kinds of distracting tasks, Fernandes can "infer the cognitive resources and components required for efficient memory performance."

    Her research indicates that memory is substantially disrupted when attention is divided during the encoding, or study, phase -- regardless of how you distract people. "So studying while watching TV is a very bad idea, as it has been shown to drastically reduce later memory performance," she said.

    However, the effects of dual-tasking during the retrieval phase depend on how you distract people. If you are trying to remember a grocery list while someone is talking to you, memory is worse than if you try to recall the list while someone is humming a tune. "Interference increases as the similarity between the memory and distracting task material increases," she said.

    Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System training session 2:00, Davis Centre room 1304, information ext. 5613.

    Jim Curtis, department of sociology, funeral service 11:00, Edward R. Good Funeral Home.

    Perimeter Institute "audience night" with a panel of researchers, Wednesday 7 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, ticket information online.

    'Educating for Peace', Elias Chacour, Palestinian Christian now visiting Canada, Wednesday 7:30, Conrad Grebel University College great hall.

    Technical speaker competition sponsored by Sandford Fleming Foundation for engineering students, faculty finals Thursday 10:30, Engineering II room 3324.

    Employee safety orientation session Thursday 2 p.m., Davis Center room 1304, information ext. 5613.

    Mexican bishop Don Samuel Ruiz, peace mediator and human rights activist, speaks Friday 1:30, Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome's University.

    Engineering reunions for classes of 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, Saturday, details and registration online. All faculty members who taught engineering students are especially invited.

    Keystone Campaign annual celebration, Thursday, June 9, 11:30 to 1:30, Matthews Hall green, invitation online.

    Business breakfast seminar: "East Meets West", John English, Centre for International Governance Innovation, June 10, 7 a.m., Renison College, tickets 884-4404 ext. 657.

    She is co-director of the Waterloo Research in Aging Participants Pool, and her work also informs the ever-growing population of seniors about one of their main concerns: memory loss and cognitive decline associated with aging. "In the elderly, it is well documented that there are age-related deficits in memory, likely mediated by changes in activity level of the frontal lobe part of the brain," Fernandes said. "My work shows that whereas the overall level of memory performance is significantly lower in older compared to younger adults, the seniors are as good as the young at dual-tasking and dealing with irrelevant competing information during retrieval."

    Current work is aimed at understanding how people with early Alzheimer's disease cope with distraction during study or retrieval and whether the degree of interference could be used to measure the advances of the disease.

    "I have recently used functional magnetic resonance imaging to identify the network of brain regions involved in memory retrieval under dual-task situations in young and old adults," she says. "Such work will help pinpoint key brain regions, showing declines with aging that are essential to memory performance and which could be the target of rehabilitation therapies."

    The Waterloo Research in Aging Participants Pool is an initiative that recruits seniors in the Kitchener-Waterloo area for participation in research about cognitive and motor decline associated with aging. "We are currently looking for healthy older adults to participate in studies on aging, memory, cognition and movement control," she said. Wanted are people at least 60 years old who have no major neurological, medical or psychiatric disorders. They can call 888-4567 ext. 7776.

    One month into the spring term

    "We're just finishing the May rush," writes UW registrar Ken Lavigne, looking back on a month of "records and convocation work, admissions and entrance scholarships" -- with the beginning of the spring term, September is only, ulp, four months off. "We're having a wrap-up meeting and celebration at noon," Lavigne adds, announcing that the entire registrar's office, including student awards, will be closed from 12:00 to 1:00 today.

    The Federation of Students reports the result of a by-election to fill two vacant seats on students' council, both representing mathematics (including those software engineering students who will graduate with math). Three candidates tried for the seats; 6 per cent of eligible voters showed up at the polls last Friday, and chose Khalil Andani and Lianchong Zhu for the two seats. Students' council (which has been around longer than the Federation itself, back to UW's earliest days) is the policy governing body for undergraduate students, but I'm told that voter apathy is a continuing problem, and unfilled seats are not infrequent.

    [Invitation card] A note from Renison College: "In an effort to encourage a better understanding of the language and culture of East Asia, the Formosa-Renison Award has been generously donated by the Overseas Chinese Commission. It will be awarded to two full-time, Renison-registered students, whose first language is not taught in the East Asian Studies program. Students should be in their second or third year of university and enrolled in a minimum of two courses in East Asian Studies." The winner for 2005: James McMartin, a student in the English rhetoric and professional writing program.

    Three coaches who are leaving UW's track-and-field program, after a total of 16 years' service, will be honoured with a retirement party on June 12 -- cocktails and dinner at the Waterloo Inn. (I especially like one note on the web site about the event: "Dress Nice.") The guests of honour are departing coaches Brent McFarlane, Tim Mussar and Pat Steele. A long list of people are already signed up to attend, including of course the new head coach, Jason Dockendorff. The reservation deadline is tomorrow -- tickets are available from the athletics department office in the Physical Activities Complex. That's the official invitation card pictured at right.

    "New Techniques to Enhance Your Training Programs" is a one-day course to be offered June 17 by UW's continuing education office. . . . Class enrolment appointments, for undergraduate students returning to UW in the fall term, are now listed on Quest and will start June 13. . . . The workshop on public health and water issues, "Converting Hindsight to Foresight", sponsored by the UW-based Canadian Water Network and other groups, is continuing in Walkerton. . . .


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