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Wednesday, April 5, 2006

  • Math students fifth in Putnam
  • Budget approved as speakers squeal
  • Health institute reaches out
  • The time has come, the walrus said
Chris Redmond

Tomb Sweeping Day

Math students fifth in Putnam

A UW student team had "another remarkable showing" in the international Putnam math contest this year, the faculty of math announced yesterday.

Waterloo ended up fifth in the 66th William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition among teams from 550 North American college and universities. "This continues Waterloo's outstanding record of placing in the top ten consistently since 1985 with the exception of two years," a memo from the dean's office points out.

And dean Tom Coleman said the finish was "a wonderful achievement . . . it supports my belief that our math students rank with the very best in the world."

The top four schools in this year's contest were Harvard, Princeton, Duke and MIT. A total of 3,545 students wrote the mathematics contest in early December.

[Furmaniak] Waterloo team members were Oleana Bormashenko (4th year applied and pure math), Ralph Furmaniak (4th year computer science), and Xiannan Li (4th year applied and pure). The team was coached by pure math professor Stephen New.

Waterloo students also ranked high in individual results, as Ralph Furmaniak (right) was among the top 25 students; Oleana Bormashenko and Elyot Grant received honorable mention for being in the top 75. Full details are on the University of Nebraska's web site.

Budget approved as speakers squeal

The UW board of governors approved the 2006-07 operating budget yesterday and did much other high-level business -- in spite of an impudent challenge from the sound system in the Needles Hall board room.

The amplifier let out with an ear-splitting howl early in the meeting, just as provost Amit Chakma got up to brief the board on the Sixth Decade planning process. It took staff quite a while to find the right thing to unplug. And the whole experience was repeated later in the afternoon's proceedings, interrupting dean of engineering Adel Sedra as he tried to offer some information during the budget discussion.

There were no dissenting votes as the board approved the $355 million budget for the fiscal year that will begin March 1. It represents about two-thirds of UW's total finances for the year, with the rest being research funding (estimated at $100 million) and UW's business operations ($85 million).

The quarterly board meeting also approved the proposed increases in tuition fees -- some effective May 1, some September 1 -- and the co-op fee. Student representatives, aware that the university has almost no latitude under the provincial government's latest rules on setting fees, didn't even bother to register the usual unhappiness with the increases, which amount to 4 to 5 per cent for most students.

On the other hand, one board member -- Paul Schellenberg of the combinatorics and optimization department -- expressed "regret" that the government had taken away what authority the board previously had to raise fees in order to cover costs. President David Johnston agreed: "Our quality," he warned, "will diminish over the next four years, no matter what we do. We will have to talk very hard about income diversification."

During the Sixth Decade discussion, Chakma noted one of UW's bottom-line goals for the coming ten years: every academic program should be in "the top third" of Canadian programs in its field. A board member asked what happens if a department falls short. Would UW ever simply close an academic program? It has happened and it could happen again, Johnston said, but more likely a program would simply "diminish", or be encouraged to "reshape" into something distinctive and high-quality.

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

  • Secretary/receptionist, counselling services, USG 4
  • Research grants coordinator, natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, office of research, USG 8
  • Marketing and recruitment coordinator, environmental studies, USG 9
  • Data manager, population health research group, USG 8
  • Head teacher, Early Childhood Education Centre, psychology, USG 7
  • Non-OSS admissions specialist, registrar's office, USG 8

    Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

  • Two deans, Bob Kerton of arts and Tom Coleman of mathematics, talked about the success of various UW departments in achieving high quality with programs a little different from what other universities offer -- including co-op, of course. Coleman noted that math still needs to make some "structural" changes, and said he will be on the agenda for a meeting of Executive Council this morning to talk about possible reorganization of the business programs in his faculty.

    A highlight of Kerton's presentation was a lively photo of him at last Saturday night's Arts Grad Ball, draped with no fewer than six pretty women. "It's a tough job," he said about being a dean, "but somebody's got to do it."

    He told the board he'd been at the event to hand out some prizes, and invited the winners to speak for a few seconds about who their best or favourite professor at UW had been. The result: "I had a lineup of people to tell me who their favourite prof was!"

    Health institute reaches out -- from the UW media relations office

    North Network in Toronto and the Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research have signed a comprehensive memorandum of understanding to provide Health Informatics educational material created by WIHIR via North Network.

    The agreement will make videos of WIHIR's seminars, workshops and conferences available to health organizations in Ontario via North Network's Telehealth facilities. As well, NORTH Network will also deliver online video archives and live webcasts of interactive sessions for WIHIR's Bootcamp programs.

    "North Network's award-winning capabilities in Telehealth are widely known and touch every region in Ontario," said Shirley Fenton, WIHIR's managing director. "We needed a ubiquitous and professionally-managed linkage to health organizations to carry our educational programs to professionals throughout the province, and partnering with North has been our solution."

    WIHIR video-records its Smarter Health Seminar Series, its Health Informatics research seminars and most of the lectures by visiting professionals. The archived videos will be available on-demand to health organizations through North Network's web archive facilities.

    The WIHIR Bootcamp, under way this week in Toronto, is an intense course intended to introduce those with little or no knowledge of Health Informatics to the nature, key concepts and applications of the discipline to addressing challenges in the health field. On-site educational sessions are augmented by about 50 hours of online lectures. North will promote the Bootcamp, provide access to online Bootcamp materials, and host live webcasts of question, answer, and discussion sessions that complement the archived materials.

    "We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to work with North in delivering educational content," said Dominic Covvey, WIHIR's director. "North Network has demonstrated its world class capabilities and its ability to reach all types of health agencies. Together we will raise awareness of Health Informatics and bring new educational opportunities to health professionals."

    North Network is Canada's busiest and most comprehensive telemedicine program. A not-for-profit, membership-based organization launched in four sites in 1998, North is now made up of more than 170 sites in both urban and remote communities across Ontario. North facilitates more than 1,000 clinical consultations a month and supports up to 3,000 people participating in more than 240 educational sessions each month.

    The time has come, the walrus said

    The English Language Proficiency Exam will be offered tonight, and Ann Barrett of UW's writing centre has this advice: "Students should check the UW calendar to find out when they must have the ELPE credit completed. Procrastinators should note that this is the last sitting of the ELPE until the fall term. Students who are planning to write the exam on Wednesday night should remember to bring their Watcards, writing tools (pens or pencils only -- no electronic aids) and wits." The hour-long exam begins at 7:00 tonight in the Physical Activities Complex.

    People who know about these things say that physical activity is one good way of dealing with exam stress, and the campus recreation program is offering as many opportunities as possible over the next few days. Free "Exam Fitness" classes are running three times a day -- there's a schedule online -- and most athletic facilities continue to be open even though exams are using the main gym in the PAC. Schedules have changed, though: the PAC and the Icefield are open 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, from now through April 23. Campus rec also sends a reminder that the PAC pool is going to be closed for major renovations during the spring term, so "get your last swim in" within the next few days.

    The Graduate Student Research Conference continues in the Davis Centre, with both poster displays and oral presentations by grads. Yesterday was dominated by the humanities, social sciences, health and life sciences and environmental fields; today adds the physical sciences and technology to the mix. Among today's speakers will be Mike Peasgood of mechanical engineering ("Motion Planing for Multiple Robots in a Grid-Based Environment"); Maja Omanovic of computer science ("Efficient Least-Square Matching of Dental X-Rays for Forensic Identification Purposes"); and David Gonzalez of kinesiology ("The Role of Auditory Cues in the Anticipation of Object Mass When Grasping"). There's a full schedule online.

    Co-op jobs outside Canada: US J-1 visa orientation 9;30 or 4:30, Tatham Centre room 2218 (also Thursday 9:30). International pre-departure orientation, 2:30, TC 2218.

    Employee Assistance Program presents "Digging Deep: Clearing Up Clutter" 12 noon, CEIT room 1015 (new location because of heavy demand).

    Electronic grade submission demonstration for instructors, 3 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 113.

    Rapid transit environmental assessment: public consultation about the proposed Waterloo Region transit corridor, open house 4:30 to 7:00, presentation 7 p.m., Waterloo Region administration building, 150 Frederick Street, details online.

    Perimeter Institute presents Stuart Isacoff, writer and composer, "The Science of Music, the Music of Science", 7 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, ticket information 883-4480.

    Centre for International Governance Innovation presents John Kirton, University of Toronto, "A Made-in-Canada Foreign Policy for Stephen Harper's First Year", Thursday 11:45, 57 Erb Street West, registration e-mail rsvp@cigionline.ca.

    Psychology colloquium: Debbie Moskowitz, McGill University, "Quarrelsomeness in Daily Life", Thursday 10 a.m., PAS room 1229. Also a brief talk Friday 10 a.m. (PAS room 3026) on "Organization of Dominant and Submissive Behaviours".

    Peter Burroughs, registrar's office, retirement open house Thursday 3:30 to 5:00, Festival Room, South Campus Hall. Registrar's office will close at 3:30.

    Good Friday holiday April 14: UW offices and services closed. No exams April 14 or 15.

    Somebody asked yesterday why portable buildings -- which had seemed like a thing of the past at UW -- are reappearing in the engineering quadrangle. The answer comes from Dan Parent, the university's director of design and construction: the portables are being rented, "for approximately six months, to accommodate people who are being displaced because of asbestos removal in the second floor north wing of Carl Pollock Hall."

    The Eng-e-News electronic newsletter from UW's faculty of engineering reports that a team of systems design engineering students has been selected as one of six finalists in Disney's Imaginations University Design Competition."Waterloo boasts a perfect nomination record -- this year's team is the third from the university to enter the contest and is the third to be short-listed as a finalist. Disney representatives will visit the university in April and the team will present its designs to Disney judges in California in June."

    Jeff Spence sends this note from the department of psychology: "Researchers in the Psychology Department are recruiting UW staff to participate in an online study on work and life attitudes. Participation involves filling out a series of surveys over three weeks. Participants must meet certain criteria (e.g., work day shifts, Monday to Friday) and will be reimbursed for participation in the full study. This study has been reviewed by, and received ethics clearance through, the Office of Research Ethics." There's more information about the study and the criteria for participating online.

    In a definite sign that the world, or at least the term, is ending, the Federation of Students pub is billing tonight as "the last Bomber Wednesday". . . . UW's continuing education office will offer a one-day course June 14 on "Listening with Understanding" (details are online). . . . The Employee Assistance Program's weekly stress relaxation series continues today with "Cortical Relaxation", at 12 noon in Math and Computer room 5158. . . .


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