[University of Waterloo]


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About the DB

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

  • Co-op courses set in all faculties
  • Background of a grad student
  • Fire drills today, and other notes
Chris Redmond

Yom haShoah

[Setting out from the Davis Centre]

A one-mile walk, led by associate provost Catharine Scott (blue jacket), was an alternative yesterday to the "President's Mile" noontime run. Both events were part of the Wellness Fair organized by the Employee Assistance Program, which continues with events today and tomorrow in the Davis Centre. Everyone is welcome to stop by the Davis lounge, where vendors have tables set up from 10:00 to 2:00 both days.

Co-op courses set in all faculties

Plans are moving ahead to offer "professional development" online courses to co-op students across campus, modeled in part on the PDEng program that was introduced last year for engineering students.

[Pretti] "Beginning with Arts and Math students admitted in the Fall 2006, students will take professional development (PD) courses as part of their co-op degree requirements," says a memo from Judene Pretti (left), who was recently hired as manager of the Professional Development Program after UW's governing bodies gave their approval for the work to get going.

She says that things will start a year later in applied health sciences, environmental studies and science, where students admitted in the fall of 2007 will have the PD courses as a requirement for a co-op degree.

The first of these courses, PD1: Co-op Fundamentals, will be taken while students are on campus, in the term just before their first work term. "The online course," says Pretti, "will lead students through resources and activities to provide them with the tools to be competitive in their employment search and prepare them for a successful first work term."

The other PD courses will be taken during co-op work terms. Since the PD course is but one component (online course, work experience, work term report) for academic credit for the co-op work term, the online courses will normally involve one-third to one-half the workload of a normal academic credit course.

She says the intent of the PD courses is to focus on "soft skills not normally covered in the academic plans. Not only are these courses going to help the students to reflect on what they are learning in the workplace but also help them to develop skills that are valued by employers."

Pretti comes to the PD program from the school of computer science, where she worked as an Instructional Support Coordinator -- teaching and coordinating first-year courses as well as developing and delivering distance education courses. She is a graduate of the Math Teaching Option program, with a BMath from UW and a BEd from Queen's University.

Direction for course topic selection, course author selection and administrative procedures for the PD courses is provided by the Co-operative Education Council that was recently set up. It's chaired by Bruce Mitchell, associate provost (academic and student affairs), and includes associate deans or other representatives from the six faculties, as well as co-op officials and student representatives.

Pretti says consultation with faculty representatives, employers and CECS staff has resulted in five priorities for PD course development: Critical Reflection and Report Writing, Communication, Teamwork, Problem Solving, and Organizational Culture.

Now, she reports, authors and instructors are going to be needed for the courses, and a Request for Proposals has been sent to the associate deans and department chairs to distribute to their faculty and staff . "Individuals or groups of people with expertise in any of the above areas are needed to develop course content. Course authors will be required to act as the instructor for the course for at least two offerings."

Anyone who might be interested in developing a course should contact Pretti (tjpretti@uwaterloo.ca) before May 19, the date of the next CEC meeting. She can provide further information including course descriptions, proposal guidelines and remuneration details.


Background of a grad student -- from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

Jem Berkes (right) is a hacker. Not the kind holed up in a suburban bedroom trolling the Internet for credit card data or spewing-out spam -- what Mr. Berkes calls a cracker. No, this University of Waterloo first-year Master's student in electrical and computer engineering is a white knight of good hackers, an individual who harnesses his all-consuming enthusiasm for code to create novel and useful software and computer electronics.

This passion fuelled his undergraduate research at the University of Manitoba -- research which produced software on par with that of corporate giants and has earned him a 2005 NSERC André Hamer Postgraduate Prize.

Long before university, it was teacher Carol Kaye's computer club at Winnipeg's St. John's Ravenscourt elementary school that set Berkes on the path to growing computer fame. At ten years of age, he and a group of like-minded friends were hooked on after-school computer programming. By his teens, Berkes had created a successful international software company with clients that included Florida's Division of Emergency Management.

This past summer he was part of Google's "Summer of Code" project. One of hundreds of talented computer programmers hired by the Internet giant to develop open-source code, he worked with an MIT graduate student to develop next generation code for the Apache web server, the world's most popular web server.

At the University of Manitoba's Internet Innovation Centre, Berkes's personal and commercial pursuits merged with his academic ones and his "hacking" was rebranded as "research" as part of a team of computer engineering students supervised by Robert McLeod.

Focused on problems posed by Internet equipment, Berkes's team developed software to improve Network Address Translation, or NAT, which enables several computers to access the Net through a single IP address. It's the equivalent of several individuals sharing a phone number. On the Internet, however, this sharing causes problems. NAT users, for example, often had difficulty transferring files. The team developed a software solution for NAT's limitations, including developing a NAT-compatible Internet-based phone system (Voice Over IP). "There was a lot of competition at the time to develop software for this problem," says Berkes. "We knew we'd developed something interesting because the Big Boys developed similar tools to the ones we were making."

While focused on computer codes, Berkes has also kept an eye out for how they're used. "In engineering you're designing things for people to use. So you have to consider human psychology and the ways that people are used to doing things," says Berkes, who graduated from U of M with a minor in psychology.

It's an approach to computer engineering that will serve him well as this good hacker tackles the cat-and-mouse world of cybersecurity. Working with supervisor Catherine Gebotys at Waterloo, he will try to find ways to prevent electronic information from leaking from laptops, cell phones and handheld computer devices. These increasingly popular portable digital devices sometimes give away key clues to potential attackers just through the way electricity flows through them.

It's work he's set for: At the U of M, his team developed a technique for thwarting attacks on Internet spam control measures -- research that resulted in the rare sight of an undergraduate student presenting at an international computer science forum in Boston.

Fire drills today, and other notes

The annual fire drills in most campus buildings are scheduled for this chilly day, although UW safety director Kevin Stewart says four major buildings -- the Davis Centre, Math and Computer, CEIT, and Carl Pollock Hall -- do not require drills. Elsewhere, these buildings will have fire alarms between about 8:15 and 11:30, in this order: Optometry, Health Services, Physical Activities, Humanities, Student Life Centre, PAS, Modern Languages, Environmental Studies I and II, Needles Hall, Dana Porter Library, Tatham Centre, South Campus Hall, General Services, Commissary, Matthews Hall, Chemistry II, Earth Sciences and Chemistry, Biology I and II. Then from 1:15 to 2:15: East Campus Hall, Doug Wright Engineering, BFG, Engineering II and III, Physics. If alarms have to be postponed, they likely won't be rescheduled, Stewart notes.

David Suzuki speaks and reads from his autobiography, 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre, sponsored by UW bookstore and alumni affairs. Theatre tickets sold out; overflow area (video lecture) tickets available, $2, Humanities box office.

Rod Coutts Hall hot and cold water turned off Wednesday 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Washrooms available in Engineering I and II.

Smarter Health Seminar: Judith Shamian, VON Canada, "New Strategies for Health Care in the Home", Wednesday 3 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Waterloo Regional Council regular meeting, with scheduled discussion of a proposed grant for construction of McMaster University branch medical school, Wednesday 7 p.m., 151 Frederick Street, Kitchener.

Royal Society of Canada spring conference, "Collaborative Partnerships and Connecting Research with the Community", Thursday, Centre for International Governance Innovation and Perimeter Institute.

New students welcome reception Monday (first day of spring term classes) 4:30 p.m., multipurpose room, Student Life Centre.

The lower level of the Student Life Centre is awash in books this week -- the thousands of leftovers from the big annual sale held by the local Canadian Federation of University Women. John Jongerius, manager of the Federation of Students used book store, says the store has taken custody of all that's left, and is selling books at 50 cents apiece or five for $2. "You can look through these books 24 hours a day for the next week," he writes.

The department of classical studies held a luncheon earlier this month to present a number of cheques and book prizes for undergraduate work over the past year. Among the winners are Kathleen Weidmark, receiving the Bessie Elnora Cleary Award as well as an R. L. Porter Book Prize. Another Porter Book Prize went to Jessica Higgins, who also received the Cathy Jane Harrison Award.

A major talk by Leslie Richards of the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology is scheduled for this Thursday (3:00 in the Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library). Its title: "What I Learned about Learning in a Developing World Practice". Says the LT3 events web page: "Thai educators assured Leslie many times that what would work in North America wouldn't work in Thailand because the students were too different, based on history and culture. LearningMapR, a pedagogical design approach, developed by the Learning Design Research Group, University of Waterloo was instrumental in re-shaping the learning outcome. Come and hear what Leslie learned, and applies now to learning more universally. Question for participants to think about prior to the presentation: Cultural and historical factors in South-east Asia higher education have created an environment that isn't favorable in promoting student engagement with instructional content, emphasizing prompt feedback from the instructor. For example, it's customary for students to be recipients of information (listening to lectures), rather than active participants in their own learning. What's different at Waterloo?"

The UW Recreation Committee is running a "Garden Feng Shui" discussion session at noon today (Math and Computer room 5136). . . . Psychology professor Daniela O'Neill will give her presentation on "Children Learning to Talk", which had a public airing last week, to two groups of parents from UW's Early Childhood Education Centre today. . . . The Federation of Students announces that Michael Pawliszyn and Ahmed Farrakha have been elected to students' council in a recent by-election in the mathematics faculty. . . .


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