Thursday, January 4, 2007

    [50th logo]
  • Expert will open door number 2
  • What profs are doing on sabbatical
  • It's the talk of the campus
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs


The school of computer science (officially the David R. Cheriton School) has a new director. Tamer Özsu, who holds a University Research Chair and works in the database research group, took on that role January 1, succeeding Johnny Wong in the director's office.

Link of the day

A Grimm anniversary

When and where

Bookstore, UW Shop and TechWorx extended hours today 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (also January 8 and 9); Friday 8:00 to 5:00, Saturday 12 noon to 4 p.m. ArtWorx, East Campus Hall, open today 11 to 7.

Women's volleyball Warriors at Western tournament, today and Friday.

Orchestra@UWaterloo open rehearsal 7 p.m., Ron Eydt Village great hall; potential players should register in advance.

FASS auditions for this year's show ("The Seven Silly Sins") continue today and Friday 7:00 to 9:30 p.m., Humanities room 334, details online.

K-W Little Theatre auditions for "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" continue today and Friday 7 to 10 p.m., Student Life Centre room 1115, information e-mail

Centre for International Governance Innovation lecture previously delivered by Richard Rosencrance, broadcast on CKMS, 5 p.m.

Career workshop: "Are You Thinking about Optometry?" 5:30, Tatham Centre room 2218, details and registration online.

International student orientation Sunday 2:00 to 5:00, Columbia Lake Village community centre, details online.

Graduate Studies Fair Monday 11:00 to 2:00, Student Life Centre, with information from UW departments on graduate programs, admission requirements and funding.

City of Waterloo open house with information about proposed sports field project and changes to UW north campus environmental reserve, January 11, 5 to 8 p.m., Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, information 519-747-8642.

Blood donor clinic January 15-19, Student Life Centre, make appointments now at turnkey desk.

Fully graded date when marks for fall term undergraduate courses are final on Quest: January 24.

One click away

So, what if your mark is missing?
So, do you recognize this building?
'Piece of home' gift baskets from food services
'Four months that have opened my eyes'
Prof explains why people don't keep resolutions
Stats professor works on drug research
Photography software from UW enthusiast
Home-town profile of Warrior squash star
'My university sponsors healing prayer sessions'
Canada an 'attractive' climate for high-tech expansion
Father of US student loans is mourned
California prof coming to CIGI with Fulbright
What students can do to ward off homesickness
Judicial threats to US academe's four freedoms
'Services and incentives for college achievement'
Ontario Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform comes to K-W January 10
Lakehead U gets its e-mail from Google

Expert will open door number 2

An award-winning psychology professor who has master’s and PhD degrees from UW will come back to Waterloo next week to demonstrate his online “learning object” explaining a famously puzzling little problem in the mathematics of probability.

The speaker is David DiBattista, associate dean of social sciences at Brock University, whose electronic gem is titled “Stay or Switch?” and is designed to help students understand the so-called Monty Hall Dilemma.

“The essence of the talk is not the learning object itself, but rather how learning objects can bring students learning so quickly through difficult concepts,” says Peter Goldsworthy of the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology (LT3), which is sponsoring DiBattista’s January 11 talk along with the psych department and the arts faculty’s alumni affairs office.

The Monty Hall problem “has rapidly become part of the mathematical folklore”, says Alex Lopez-Ortiz, a UW computer science faculty member who includes it in his “Frequently Asked Questions in Mathematics” web site. It’s named for the long-time host of television’s “Let’s Make a Deal”, and is conventionally summed up thus: “A TV host shows you three numbered doors (all three equally likely), one hiding a car and the other two hiding goats. You get to pick a door, winning whatever is behind it. Regardless of the door you choose, the host, who knows where the car is, then opens one of the other two doors to reveal a goat, and invites you to switch your choice if you so wish. Does switching increase your chances of winning the car?”

The intuitive answer is no, the chances are still 50-50, but mathematicians have now agreed that making the switch does raise the contestant’s chances of winning. Students still find the problem difficult — but only until they’ve seen DiBattista’s elucidation of it, says a profile currently posted on the LT3 web site. “Last spring,” Goldsworthy writes there, “there was an award committee carefully studying all of the submissions which had come in for the CLOE Jonathan Swallow Learning Objects Award. I had seen David’s Learning Object (LO) demonstrated before, and was always surprised at how extreme its results were. That is, LOs are specifically intended to be used whenever there is a difficult concept in a course, but in this case, the LO’s use is like turning on a light – you can actually see when students suddenly understand. For instructors, it is extremely rewarding, especially if you have tried to teach this very counter-intuitive concept before. . . .

“One of the greatest ironies of the University Academy is that the Professors and Instructors who understand the benefits and importance of good teaching and learning practices are the ones who students learn the most from. Sadly, the Professors who are the loudest about the importance of research only and remark that anyone can teach are usually the ones who students suffer under. Thankfully, Waterloo has had a strong tradition of great teachers, and we’ve graduated people like David DiBattista who have carried forward the light of learning in new ways.”

The talk at UW is scheduled for 2:00 on Thursday of next week — immediately after the big launch celebration of UW’s 50th anniversary year, scheduled for noon hour that day. DiBattista's visit is being billed as an anniversary event: “hearing of David’s successes, we should plan for ever greater strides in the next half century.” Registration and more information are online.

LT3 adds: “If you are interested in more information about how learning objects help students overcome particularly difficult concepts in courses, please contact Dr. Kevin Harrigan of LT3 at Also, for more information on how these LOs can be incorporated into your online courses, please contact your faculty Liaison.”

Back to top

What profs are doing on sabbatical

Quite a number of UW faculty members began sabbatical leaves on January; here’s a list of some of them. The project summaries come from agenda documents for UW’s board of governors, which has to give approval for each sabbatical.

Kirsten Müller of the biology department has a six-month sabbatical, which “will enable me to complete and submit for publication a number of my research studies on the evolution of red algae and nuisance algae”.

Ashwin Nayak, combinatorics and optimization, is also on sabbatical for six months: “I will be pursuing long-term research projects (at Waterloo). I plan to spend roughly two months visiting my collaborators in LRI, CNRS, U. Paris-Sud, Orsay, France, to work on a project on quantum algorithms. I also wish to complete editing a set of lecture notes on advanced topics in quantum computation.”

Hildy Ross of the psychology department has a year-long sabbatical: “I plan to work on empirical papers related to my SSHRC-funded research on parent mediation of conflicts between their children, to write a scholarly review on sibling conflict, and to write a book aimed largely at parents concerning family processes related to children’s conflict and aggression.”

Michael Ross of the same department, meanwhile, is on sabbatical for six months: “I will be writing for publication using research that I have conducted over the last several years on remembering and resolving group conflict.”

Mark Knight of civil and environmental engineering has a year-long sabbatical: “My current plans consist of working with Dr. Samuel Ariaratnam at the Arizona State University and Dr. Penny Burns at the University of Adelaide in Australia. My work at ASU will focus on extending buried infrastructure research projects and the preparation of journal publications. At the University of Adelaide I will be extending my knowledge in the area of municipal buried infrastructure asset management.”

David Porreca of classical studies is on sabbatical for six months: “My sabbatical will enable me to complete research and the writing of a book on the influence of the writings attributed to the ancient mythical figure Hermes Trismegistus on medieval thinking.”

And Siva Sivoththaman of electrical and computer engineering also has a six-month sabbatical: “I will visit current and potential research partners, initiate new research collaborations and expand my existing network, and focus on the completion and operational technicalities of the new research facility (Centre for Advanced Photovoltaic Devices and Systems).

Back to top

It's the talk of the campus

The athletics department is expected to break the big news tomorrow, introducing the new Warrior football coach at an 11 a.m. news conference at the team's practice facility at the Columbia Icefield. The job has been vacant since Chris Triantafilou resigned early in the 2006 season; assistant coach Marshall Bingeman has been filling in. There's been plenty of media speculation about the appointment, including reports that a former university coach, currently working in the Canadian Football League, has had the job in the bag.

"Thank you for highlighting our refer-a-student initiative," Tina Roberts of the marketing and undergraduate recruitment office wrote after yesterday's Daily Bulletin described that program, launched this admissions season. But she's asked that I make a little clearer who all the co-sponsors are. Happy to oblige: along with her office, the UW units involved are the office of alumni affairs and (since referrals of graduate students as well as undergrads are part of the plan) the graduate studies office.

[Bell]Allan Bell (left) arrived on campus this week to take the position of Associate University Librarian (information technology services). That job, formerly known as associate librarian (systems), has been unfilled since the last occupant, Mark Haslett, moved up to be university librarian, head of the whole library system, in 2003. Bell has served as a librarian at McGill University and as systems librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington, and most recently was with HighWire Press, a unit of the Stanford University libraries.

Co-op students who were on work term during the fall are dropping by the Tatham Centre this week for return-to-campus interviews with coordinators.• The registrar's office notes that Ontario Student Assistance Program documentation as well as money from equivalent programs in other provinces is available starting this week at the student awards office in Needles Hall. • The finance office is reminding staff who use the Oracle financial system that it'll be out of operation for "up to two weeks" next month, with February 1 the last working day using the current version of the system.

The local news on Kitchener's CTV station last night included footage of exercise equipment arriving at the Columbia Lake Health Club, one of the features of the TechTown community centre that's nearly finished construction in the north campus Research and Technology Park. Officials announced yesterday that the building (at 340 Hagey Boulevard) and the health club will open on January 12, with other services including a café and the Education Credit Union scheduled to open within a few weeks.

Nominations have opened for the annual Federation of Students election, to be held (as always) just before February reading week. Up for grabs are the positions of president and three vice-presidents (internal, education, and administration and finance) plus seats representing 11 constituencies on students' council. Nominations close January 20; there's more information on the Feds' web site, or phone ext. 3-6781.

And . . . "The 50th anniversary launch committee," says my colleague Nancy Heide, "is looking to fill a few remaining volunteer spots at the campus-wide launch taking place January 11. It will take about 100 volunteers to make the launch happen and we still need to fill about 15 spots. If you're interested in helping out, please contact Sheryl-Ann Schrik at, who can provide more details."


Back to top

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin