Wednesday, May 9, 2007

  • Deep breathing on a summer morn
  • . . . Oxygen found 500 light-years off
  • Open house today at training office
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Day of Europe

When and where

Jewellery and art glass show concludes, 9:30 to 4:00, South Campus Hall concourse, sponsored by UW Shop.

Waterloo Public Interest Research Group volunteer meeting 5 p.m., Student Life Centre multi-purpose room, details online.

Communitech Tech Leadership Conference: "The Evolution of Innovation", Thursday all day, Bingemans, details online.

Clubs, Services and Societies Days sponsored by Federation of Students, Thursday and Friday 10:00 to 3:00, Student Life Centre great hall.

'Spring gardening' presentation by David Hobson, sponsored by Employee Assistance Program, Thursday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302, no preregistration needed.

Volunteer English tutors: information session for anyone interested, Thursday 5:30, Student Life Centre room 2143, to be repeated May 14 and 16, more information online.

Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' presented by Lost & Found Theatre, Thursday-Saturday 7:30 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets $12-$20 at Humanities box office.

Carousel Dance Centre spring performance, "Mary Poppins" and "A Night at the Met", Friday 7 p.m., Saturday 1:00 and 7:00, Sunday 12:30, Humanities Theatre, details online.

Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology presents Richard Bartrem, WestJet, "Why WestJet Cares: The People and Culture", Monday 12:00 noon, Arts Lecture Hall room 113, RSVP ext. 3-7167 by Wednesday.

Staff association barbecue Tuesday, May 15, 11:30 to 1:30, outside Federation Hall; registration has officially closed.

Victoria Day holiday Monday, May 21, classes cancelled, UW offices closed.

Safety Awareness Day with sessions on gas cylinder safety, inspecting the workplace, lab safety and other topics, plus exhibits and vendors, Thursday, May 24, details and registration online.

Toronto 50th anniversary alumni celebration with chancellor Mike Lazaridis, president David Johnston, co-op director Peggy Jarvie, Thursday, May 24, 6 to 8 p.m., Liberty Grand, Exhibition Place, details online.

Procurement and Contract Services annual trade show for faculty and staff: VWR scientific supplies May 28, computer suppliers May 29, Basics Office Supplies May 30, all in Davis Centre room 1301.

Groundbreaking for Optometry building addition Friday, June 8, 11:15 a.m. on west side of existing building.

Risk Management and Insurance conference sponsored by Institute for Quantitative Finance and Insurance, Saturday, June 16, Math and Computer building room 2065, details online.

25-Year Club annual reception and recognition of 25-year and 35-year staff and faculty, June 19, 6:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex, information ext. 3-2078.

Positions available

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

• WatPD administrative coordinator, associate provost (academic and student affairs), USG 6
• WatPD instructional support coordinator, associate provost (academic and student affairs), USG 8
• Communications and liaison librarian, Library, USG 8-13
• Administrative assistant, professional development for engineering students (PDEng), USG 5
• Academic integrity assistant, PDEng, USG 5
• Mentor, PDEng, USG 5
• Lead mentor, PDEng, USG 6
• Instructional support coordinator, PDEng, USG 9
• Molecular core facility laboratory technician, biology, USG 6
• Research scientist, chemistry, USG 11
• Chem 13 News editor, chemistry, USG 7
• Administrative assistant/ graduate secretary, French studies, USG 6

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

[Alternative routes shown in blue and red]

Three possible routes for the future Waterloo Region rapid transit service are seen in this map from the Region's web site: one running along Weber Street, one along King Street, and one along the railway tracks. The railway route would include stations on the main UW campus and at the Research and Technology Park; the road routes would likely include connections to campus along a University Avenue express bus corridor, marked in gray. At the south end of the service, all routes converge on the Ainslie Street bus terminal in Cambridge, a short walk from the UW School of Architecture.

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Deep breathing on a summer morn

Ah, summer — or "pollen season" as somebody was calling it early this morning. Under the blanket of the year's first official smog alert, we're enjoying the sort of day when you can literally taste the air, but wouldn't particularly want to. The sky seemed pearly grey behind the towering red construction crane that has appeared at the Accountancy construction site at the south edge of campus. And in a season that's making some of us think seriously about yards and gardens, Columbia Lake Village has announced that it's creating garden plots this summer for interested residents; Amy Endert in the residence life office is putting together a volunteer garden committee to do what's necessary.

In other matters . . . some 50 high school students will be on UW campus for the Waterloo Unlimited "Return Engagement" program Thursday through Saturday. These students, from grades 10-12 and from as far away as Chapleau and Leamington, are all past participants in Unlimited programs for talented young people. "The Return Engagement gives them the opportunity to reconnect and have an authentic university experience," I'm told, "by staying two nights in residence at Conrad Grebel and attending several Friday classes. For some of the visitors this could be a dry run before coming to Waterloo as an enrolled student this fall. Students will attend a skills session on how to take a lecture, followed by the opportunity to sit in on several classes ranging from electrical engineering to philosophy, economics to music, calculus to biochemistry. They will hear from the artist, engineer, and musician creators of 'The Notebook', a tech-art installation currently at the Theatre of the Arts; and will get an insider’s glimpse from actors prior to watching the performance of 'Twelfth Night', this year's Springboard production presented by Lost & Found Theatre in conjunction with UW drama students."

Meanwhile, “Some Microsoft interns,” writes Daniel Marantz of software engineering, “are putting together two weeks of virtual competitions to raise awareness of Microsoft technologies and expose students to some new things. There's points awarded for completion of tasks and challenges — points are entered to a raffle for tons of software and hardware prizes, including an Xbox 360.” The so-called Code Compete group, made up of students in computer science, software engineering and computer engineering, are making class visits to promote the program this week, as well as putting up posters on campus. “Virtual events” start May 14, with the final live event and raffle draw scheduled for May 29. More information is, naturally, available online.

The Graduate Association for Recreation and Leisure Studies will hold its 15th annual Graduate Student Leisure Research Symposium tomorrow. The Symposium promises "a unique opportunity for graduate students in a variety of departments and disciplines to share their research about recreation, leisure, tourism, and related topics", including volunteerism, health, tourism, gender, and family. The full schedule of events, including the 12 presentations and social event, can be found online. Kate Connolly of Concordia University will give the keynote address at 10 a.m. Winner of multiple awards for her contributions to the community and public service, she's doing research on community resilience, with a specific interest in the support and interventions that community agencies can provide to residents in response to neighbourhood trauma. Anyone on campus or from the wider community is welcome to attend the symposium (it'll be held in the Clarica Auditorium, Lyle Hallman Institute, at the north end of campus), but should preregister by e-mail:

The first Vision conference, to be held at UW June 16 under the title “Tomorrow's Health Leaders, Together Today", is described as “Canada's first student-run conference on non-traditional professions in health”. The event will see national and global leaders on health meet with students for a day of speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. Organizers aim to attract those interested in the areas of health informatics, global health, health management, biomedical engineering and public policy. Vision 2007 will include keynote speeches from Frederick Bowman, a senior academic administrator in the joint Harvard-MIT Health Science Technology program, and Kaushik L. Ramaiya, a physician and medical administrator whose work spans such organizations as the World Health Organization and the Association of Private Hospitals in Tanzania. As well, Vision 2007 will offer six workshops, with industry leaders facilitating presentations that will help students delve into issues ranging from global health to the role of IT in health. A third key component of the conference will see more than a dozen exhibitors from the health industry giving students an opportunity to learn about relevant non-traditional health opportunities. Nearly 250 students from across Canada are expected to attend the free conference, and registration is still open.

Sunday being Mothers' Day, the University Club is offering a special brunch (grilled asparagus and crab salad, omelettes to order, tandoori chicken and considerably more) with sittings at 11:00 and 1:30 — call ext. 3-3801 for reservations. • The Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research will hold its "two-day, intensive" Health Informatics Bootcamp June 14 and 15 this year. • Books that were borrowed on term loan from UW's libraries before the beginning of April are due today and should be renewed online or returned.

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. . . Oxygen found 500 light-years off

from the UW media relations office

An international team of space scientists, including several Canadian astronomers, has discovered molecular oxygen in interstellar space. Oxygen is one of the main constituents of the Earth's atmosphere and was expected to be common in space too, but surprisingly this molecule appears to be quite rare in most of the universe.

A team of Canadian, Swedish, French and Finnish researchers has been seeking the elusive oxygen molecule with the Odin space observatory. The team has spent countless hours in observation and data evaluation in search of molecular oxygen. The search, a principal goal of Odin, is important to understanding the chemistry in large interstellar clouds, the birthplaces of planets and stars.

"Earlier attempts to find the elusive oxygen molecule frustrated observatories on the ground and in space until space researchers realized something crucial," said Michel Fich, UW professor of physics and astronomy. "The abundance of oxygen was much lower than assumed before the search started. The Odin measurements have now told us just how low." The team's findings are reported in the current issue of Astronomy & Astrophysics. The Canadian members of this Odin team include Fich, Sun Kwok and Rene Plume of the University of Calgary, Christine Wilson of McMaster University, and George Mitchell of Saint Mary's University.

Astrochemists have long argued that the basic molecules of life, water (H2O) and oxygen (O2), are highly abundant in the denser regions of the interstellar medium. One of the primary goals of the Odin astronomy mission was to use spectral line data from molecular oxygen and water to study processes of star formation.

Models at the time predicted that these molecules would be abundant enough to assist the formation of stars by radiating away excess energy produced when clouds collapse to form new stars. The collapse results in compression of the gas, which is therefore heated. Unless this excess heat can be radiated away stars will not be able to form.

Many attempts have been made from the ground, balloons and space to detect oxygen, but until now, all failed. The molecule was found in a dense (astronomically speaking) gas cloud (called rho Oph A) in the constellation of Ophiuchus at a distance of about 500 light years. The oxygen abundance is a thousand times lower than can be explained by today's chemical models.

Odin is a space-based radio observatory for studying both celestial objects and Earth's atmosphere. The spacecraft is equipped with a 1.1-metre diameter radio telescope operating in the millimetre and submillimetre wavelength ranges. Odin was launched into a 600-km altitude orbit on February 20, 2001.

The importance of molecular oxygen led to the inclusion in the Odin five-channel microwave radiometer of a dedicated radio receiver tuned to the ground state transition of oxygen at 118.75 GHz. This frequency is about a factor 1,000 higher than the typical FM radio band.

The actual observations were made during 33 days over a period from August 2002 to February 2006. After careful processing and detailed analysis of more than 300,000 spectra, the oxygen line is convincingly visible, at a level of five times above the noise. The characteristics of the observed oxygen profile are precisely as expected, based on the profiles of the spectral lines from other species, such as atomic carbon, carbon monoxide and water vapour, observed from the same cloud with ground-based telescopes and with Odin.

Odin was developed by the Swedish Space Corporation, which is also responsible for the operations, on behalf of the Swedish National Space Board, the Canadian Space Agency and the space agencies of Finland and France. It serves astronomers and aeronomers (who study the Earth's atmosphere) of all four partner countries.

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Open house today at training office

[Di Gravio]"There's door prizes! And free food!" says Katrina Di Gravio (left), director of UW's recently created Office of Organizational and Human Development — although she also has some more serious reasons why people should drop in for an open house this afternoon.

"We want to hear people's input and ideas, what they think their needs are," says Di Gravio, who will be in the OHD headquarters, Humanities building room 161, from 3:30 to 5:00 today to welcome visitors. Her three co-workers will be there as well to meet staff members, faculty and students.

OHD exists to serve all those groups, which means it amounts to more than the previously existing "staff training program" which it has taken over from human resources. Those staff activities will continue and in fact expand, says Di Gravio, pointing to the general Leadership for Results seminars as well as specific skills courses, which she hopes to expand. Also already under way is a new series of training aimed at managers, Successful Supervision.

For students, the OHD activities will include "student leadership programs" operated jointly with the student life office, she said.

And, I asked her yesterday, what about faculty members? OHD will be providing support for some existing activities and helping to start new ones, she said, pointing particularly to workshops and briefings for academic department chairs that are coordinated by psychology professor and former associate provost Gary Waller. A possible initiative in that direction will be what she calls "just-in-time kits" — quick-reference information on what to do when an academic administrator is faced with a personnel problem or other administrative crisis.

At today's open house, Di Gravio and her colleagues will introduce the new rubric that's replacing the familiar "Get Up and Grow" title for staff training programs: Learning on the E.D.G.E. (She says those initials stand for something, and we'll all soon be finding out what, possibly through the soon-to-appear OHD web site and e-newsletter.)

[Balloons]OHD's newly renovated space, tucked behind the Humanities box office, isn't the easiest location to find, especially with construction work happening just north of Humanities. An invitation for today's open house gives suggested directions: "Walk past the Modern Languages building and Environmental Studies I, and you will approach the steps leading to the sculptures at the top of the stairs and follow the steps down into the HH courtyard. . . . Just follow the balloon trail to find us."


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