Thursday, January 3, 2008

  • New high-voltage lab made fire-safe
  • Student at African surgery centre
  • Chat around the coffeepot — oops
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Alzheimer Awareness Month

When and where

Office of research closed through Friday as renovations continue; staff will respond to e-mail and voicemail; office reopens Monday.

Conrad Grebel University College closed today, reopening Friday.

Retail services regular hours today through Saturday; bookstore, UW Shop and TechWorx extended hours (to 7 p.m.) January 7-10.

International student orientation session Friday 1:00 to 4:30, Needles Hall room 1116; will be repeated Thursday, January 10, 1:00 to 4:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Buddhist Dharma talk: Ven. Wuling, Buddhist nun, speaks on "Everything We Do Matters", sponsored by Infinite Light Amitabha Organization, Saturday and Sunday, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., Bricker Academic Building room 101, Wilfrid Laurier University.

Residences open for the winter term Sunday morning, January 6.

Winter term classes begin Monday, January 7.

Federation of Students nomination period for 2008-09 executive January 7 through 21, information ext. 36781.

New student orientation Monday 4:30 p.m., multipurpose room, Student Life Centre, for both undergraduates and graduates, as well as transfer students, with information about services from UW, Federation of Students and Graduate Student Association.

Application deadline for Ontario secondary school students entering UW in September 2008 is January 9 (exceptions and details listed online).

FASS 2008 auditions January 9-11, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., Humanities room 334; Faculty, Alumni, Students and Staff welcome; this year's show, "Global Warming: Kiss Your FASS Goodbye", hits stage February 7-9.

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference January 10-12, Hilton Hotel, Toronto, details online.

St. Jerome's University dean Myroslaw Tataryn gives the Waterloo Catholic District School Board Lecture: "God Keep Our Land", January 11, 7:30 p.m., Siegfried Hall.

Blood donor clinic January 14-15 and 23-25, Student Life Centre, make appointments now at turnkey desk.

Fall term marks for undergraduate courses now appearing on Quest; marks become official January 28.

37th annual Hagey Bonspiel for faculty, staff, retirees and friends, Saturday, February 23, Ayr Curling Club, registration online.

[Squatting beside equipment, with two younger researchers]
New high-voltage lab made fire-safe

from the engineering faculty's e-newsletter, used by permission

Shesha Jayaram points out the fire resistant materials and security systems as she walks around the high voltage engineering laboratory (HVEL) that officially reopened late in 2007 on the first floor of Carl Pollock Hall. Jayaram, the director of the lab, realizes only too well that the lab's new safety features are as important as its high tech equipment.

In March 2005 a fire destroyed the lab including equipment and months of research by graduate students and others.

Originally built in the 1960s, the lab became recognized around the world through innovative research by engineering professors. One of those professors was James Cross, whose power engineering and power supply systems, including the Cross Power Supply, are in use internationally. Cross, a founder of the high-voltage lab, was one of the first people Jayaram phoned after the fire.

"When I called to inform him of the fire he told me to stay calm," says Jayaram, pictured on the right in the lab beside two graduate students. Retired and living in Halifax at the time, Cross arrived in Waterloo the next morning to provide moral support to lab staff. Cross, who died last year, was represented by his family at the official reopening of the lab on October 25.

Jayaram anticipated it would take a year to rebuild the lab. Instead, it took 30 months. "Every piece of work was highly challenging and every installation was a nightmare. One can write stories about hurdles we have crossed," she related during the lab's reopening ceremony. But, as the saying goes, every cloud has a silver lining: "We now have state-of-the-art equipment with much better monitoring systems," says Jayaram.

The 4,200-square-foot lab is a home for electrical and computer engineering professors, Jayaram, university research chair Magdy Salama and Ed Cherney, whose work includes high voltage insulation, applied electrostatics, renewable energy, including wind and solar powers and electric vehicles. The lab, the flagship facility for the Power and Energy Systems Group, one of the largest research groups in power engineering in North America, also has a room specifically designed for unsupervised experiments that can take days or weeks to complete.

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[In track suit, seated on rocks]Student at African surgery centre

from an article by science-and-business student Katie Dorman (right, on an Ethiopian mountaintop) in the new issue of SciBus magazine

Ethiopia is one of the poorest nations in the world, yet it offered the richest culture that I have ever experienced. I developed several long-lasting friendships and even found a "family away from home". This generous family included 7 brothers, 8 sisters, and the father of the Youth With a Mission orphanage. I grew very fond of drinking coffee — "buna" — eating with my hands, and listening to the Justin Timberlake of Ethiopia, Teddy Afro. On the weekends we danced the night away at cultural lounges, where the music was anything from bamboo flutes and steel drums to the North American reggae star, Sean Paul.

So how was I fortunate enough to spend over two months of my undergrad in this "Land of 13 Months of Sunshine"? The opportunity arose during my fourth co-op work term at the Surgical Skills Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital. During a casual conversation with my manager, Lisa Satterthwaite, I asserted, "I'm going to Africa one day." Within minutes she was on the phone to the Centre's researcher, and days later I was interviewed by a surgeon from the Black Lion Hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The roles of the manager and staff at the Surgical Skills Centre extend beyond the lab, and my responsibilities ranged from accounting and administration to the preparation of anatomical models. I worked on a number of projects including the production of surgical teaching videos for residents and a study that examined the validity of a device used to measure surgical knot quality. This study, led by Dr. Adam Dubrowski (University of Toronto), opened a window of research opportunities, including participation in a major surgical education project in Ethiopia.

My involvement began in May 2006 at the Bethune Roundtable Conference on International Surgery. I created a survey about the problems facing surgical education in developing countries and distributed it to surgeons from Sub-Saharan Africa. The results of the survey were astonishing and I was motivated to learn more. At the Conference I was introduced to members of the Canadian Network for International Surgery, an organization that supported a major initiative to build six surgical training centres in Ethiopia. The labs had been physically built, but manpower and knowledge were lacking. Having experience in the logistics and operations of surgical skills centres from my co-op work terms, I volunteered to facilitate development of the Addis Ababa University lab.

Within months, I traveled to Ethiopia to work with Dr. Miliard Derbew, a paediatric general surgeon. With the help of very supportive teams in both Toronto and Ethiopia, I carried out this study, delivering an introductory presentation to surgical faculty and staff at the Addis Ababa University on surgical lab training and models.

The two months in Ethiopia were a defining period in my life. I developed a strong bond with fifteen children and youth who lived at an orphanage run by a Christian organization called Youth with a Mission. My weekly visits began as short "volunteer" sessions during which I would play with the children, help them cook, or tutor them in English. As I started to visit more and more frequently, I realized that these bright, compassionate children were actually helping me by providing a support network and family away from home. The unpredictable futures of these children and their compromised health reinforced my desire to pursue a career in medicine.

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Chat around the coffeepot — oops

The workday for many people at UW began yesterday with new year's greetings for colleagues — and a surprise or two, such as the discovery by one popular staff member, whom I needn't name, of "how much mold grows on an unattended pot of work coffee in ten days"! So what's new with you, if you were reopening your office yesterday after the holiday break?

Here in Needles Hall, we discovered that Pastry Plus, which was scheduled to be open this week, is shut down as a byproduct of the renovations in the adjacent office of research. We also arrived yesterday morning to find a long lineup already in place outside the student awards and financial aid office, which opens at 8:30 Monday to Friday to hand out appointment tickets to students who need to discuss their OSAP applications with staff. "In an effort to decrease waiting times," SAFA announced before the holiday break, "tickets will be given out throughout the day and will be released for more than one day at a time. . . . Students are reminded that they must have their Social Insurance card and WatCard, or government-issued photo ID, to pick up their student funding."

[Heaney behind the bench]Geraldine Heaney (left), who's entering her third season as coach of the Warrior women's hockey team, came to UW with impressive credentials — and can now boast the biggest one of all. Shortly before the Christmas holiday she was announced as one of the first three women to be inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. "We have reached the phase in hockey history when we rightfully can induct women to the player's category,'' IIHF president Rene Fasel said in a statement. Heaney played 125 games for the Canadian national team, becoming the first player to win seven world championship gold medals as well as Olympic gold (2002) and silver (1998).

Carol Acton, who's the acting chair of the English department at St. Jerome's University, is the author of a recently-published book under the title Grief in Wartime: Private Pain, Public Discourse (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). The newsletter for UW English alumni tells more about it: "Drawing on private expressions of grief expressed in letters, diaries, memoirs and poetry, Carol Acton focuses on the lived experience of wartime loss and on the power of the dominant public narratives to shape and control private experience of grief and its articulation. She shows how the experience of bereavement challenges the binaries through which war is constructed, 'home' and 'the front', 'ally' and 'enemy', and collapses constructions of war that confine it within geographic limits and dates. Since prescribed bereavement behaviour in British and North American cultures is gendered, and since the defining and regulating of gender roles becomes extreme in a country at war, the author pays particular attention to the gendering of representations of loss in wartime."

One final reminder: the staff association has invited applications for members of the Dispute Resolution Pool that will be set up under the revised Policy 36 (“Dispute Resolution for University Support Staff”). When a staff member takes an issue through the formal stage, the Tribunal that deals with it will consist of three members chosen from a Dispute Resolution Pool, which in turn consists of 12 staff members appointed by the president of the university, from six nominations submitted by the Staff Association and six by the provost. The association is looking to fill its six nominations — two for terms running until the spring of 2009, two until 2010 and two until 2011. Anyone interested should send word by Friday to Sue Fraser (, chair of the association’s nominating committee.


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