Monday, June 23, 2008

  • Launch for 'green finance' chair
  • The Facebook window on Waterloo
  • Faculty state their sabbatical plans
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Smiles and drinks and name tags]

Alumni and guests turned out for a reception June 12 at Ottawa's National Press Club, where the Export Development Corporation made the first announcement of its gift. Second from left, that's Michelle Zakrison, former president of the Federation of Students (and 2006 BES graduate) who's now working for the Parliamentary Information and Research Service.

Launch for 'green finance' chair

VIPs and guests will gather in the Environmental Studies I courtyard this morning to celebrate the creation of a new research chair funded by the biggest gift ever received by UW's faculty of ES: $750,000 from Export Development Canada. The speeches and reception, featuring EDC vice-president Sherry Noble and ES dean Deep Saini, are scheduled to start at 11:00.

The new chair is intended to identify financial tools and practices that will help companies adopt better business practices, such as socially responsible investing and a triple bottom-line performance. The EDC Chair in Environmental Finance, based in Waterloo's Centre for Environment and Business, will explore financial tools such as carbon financing and clean energy funds.

It was first announced at an event in Ottawa, where EDC has its headquarters, earlier this month. EDC president Eric Siegel and UW's vice-president (university research), George Dixon, greeted about 80 guests, and Thomas Homer-Dixon, a recent arrival on UW's environmental faculty, spoke about climate change under the title "Taking Ideas into Action: Working Together for Solutions".

In other news today . . . UW's human resources department will be moving to a temporary home for about three months, starting in mid-July. Major work is needed on the ducts and air circulation system in its existing space in the General Services Complex, so HR staff will be relocated to space that's currently empty in East Campus Hall, above the fine arts department. Staff will make the move between July 7 and July 18 and are expected to be back in GSC by the end of October.

The Research and Technology Park barbecue at noontime Thursday drew about 185 people ("in sketchy weather", organizers point out) and raised almost $1,100 for the K-W Community Foundation, the preferred charity of the park Tenants' Fund. • Adela Antolcic, a member of UW's custodial staff since February 1988, officially retired from the university on June 1. • Here's a reminder that the schedule for spring term final exams is available online.

And I should clarify something that was said in Friday's Daily Bulletin and came across in a misleading way. It's true, sort of, that the new arrangement between UW and the Waterloo Regional Police Service will provide a staff sergeant to manage the UW police "for a one-year term", but it's not intended to be just a one-off arrangement: the one-year secondment, like other police service assignments, is renewable.

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The Facebook window on Waterloo

For the past half-year, the Daily Bulletin has had a presence on Facebook, the popular “social networking” website, and I want to report on some observations about the experience of using this window on the campus.

I entered this region of cyberspace by creating an ordinary Facebook membership as “UW Daily Bulletin”. That meant, as everybody probably knows, that I could make reciprocal links to other Facebook users — we’d be “friends”. The first friends of the Daily Bulletin were a few co-workers, followed by faithful readers, student leaders, and lately people whose names I don’t recognize but who apparently find some value in being linked in. Friends could be from anywhere in the world, but not surprisingly, nearly all the Daily Bulletin’s friends are at Waterloo. (Or soon will be; just this morning I clicked OK on a friend request from a Toronto high school student who's on her way to campus this September.)

The most important feature of Facebook clearly is the “news feed” that appears on my page, telling me what my friends have been up to: “fed the cat ... Just wants to rest Saturday and watch chick flicks.” The news feed also includes photos, event invitations, links to articles and web sites, and announcements that somebody has joined a “group”. More about groups in a moment.

Among the many social networking sites, Facebook is the biggest in Canada, though it lags behind MySpace in the United States. One estimate is that a third of all Canadians have Facebook pages. There’s been no lack of news coverage about some aspects of Facebook, such as the temptation to post pictures of oneself merrily drunk and then wonder why employers might question one’s reliability. Some of the privacy issues raised by Facebook were aired in the student newspaper Imprint just the other day.

Skipping from one friend’s page to another, following up on event listings and suggested links, I’ve learned about plenty of interesting things over the past few months. Among them: a game of Manhunt played at midnight one Saturday in the Davis Centre; a social group calling itself “Smoking Hot Thai Students at UW”; a “spirit squad” representing Waterloo at the Ontario gathering of South Asian student organizations. And somebody’s having a party Wednesday: “Come and check out my new apartment.”

Yes, it tends to be trivial stuff. But other Facebook pages, the “groups” I referred to a moment ago, link users with a common interest in a serious activity or a part of UW. I’ve noticed active groups for the Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, and for the Farm Market. There are more than 500 UW-related groups, from “Build a Stadium” to the engineering class of 2013.

All of these have the potential, if I had time to check in with them regularly, to provide good ideas for things that might be mentioned in the Daily Bulletin. One difficulty I’ve faced, in fact, is deciding whether it’s appropriate to make a link to a Facebook page, given that Daily Bulletin readers who haven’t taken out a (free) Facebook membership won’t be able to see the page I’m linking to.

['Network pages will be discontinued']Over the past few weeks, a major change has made it harder to stumble onto unexpected UW news (and harder to find announcements of parties to crash, for those who like that sort of thing). Facebook began as a service specifically for campuses (a “facebook” used to be a printed directory of students’ photos, names and phone numbers) and until now has been organized into “networks” representing universities, companies or cities. Now, the folks at Facebook Inc., based in Palo Alto, have announced (left) that networks are about to disappear.

Opinion is divided about the change. Networks are seen as a relic of the site’s students-only beginnings, and students may be the group who lose the most when they’re removed. The disappearance of the Waterloo network will force users to look more to “groups” and less to the campus community as a whole — for example, event listings might not pop up unless one is specifically “invited” by a friend or a group.

The change comes just as new first-year students are celebrating being listed as part of Waterloo. “Yay I’m finally in the network!” a student from London’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School wrote last week. “Too bad they’re deleting it soon.”

Through the spring, there were about 28,800 people in the Waterloo network. That would include students, staff and faculty, some alumni, and of course the Daily Bulletin. With new students trickling in, and perhaps some alumni disconnecting from UW, the total hit 28,900 the other day. I had been expecting to see it pass 30,000 when a horde of new students get their UW e-mail addresses later this summer. But now, by the looks of things, the network will be gone before that happens.

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Faculty state their sabbatical plans

Here’s a list of some faculty members who are going on sabbatical leave from UW starting on July 1. The plans listed for each individual are the information submitted to the university’s board of governors, which has to give approval for all faculty leaves.

Mark Aagaard, electrical and computer engineering (twelve months): “Prepare textbook based on my course notes for ECE 327: Digital Systems Engineering. Strengthen existing and develop new collaborations: Ganesh Gopalakrishnan at University of Utah, Michael Gordon at Cambridge, Andrew Martin at IBM Austin Research Labs, and Robert Jones at Intel Strategic CAD Labs.

David Clausi, systems design engineering (six months): “I plan to spend considerable time during my sabbatical in support of my primary research endeavour — the development of intelligent decision algorithms for interpreting satellite imagery for Canadian Ice Service tactical operations. In addition, I will continue to make efforts to transfer successful research efforts into industry.”

Gordon Willmot, statistics and actuarial science (six months): “I intend to continue my research program as well as co-author a monograph on analytic methods in insurance loss modelling.”

Joseph Emerson, applied mathematics (six months): “The purpose of the leave is to devote 100% of my activities to research. I plan to remain on campus for the majority of this time, although this leave will also enable short trips to visit collaborators at MIT, Imperial College, Cambridge and possibly elsewhere.”

Doug Kirton, fine arts (six months): “The purpose of this sabbatical is twofold: to gather new source material to extend the content of my ongoing series of paintings on urban themes and to develop an entirely new trajectory of research relating to landscape themes.”

Alexandru Nica, pure mathematics (twelve months): “During the sabbatical leave I will focus on research in my area of specialization, free probability. I will travel extensively in order to establish research ties with other mathematicians who work in free probability, but whose strengths and expertise do not duplicate mine.”

Delbert Russell, French studies (six months): “Collaboration on a critical anthology of medieval linguistic and literary theory regarding the role of French with respect to Latin and English in tri-lingual medieval Britain.”

David Siegel, applied mathematics (twelve months): “Finish a number of outstanding projects, short visits to work with collaborators, attend conferences and work on a monograph on mathematical aspects of chemical kinetics.”

Mike Dixon, psychology (six months): “I will be taking sabbatical in order to learn two new techniques to supplement my research, scholarship and teaching. The techniques are programming virtual reality environments and the gathering of psychophysical data in naturalistic settings. I will also increase the international profile of my research by spending time conducting and promoting my research in Australia at an international conference.”


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Link of the day

Newfoundland marks Discovery Day

When and where

Pre-enrolment for winter 2009 undergraduate courses, June 23-29 on Quest: choose courses now so preferences can be used in preparing the timetable, information online.

Co-op job ranking for fall term closes 2:00 today, matches available 4:00. Rankings for pharmacy jobs open 4:30.

myPENSIONinfo information session about self-service pension projection system, 11:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Feng Shui sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, last Tuesday of every month, 12:00, Math and Computer room 5136.

Joint Health and Safety Committee 1:30, Commissary building room 112D.

Lectures in quantum information: Anthony Leggett, Institute for Quantum Computing, “Prospects for Topological Quantum Computing” continuing June 24, 26, July 3, 8, 10, all at 2:00 p.m., Research Advancement Centre, 475 Wes Graham Way, room 2009.

UW Debate Society meets Tuesdays 5:15, Rod Coutts Hall room 301.

Canada’s Technology Triangle annual meeting of members Tuesday 5:30, Cambridge City Hall; keynote speaker Anthony Leggett, UW department of physics, information

Orphan Relief Barbecue sponsored by Muslim Students Association to support its orphan sponsorships, Wednesday and Thursday 10:30 to 4:00 across campus.

‘The Body Means Well: Empowered Healing’ brown-bag lunch with author Nancy Schaeffer, sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, Wednesday 12:00, Math and Computer room 5158.

Bill Pudifin, faculty of engineering, retirement reception Wednesday 3:00 to 5:00, Festival Room, South Campus Hall.

ResiDance pizza party to celebrate the new online promotion for UW residences, Thursday 11:00 to 1:00, Student Life Centre.

Gail Cuthbert Brandt, associate vice-president (international), “stepping down reception” Thursday 3:00 to 5:00, Needles Hall room 1101 (note location change), RSVP ext. 38350.

California alumni: Networking reception for alumni at Stanford University Faculty Club, Thursday 6:30 p.m. UW Day at Padres baseball game, Friday. UW Day at Dodgers baseball game, Saturday. Digital Moose Lounge Canada Day Picnic, Sunday, Huddard Park East, Woodside, details online.

Dropping courses: last day to receive a WD grade for spring term courses dropped, June 27.

Long weekend: UW holidays Monday, June 30, and Tuesday, July 1, for Canada Day; classes cancelled, offices and most services closed.

Canoeing the Grand River: outing organized by International Student Office and Federation of Students, June 30, $32 for UW students, tickets at Fed office, Student Life Centre.

Canada Day celebrations Tuesday, July 1, on the north campus: children’s fun-fest, arts and crafts fair, food, stage performances and other activities, 2 p.m. until evening; fireworks 10 p.m.; details and volunteer information online.

Teaching and Learning ePortfolio conference, July 7-8, St. Jerome’s University, details online.

Student Life 101 open house for September’s new students, Saturday, July 19, information online.

Warrior men’s golf fundraising tournament Tuesday, August 26, Whistle Bear Golf Club, Cambridge, information e-mail

PhD oral defences

Physics and astronomy. Mohammad H. Ansari, “The Statistical Footprints of Quantum Gravity.” Supervisors, L. Smolin and R. B. Mann. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Friday, June 27, 10:00 a.m., Physics room 352.

Psychology. Evan Risko, “Basic Processes in Reading: The Role of Spatial Attention in Visual Word Processing.” Supervisor, Jennifer Stolz. On display in the faculty of arts, HH 317. Oral defence Wednesday, July 2, 10:00 a.m., PAS (Psychology) room 3026.

Electrical and computer engineering. Hassan Hassan, “Design Methodology and CAD Tools for Nanometer FPGAs: Optimization for Leakage Power.” Supervisors, Mohamed I. Elmasry and Mohab Anis. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, July 4, 2:00 p.m., CEIT room 3142.

Electrical and computer engineering. Ahmed Youssef, “Power Management for Deep Submicron Microprocessors.” Supervisors, Mohab Anis and Mohamed I. Elmasry. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, July 7, 2:00, Davis Centre room 1331.

Systems design engineering. Jiazhi Ma, “Carbon Material-Based Radiation Dosimetry.” Supervisors, John Yeow and Rob Barnett. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Thursday, July 10, 2:00, Engineering II room 1307C.

Friday's Daily Bulletin