Monday, April 27, 2009

  • $17 million in basic NSERC grants
  • Fire drills tomorrow; other notes
  • 950-plus faculty, 1,800 staff members
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Smiles around a table]

You can work up a real thirst climbing the CN Tower. Cora Dupuis, Janet Hahn, Kim Bast, Lauren Burgess, Chantel Franklin and Ken Thajer were members of a team, based in UW's development and alumni affairs office, that took part in "Climbing for Critters", a fund-raiser for the World Wildlife Fund, on April 16. "We made it to the top in under 30 minutes," says Franklin, and she and her colleagues could still find a smile at the post-climb party.

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$17 million in basic NSERC grants

UW researchers did well in competition with colleagues at other universities across Canada in the recently announced Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council “Discovery Grants” for 2009. Federal science minister Gary Goodyear, accompanied by NSERC president Suzanne Fortier, came to UW April 17 to make the national announcement of grant funding.

This year UW researchers will take in $17,353,758 in Discovery Grants, out of a $349.3 million nationwide allocation. UW’s share represents an increase of $650,000 over last year.

“The Discovery Grants program supports researchers judged by their peers to be among the very best,” said Goodyear, speaking to a welcoming audience of about 70 UW researchers and officials who gathered in Chemistry II’s faculty lounge. “Our government is proud to invest in research and development because it improves the quality of life for all Canadians and builds a stronger, more resilient economy. That’s why Canada’s Economic Action Plan is investing $5.1 billion in science and technology.”

Fortier supported the investment theme, noting that the DGP is NSERC’s main tool for investing in Canada’s researchers: “The program gives researchers the freedom and flexibility to pursue the most promising avenues as they arise, encouraging creative and cutting-edge approaches, and international collaborations.”

UW president David Johnston thanked Goodyear and Fortier for the infusion of research funding at UW which will be shared by researchers mostly in science, engineering and mathematics. In addition to taking in more money on average than their counterparts at other institutions, UW researchers pulled in $3,450,401 for “new faculty and renewable” awards. Johnston joked about the number of visits Goodyear has made to UW recently, but said he’s always welcome when he brings money.

“This is the second time in as many weeks Minister Goodyear has been the bearer of very good news for this university,” he noted. The first visit occurred April 7 when Goodyear came to announce $50 million in funding for the Institute for Quantum Computing, as promised in the federal budget in January.

George Dixon, UW’s vice-president (university research), noted: “The NSERC Discovery Grant Program is the only program on the Canadian science and engineering scene that allows unencumbered exploration by the investigator. Awards are based solely on the peer-reviewed excellence of the applicant and his/her proposed research program. Discovery Grants are unencumbered by externally imposed milestones and enable the flexibility in research approach that is essential for maximizing innovation and the discovery of new knowledge. Further, the continuity provided by Discovery awards provides the sustainability that is necessary for the development of major research strengths and training capacity.”

Several of UW’s newest and brightest recipients were on hand for the afternoon announcement. Among them was Karim Karim, one of electrical and computer engineering’s newest faculty members and considered a young star of the large-area electronics field. The Waterloo engineering alumnus is investigating radiation detectors for large area biomedical imaging. Another grant winner is Xianshe Feng, chemical engineering, who is focused in the area of nano-structured facilitated transport membranes.

From the science faculty came Adrian Luascu, an IQC faculty member and associate professor of physics and astronomy who will receive $67,700 for work focusing on experimental superconducting atom chips and superconducting quantum bits.

One of UW’s largest grant holders, Janusz Pawliszyn, chemistry department, will receive $125,000 for his ground-breaking work in solid-phase microextraction, an innovative form of chemical testing. Pawliszyn holds an NSERC industrial chair and a Canada Research Chair in new analytical methods and technologies.

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Fire drills tomorrow; other notes

The annual fire drills will be held tomorrow in most of UW's main campus buildings. "Assisting with the drills will be two fire trucks from Waterloo Fire Rescue," says Doug Dye of UW's safety office. "The drills will be conducted by two teams, each accompanied by a fire vehicle. These drills are to test our fire alarm and fire warden systems to ensure they are functioning adequately. Building occupants are expected to vacate the buildings whenever a fire alarm sounds. In the event of foul weather the drills will be cancelled." Residence buildings aren't included (they'll have drills in May when spring term residents have moved in), and neither are the buildings at satellite locations in Cambridge and Kitchener. Also not scheduled for drills tomorrow are several buildings where special events are happening or where there were recent fire alarms anyway: Humanities, the Davis Centre, Engineering II and III, the Research Advancement Centre, the Photovoltaic Research Centre, and Math and Computer.

UW's Social Innovation Generation group was the sponsor of a three-day think tank event last week in which community leaders from Waterloo Region and Wellington County looked at the future. SIG brought in Canadian-born "scenario facilitator" Adam Kahane to work with the group on social, political, political, economic, technological and environmental issues that influence regional development. “These busy individuals generously gave their time in order to begin building a better understanding of each other’s current concerns and activities, as well as explore visions of our future,” said Frances Westley, UW's Chair in Social Innovation. “Bringing together a variety of innovative people for an open, creative dialogue, where possible future realities are the primary focus, holds powerful potential to impact both today and tomorrow.” She said the developed scenarios will be shared with the general public through a variety of mediums, including film, visual art, documentation and web technology, and be presented for discussion at a variety of forums and events.

A memo went out to departments the other day explaining the opportunity that's presented by the International Undergraduate Work-Study Program for the spring term. "You could employ an international student on a part-time basis for one-quarter the normal cost," writes Linda Jajko of the student awards and financial aid office. "International students are not eligible for provincial government financial aid (OSAP)," she explains, and "obtaining other financing or part-time employment that fits the student's schedule is very difficult." Hence the program, financed 75 per cent from "a central university fund", to subsidize up to 25 part-time jobs (up to 10 hours a week) in UW departments. "Jobs that tend to receive the most interest are those that create meaningful work experience for the students," Jajko notes, inviting faculty or staff members to submit job proposals by May 15 for the May-to-August term. More information: ext. 35726.

St. Jerome’s University’s resident literary magazine, The New Quarterly, has been short-listed for three National Magazine Awards. Managing editor Rosalynn Tyo says TNQ’s Montreal Issue, “a wonderful cacophony of voices in both English and French suggestive of a Montreal neighbourhood on a summer’s evening”, is short-listed in the Best Single Issue category. Launched at Montréal’s Blue Metropolis Festival last spring, it was guest-edited by Katia Grubisic. Rebecca Rosenblum’s “Linh Lai” is short-listed in the Fiction category. It was one of three stories by this young writer featured in TNQ’s controversial Salon des Refusés, a compendium of writers left out of the Penguin Book of the Canadian Short Story. Cynthia Brouse’s “Doris and Me (Mostly Me),” short-listed in the essay category, launched the magazine’s on-going series “Magazine as Muse” in which writers recall the magazine of their adolescence or early adulthood that made them want to write. As Brouse tells it, magazines made her want do other things besides, things not discussed at the dinner table or in Home Ec class. Brouse will also receive the “Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement,” the NMA’s most prestigious prize, given for contributions to the magazine industry made over a lifetime, at the June 5 ceremony.

Coming tomorrow, sponsored by the UW Recreation Committee, is a "Scared Buyers Seminar" featuring local real estate agent Sandra Dimock of Remax Twin City Realty. Says an invitation from UWRC: "No one can absolutely predict the future, but Sandra will show you some stats and trends about K-W in particular (yes, we are special!) and suggest some ideas to think about that may impact your decision to buy in this market." The noontime event, in the Flex Lab in the Dana Porter Library, is full, but the UWRC's Verna Keller says there's still space available in Wednesday's noontime seminar on "De-cluttering and Downsizing: A Fresh Start for Spring" because, she notes, "from past experience we knew to book a large room," Math and Computer room 2065. "This workshop," says UWRC, "covers two main topics — our emotional resistance to change and the practical aspects of achieving a simpler living environment."

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950-plus faculty, 1,800 staff members

More faculty members and more staff members — that’s the story told by pages of data accompanying UW’s 2009-10 budget, which got final approval from the board of governors this week.

Rising enrolment is a familiar story, with the number of “full-time equivalent” undergraduates hitting 22,893 in the current year — up from 21,112 three years ago. The figure for graduate students has risen even more, from 2,412 in 2005-06 to 3,572 this year. (Past figures don’t necessarily correspond to what was reported a year ago, as estimates gradually turn into final numbers.)

The budget statistics confirm that there are also more people to teach those students, with a “total faculty complement” of 951.5 in the fall of 2008, compared with 840.5 three years earlier.

There are multiple ways of counting faculty members, depending on whether you include unfilled positions, professors who hold senior administrative jobs, and those on definite term appointments. Another chart in the budget documents makes the total 975, up from 882 three years before.

The biggest academic unit is still electrical and computer engineering, with 78.0 faculty positions, followed by computer science with 71.0. Psychology, once the university’s biggest department, is now in fifth place behind those two as well as mechanical and mechatronics engineering and statistics and actuarial science.

As for staff members across the university, the people who maintain computer networks, edit publications, update files, operate laboratories, advise students and paint ceilings, the long-time rule of thumb is still valid: two staff for every faculty member.

In 2005-06 there were 1,706.9 support staff positions, and this year there are 1,851.9, the budget documents show. That’s just the staff paid from the UW operating budget, and excludes people who are paid from research funds or from the cash flow of the “ancillary” (business) enterprises such as the bookstore.

Slightly less than one-third of the staff positions (598.1) are in the academic departments. The rest are in plant operations (358.0), information systems and technology (140.0), the library (129.6), co-op education and career services (99.4), the registrar’s office (84.6), development and alumni affairs (68.5), and a number of smaller departments.

The number of staff positions grew by 40.6 from last year to this year, and that’s in spite of the hiring freeze that has been slowing things down since October. Twelve of the new positions are in plant operations, five in CECS, four in the faculty of engineering, 3.6 in the faculty of environment, and 3.5 in development and alumni affairs.


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Coffee change

Food services reports a change in this week's schedule: contrary to plans as announced in Friday's Daily Bulletin, Tim Hortons in the Student Life Centre will be open this week (8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday) but Brubakers in the Student Life Centre will be closed.

Link of the day

Mary Wollstonecraft at 250

When and where

Unofficial winter term grades appear in Quest beginning April 27. Grades become official May 25.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 27-30, Davis Centre. Details. Keynote address today: Adalsteinn Brown, Ontario ministry of health, 1:00, Davis Centre room 1350.

Fee payment deadline for the spring term: April 27 (cheque, money order or fee arrangements), April 30 (bank transfer). Details.

‘Permanent Residency: What You Need to Have to Prepare for It.’ Presentation by Canadian consulate in Buffalo, aimed at new UW faculty members, Monday 9:00 or 2:00, Arts Lecture Hall room 113. Details.

UW-ACE system will be down Tuesday 6:30 a.m. to Wednesday 12:00 noon.

‘Study and research on the Dutch coast:’ information about exchanges, internships and joint research with water management program at Hogeschool Zeeland University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands, Tuesday 3:45 p.m., Needles Hall room 1101.

Renison University College book launch for Bold and Courageous Dreams: A History of Renison University College 1959-2009 by Gail Cuthbert Brandt, hosted by UW bookstore, Tuesday 4:00, Dana Porter Library first floor, RSVP k4king@

Howard Burton, former executive director of Perimeter Institute, speaks about his forthcoming book, Tuesday 7:00 p.m., Festival Room, South Campus Hall, free, sponsored by retail services.

‘Explore the World of Paul’ travel course led by Tom Yoder Neufeld, Conrad Grebel University College, April 29 through May 15.

Survey Research Centre presents Stephen Porter, Wesleyan University, “Do College Student Survey Questions Have Any Validity?” focusing on National Survey of Student Engagement, Wednesday 3:30, PAS building room 1229.

Pension and benefits committee Thursday 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Philosophy Graduate Student Association annual conference, Thursday-Friday, Humanities room 373. Keynote: Sanford Goldberg, Northwestern University, “Socializing Reliability”, Friday 4:30 p.m. Details.

K-W Symphony “Fearless Piano”, soloist Eve Egoyan, Thursday 7:30 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Ontario Water Works Association student chapter, based in civil and environmental engineering, free tour of Walkerton Clean Water Centre demonstration facility with carpool from campus, Friday, e-mail kmsuperi@ engmail to make arrangements.

Spring term classes begin Monday, May 4.

Presidents’ Colloquium on Teaching and Learning, speaker Gary Poole, University of British Columbia, “But Will That Be on the Test? Encouraging Deeper Learning” May 4, 2:00, Humanities Theatre, reception follows.

Faculty workshops on teaching with Gary Poole, University of British Columbia, May 5: “Using Door-Opening Concepts in Our Teaching” 9:00, “We Can Promote Deeper Learning” 2:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

A Research Conference on Teaching and Learning, sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, May 6. Details.

David Johnston Run for Health (fourth annual) around the ring road, walk or run, May 6, 4:15 p.m., starts at Needles Hall, participation free, register ext. 84830.

Summer Camp Fair with more than 40 children’s camps represented, May 6, 5:00 to 7:00, University Stadium, Wilfrid Laurier University. Details.

Recreation and Leisure Studies 40th anniversary leisure studies research forum, May 7, 8:45 to 4:30, Lyle Hallman Institute. Details.

International student orientation for new students from outside Canada, organized by Waterloo International, May 7, 12:30 to 4:00, Needles Hall room 1116. Details.

E-waste Green Day sponsored by UW central stores and Greentec Recycling Services: drop off electronic items (on approved list) for free recycling, Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., East Campus Hall.

Mothers’ Day brunch at the University Club, Sunday, May 10, seatings at 11:00 and 1:30, $24.95 per person, reservations ext. 33801.

Class enrolment appointments for fall term courses posted in Quest May 11; appointments June 22-27 for continuing students, July 13-26 for new students; open enrolment begins July 27.

UW Blooms annual exchange of seeds, seedlings and garden supplies, May 11, multipurpose room, Student Life Centre.

‘The Wedding Singer’ produced by K-W Musical Productions, May 14-16, 20-23 at 8 p.m., May 23 at 2 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets $29 at Humanities box office.

Victoria Day holiday Monday, May 18: UW offices and most services closed, and classes cancelled.

PhD oral defences

Computer science. David Pal, “Contributions to Unsupervised and Semi-Supervised Learning.” Supervisor, Shai Ben-David. On display in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Friday, May 1, 2:00 p.m., Davis Centre room 2306.

Computer science. William W. L. Wong, “Kernel Methods in Computer-Aided Constructive Drug Design.” Supervisor, Forbes Burkowski. On display in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Monday, May 4, 10:00 a.m., Davis Centre room 1331.

Planning. Jason F. Kovacs, “The Cultural Turn in Municipal Planning.” Supervisor, Robert Shipley. On display in the faculty of environment, EV1 335. Oral defence Tuesday, May 5, 10:00 a.m., Environment II room 1001.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Hamidreza Bolandhemmat, “Distributed Sensing and Observer Design for Vehicles State Estimation.” Supervisors, Farid Golnaraghi, Chris Clark and Fu-Sang Lien. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Wednesday, May 6, 10:00 a.m., Engineering II room 1307G.

Friday's Daily Bulletin