Wednesday, March 25, 2009

  • UAE will get enough students, dean says
  • Update cell number to get text alerts
  • Prof says ozone hole proves cosmic ray theory
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[He's waving, so it's waving]

Gimme a Y: Fation Shahinas demonstrates how the RoboDancer, which he and classmates in mechatronics engineering developed, mimics his every movement. His team was one of several showcasing their creations in a mechatronics design exhibition in the Student Life Centre on Monday. Today, students in systems design engineering will display their projects in the Davis Centre between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Photo by Michael Strickland.

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UAE will get enough students, dean says

Some international students who aren’t admitted to engineering programs on the Waterloo campus this September will be offered places at the new United Arab Emirates campus instead, officials said on Monday. Engineering dean Adel Sedra and registrar Ken Lavigne made the announcement at the regular March meeting of the UW senate.

Sedra reminded senate that the plan is for first-year programs in chemical engineering and civil engineering to start at the remote campus, housed at the Dubai Men’s College, this fall. Two programs from the mathematics faculty — information technology management, and financial analysis and risk management — are to start in 2010.

He said UW has received 117 applications from the UAE and surrounding area for admission to chemical and civil engineering for this fall. In the normal way, “about 10” of those students will be offered places at UW, given the modest number of international students engineering can handle in all its programs and from all the countries of the world.

But this year, any of the applicants from the Gulf area who meet UW’s qualifications but aren’t chosen for admission will instead be offered places in the initial class at Dubai. That will help make up enough students for UW’s plans to go ahead, he said.

The original target was 60 students in chemical and 60 in civil, the dean said, acknowledging that such numbers won’t be reached this year. “We decided on a number below which we won’t be able to start this September,” he said, without specifying that number. “I believe we will make it.”

The whole UAE project is “huge”, said Sedra, who interrupted his current sabbatical to spend some time in Dubai alongside the director of the projected UW campus, Magdy Salama of the electrical and computer engineering department. (Sedra is supposed to be working on a revision of his million-selling microelectronics textbook, and joked with UW president David Johnston that “maybe I’ll stay away another six months” to get it finished.)

“The biggest challenge is finding students, and we started a little late,” Sedra told the senate, hinting that there was some delay as UW and its on-site partner, the Higher Colleges of Technology of the UAE, sorted out their respective responsibilities. [Sedra with guests at Dubai event]He was on hand for an event in Dubai in late February (right) at which “a huge number of potential students” and their parents learned about UW’s plans.

However, Lavigne told the senate, so far just 8 students have actually applied for the Dubai-based programs for next fall.

He said his staff are learning more every day about the variety of high school backgrounds that UAE-based students can offer when they apply. Some come from “international schools” offering British or American programs or the sophisticated International Baccalaureate, and credentials from those are “beyond question”. In other cases, students may need “a bridging year” to improve their qualifications and their English. One possibility is to ask Renison University College, which already operates an English institute in Waterloo, to launch a program in Dubai.

Other aspects of planning for the UAE campus are going well, Sedra reported. “We will be delivering our programs in a very nice building” in the Academic City neighbourhood, he said, with good laboratories, pleasant social amenities and sports facilities. Both local and foreign institutions are housed in Academic City, and Michigan State University has “a huge big building” nearby.

As for faculty members, “we are already deciding who’s going to go there in September.” He added that arrangements are being worked out to give UW professors a status in the UAE that would allow them to carry on research work while they’re there, and even bring graduate students along with them.

Sedra was asked about students who take the two-year program UW will be offering in Dubai but then can’t come to Canada for years 3 and 4. Some might have financial problems, while others would be turned down for a Canadian student visa (“we can’t guarantee a visa”). Such students, he said, will have the option to continue their education directly with HCT, the local partner. “Nobody will be left stranded.”

Philosophy professor and faculty association president David DeVidi pointed out that “the economic crisis has hit Dubai very hard, and particularly the expatriate community that we were hoping to take.” True enough, said Sedra, agreeing that there is “lots of concern” on many fronts — but UW isn’t investing money in buildings or other thing that couldn’t be salvaged if things went wrong.

“Our exposure is not going to be substantial,” he said, with one exception: the enormous investment of time that people across UW are putting into the project of launching the UAE campus.

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Update cell number to get text alerts

by Martin Van Nierop, director of communications and public affairs

If you're a UW student, faculty or staff member and you want to receive a text message when the university declares a campus-wide emergency, you should check that your cellphone number is correctly listed online.

Such emergency text messages will only be sent in the event there is a serious emergency requiring the university to send an alert to all students, faculty and staff.

The first test of the emergency warning system on January 29 saw about 11,000 text messages sent to cell phones. About 15 per cent of the messages failed for a variety of reasons, including cell numbers that were no longer valid or incorrectly entered in the individual's personal records.

UW police and emergency planners strongly suggest that all students, faculty and staff ensure their cell phone numbers are correctly entered in their information profile. Students can do so by using the Quest system. Faculty and staff can do it on their profiles through myHRinfo.

In addition to text messages, the university has tested pop-up alerts on computer screens and voicemail messages to on-campus land-line phones. More tests are planned, and the campus will be notified when they will take place.

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Prof says ozone hole proves cosmic ray theory

a news release from UW's media relations office

A University of Waterloo scientist says that an observed cyclic hole in the ozone layer provides proof of a new ozone depletion theory involving cosmic rays, a theory outlined in his new study, just published in Physical Review Letters.

Qing-Bin Lu, a professor of physics and astronomy and an ozone depletion expert, said it was generally accepted for more than two decades that the Earth's ozone layer is depleted by chlorine atoms produced by the sun's ultraviolet light-induced destruction of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere.

But mounting evidence supports a new theory that says cosmic rays, rather than the sun's UV light, play the dominant role in breaking down ozone-depleting molecules and then ozone. Cosmic rays are energy particles originating in space.

Ozone is a gas mostly concentrated in the ozone layer, a region located in the stratosphere several miles above the Earth's surface. It absorbs almost all of the sun's high-frequency ultraviolet light, which is potentially damaging to life and causes such diseases as skin cancer and cataracts. The Antarctic ozone hole is larger than the size of North America.

In his study, Lu analyzes reliable cosmic ray and ozone data in the period of 1980-2007, which cover two full 11-year solar cycles. The data unambiguously show the time correlations between cosmic ray intensity and global ozone depletion, as well as between cosmic ray intensity and the ozone hole over the South Pole.

"This finding not only provides a fingerprint for the dominant role of the cosmic-ray mechanism in causing the ozone hole, but also contradicts the widely-accepted photochemical theory," Lu said. "These observations cannot be explained by that photochemical model. Instead, they force one to conclude that the cosmic ray mechanism plays the dominant role in causing the hole."

In the first submission of his paper to Physical Review Letters in August 2008 (prior to the start of the ozone hole season), Lu predicted one of the severest ozone losses in 2008-2009 as a result of the cosmic ray cycle.

His study quantitatively predicted that the mean total ozone in the October hole over Antarctica would be depleted to around 187 Dobson units (DU). The latest NASA OMI satellite data sets, released on March 13, show that the mean total ozone in the ozone hole in October 2008 was 197 DU, within five per cent of Lu's prediction.

"The total ozone values in the ozone hole in November and December nearly reached the minimum values in the months on record," Lu said. "The 2008 ozone hole shrank quite slowly and persisted until the end of December, making it one of the longest lasting ozone holes on record."

He added that in earlier studies he and former colleagues found a strong spatial correlation between cosmic ray intensity and ozone depletion, based on the data from several sources, including NASA satellites. "Lab measurements demonstrated a mechanism by which cosmic rays can cause drastic reactions of ozone-depleting halogens inside polar clouds."

Cosmic rays are concentrated over the North and South Poles due to Earth's magnetic field, and have the highest electron-production rate at the height of 15 to 18 km above the ground -- where the ozone layer has been most depleted.

Lu says that years ago atmospheric scientists expressed doubts about the cosmic ray mechanism, but now observed data shows which theory is the correct one.

For instance, the most recent scientific assessments of ozone depletion by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program -- using photochemical models -- predicted that global ozone will recover (or increase) by one to 2.5 per cent between 2000 and 2020 and that the Antarctic springtime ozone hole will shrink by five to 10 per cent between 2000 and 2020.

In sharp contrast, the cosmic ray theory predicted one of the severest ozone losses over the South Pole in 2008-2009 and another large hole around 2019-2020. "It is interesting to examine these predictions," Lu writes in his article for Physical Review Letters.

His piece, entitled Correlation between Cosmic Rays and Ozone Depletion, was published online in the March 20 issue of Physical Review Letters, a journal of the American Physical Society. It can be viewed at link.

Lu's research is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).


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Link of the day

Lady Day

When and where

Yume (Peace) Project: folding paper cranes to send to Hiroshima, Student Life Centre great hall.

Career workshops today: “Career Interest Assessment” 10:30, Tatham Centre room 1113; “All About GMAT” 5:00, TC 2218; “Are You Thinking About an MBA?” 5:30, TC 2218. Thursday: “Career Exploration and Decision Making” 2:00, TC 1112; “Law School Bound” 12:30, TC 1208; “Preparing for the LSAT” 1:30, TC 1208; “Teaching English Abroad” 2:30, TC 1208; “Getting a US Work Permit” 4:30, TC 1208. Details.

Free hugs and high fives organized by Arts Student Union, starting in Arts Lecture Hall, 11:00 to 2:00.

PDEng alumni lecture: Edward Drennan and Eric Jelinsky, “Getting Employed: What It Takes During These Challenging Times”, 11:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

End-of-term recitals by UW music students continue today and Monday, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel UC chapel.

Smarter Health seminar: Gail Crook, “The Crucial Role of HIM Professionals on the eHealth Team” 3 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Applied complexity and innovation seminar: Brad Bass, University of Toronto, “Revitalizing Central Place Theory: Cities as Experiments on a Dynamic Fitness Landscape”, 3:00, University Club. Details.

Reading series at St. Jerome’s University: Camilla Gibb, Giller Prize nominee, 4:00 p.m., SJU room 3027.

Mindful Eating: six weekly sessions by Counselling Services for staff. Series begins today 4 to 6 p.m. at Renison UC chapel. Details.

Columbia Lake Health Club “lifestyle learning” session: “Understanding Headaches” 5:30 p.m., boardroom, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

Waterloo Public Interest Research Group 35th Birthday Bash, Thursday 11:00 to 3:00, great hall, Student Life Centre.

Surplus sale of UW furnishings and equipment Thursday 12:30 to 2:00, East Campus Hall.

International spouses hears speaker Julia Beddoe of The Working Centre, Thursday 12:45, Columbia Lake Village community centre. Details.

Chemical engineering seminar: Julia Greer, Caltech, “Mechanical Properties of Materials at Nano-Scale”, Thursday 3:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 307.

Philosophy colloquium: Penelope Maddy, University of California at Irvine, “Naturalism, Transcendentalism and Therapy”, Thursday 3:30, Humanities room 373. Also, “Thin Realism”, Friday 2:00, Perimeter Institute.

Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program information session Thursday 4:00, 295 Hagey Boulevard. Details.

Fundamental analysis seminar on investments in the current environment, organized by Wirex, Thursday 4:30, Math and Computer room 4021.

Fine arts graduating student exhibition, “As the Crow Flies”, opening reception Thursday 5:00 to 8:00, East Campus Hall; exhibition through April 10 in Render art gallery.

Aftab Patla Memorial Cup recreational hockey game and kinesiology department fund-raiser Thursday 5:00 p.m., Columbia Icefield; get-together at Bombshelter pub follows. Details.

‘Waterloo Bell — Bell for Kepler’ lecture by artist Royden Rabinowitch, at Institute for Quantum Computing, 475 Wes Graham Way, Thursday 7:00 p.m. Details.

Yo' Couch Magic Show. Drama student and magician Shawn DeSouza-Coelho raising funds for an exchange with Calabria, Italy. Thursday 7:30 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, admission $5.

Conrad Grebel University College Bechtel Lectures: Ched Meyers and Elaine Enns, “Restorative Justice and Theology”, Thursday-Friday 7:30 p.m., Grebel great hall. Details.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel University College, breakfast seminar: “Communication in a Family Business” Friday 7 a.m., Waterloo Inn.

11th Annual Financial Econometrics Conference sponsored by Centre for Advanced Studies in Finance, Friday, Davis Centre rooms 1301 and 1302. Details.

Federation of Students general meeting Friday 1:00, Student Life Centre great hall. Details.

International Year of Astronomy lecture: William E. Harris, McMaster University, “Galileo, Shakespeare and Van Gogh: Creative Reactions to the End of the World” Friday 7:00 p.m., CEIT room 1015.

UW Choir spring concert “Voices of Light” Friday 8 p.m., St. Louis Church, Allen Street East, tickets $10 (students $8).

Warrior Weekend activities in the Student Life Centre, Friday and Saturday evenings: movies, food, crafts, dance show, UW Idol. Details.

Environment and Business Conference hosted by Centre for Environment and Business, Saturday 8:00 to 4:00, South Campus Hall and other buildings. Details.

TVO's AgendaCamp with Steve Paikin, Sunday 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Davis Centre. Live broadcast Monday 8 p.m. Details.

Positions available

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

• Director, client services, information systems and technology, USG 16
• Hardware specialist/lab instructor, electrical and computer, nanotechnology engineering, USG 8-11
• Associate director, Velocity, USG 11 (one-year secondment or contract)

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