Wednesday, October 28, 2009

  • Flu update: vaccinations today for some
  • Flu update: when employees are sick
  • Protein researcher gives two lectures
  • Go boom, and other notes for today
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs


'It's the library's chance to show its appreciation for students, faculty and staff,' says communications librarian Nancy Collins, announcing celebrations this morning in Davis and Porter. She adds: "We're highlighting the connection that students and others have to the library," including 14,000 visitors to the libraries each day.

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Flu update: vaccinations today for some

Vaccinations against the H1N1 influenza start today at UW's health services clinic, after an eagerly-awaited shipment of the vaccine arrived yesterday.

"Health services has hired an additional nurse to assist our staff in immunization over the next six weeks," says Barbara Schumacher, the department's director. She said nurses gave each other their flu shots yesterday and are ready to go, serving members of "priority" groups first.

Says a memo that she's sending out this morning: "Students, union members, staff and faculty who fall in the groups which are recommended to receive priority are invited to come to Health Services Monday to Friday between the hours of 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 and 4:00 p.m., to receive adjuvanted H1N1 flu vaccine on a first-come, first-served basis.

"Flu clinics in the Student Life Centre are scheduled for November 18, 19 and 20 and are open to everyone in our community, families and visitors who are interested in receiving the H1N1 adjuvanted vaccine. Please bring your health card, WatCard or driver’s license with you to the clinic."

There will also be evening clinics, initially "by invitation to those who work/study in health-related, child care and residential settings", and to be expanded as more vaccine arrives. Updated details will be posted on the UW influenza web site.

The priority groups for vaccinations right now include "individuals with chronic medical conditions", health care workers, pregnant women and people who care for infants.

Children from 6 months to 5 years old are also officially a priority group, but health services isn't well prepared to handle children, the memo says, suggesting that they be taken to public clinics held by the Waterloo Region health department. Those clinics are to start next week. There's more information about vaccinations in general on the Public Health Canada web site.

Meanwhile, as the profile of H1N1 rises in the media every day, associate provost Catharine Scott told UW's board of governors yesterday that 91 students reported in last week to say they would be missing class and assignments because of “flu-like symptoms”. That number isn't very reliable because people can mistake a cold for the flu, or one kind of flu for another, but gives some indication that influenza has definitely arrived at Waterloo, she said.

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Flu update: when employees are sick

There have been some questions about the memo that was sent to UW staff and faculty members earlier this month about the importance of reporting when they are absent from work with an illness that might be the flu.

“Occupational Health is tracking influenza-like illness and needs to know the numbers of employees ill,” said the memo from the human resources department. “Supervisors (or delegate) are to report influenza-like illnesses daily.” The memo didn’t explicitly mention the “doctor’s certificates” that are generally required when a UW employee is off work for five days or longer. But it’s intended to mean that such a certificate isn’t required for an absence that can be blamed on the H1N1 flu, say Barbara Schumacher, UW director of health services, and Janet Passmore, associate provost (human resources).

Schumacher noted that health services, and medical facilities in general, don’t want to be issuing such notes. The advice from health authorities is that, except in special circumstances, people with the flu should stay home, rest and take over-the-counter medications, rather than coming to doctors' offices where the main thing they'll accomplish is to spread the disease faster.

Passmore noted that a doctor’s certificate is not just to prove that an employee has been legitimately ill, but to confirm that he or she is ready to come back to work after being away for a number of days. In the case of the H1N1 flu, that won’t be necessary, because the course of the disease is well known: in almost all cases, after a few unpleasant days, the fever and other symptoms go away, the cough starts to improve, and the individual can soon get back to work. (“You may have fatigue and a persistent cough for several weeks,” said the memo, “but you may return to work because you are no longer contagious to others 24 hours after your fever is gone and you are feeling better.”)

Besides, under the procedure announced in the memo, the sick employee will already have been in touch with someone from UW’s occupational health office, which has been assigned to make contact with everybody reporting a possible case of flu. “Occupational Health will be tracking the number of people away from work with influenza-like illness symptoms,” the memo noted.

So a doctor’s certificate isn’t required if occupational health lists the cause of the absence as flu. For other medical problems that keep an employee off work for five days or longer, there is no change and a return-to-work certificate is still required, Passmore said.

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Protein researcher gives two lectures

Peter Walter, a noted cell and protein researcher, will share his passion for science with local high school students at a talk in the Humanities Theatre this morning.

Walter, a molecular biologist and biochemist, will give a 10 a.m. lecture entitled “Adventure Cell Biology: A Journey Through the Building Blocks of the Cell”. He will also deliver an afternoon public lecture, “Intracellular Signaling and Protein Quality Control”, starting at 12:30. Admission is free to both talks.

"We are pleased to have a noted scientist like Dr. Walter help us generate excitement in the sciences with his lecture on cells and proteins," said George Dixon, biology professor and UW vice-president (university research). "His talk will certainly engage young minds with his knowledge of science."

Protein folding and targeting is the basis of Walter's research. All living things are made up of cells, essentially masses of molecules, which carry out all the functions of life. For cells to work properly, the molecules have to be organized and localized correctly like the components of a machine. Cells can also recycle themselves. Many of the chemicals that make up the components are used again, even when a particular component wears out. Walter's laboratory at the University of California at San Francisco aims to understand how proteins, the key molecular components, become properly localized within a cell — a process that is essential for maintaining order and compartmentalization in all living cells.

Primary sponsor for both talks is the Gairdner Foundation, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. The foundation was created to recognize and reward the achievements of medical researchers whose work contributes to significantly improving the quality of human life. Out of the 298 individuals from 13 countries who have received the Gairdner Award, 76 have subsequently gone on to win the Nobel Prize, including three in 2009. Walter will receive the Canada Gairdner International Award for 2009 at a formal celebration next week.

Additional sponsors for this morning’s high school talk include the Government of Ontario, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canada Life, Great-West Life, London Life, and Sanofi Aventis/Sanofi Pasteur, as well as UW. The afternoon lecture is sponsored by the Government of Ontario, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, GE Healthcare, Merck Frosst, Burroughs Welcome Fund and UW.

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[Nitrogen already vapourizing]Go boom, and other notes for today

It's time for smashing pumpkins. Oops, sorry: it's time for an annual event, organized by the Chemistry Club, "designed to review gas cylinder safety and to provide tangible evidence for the destructive power of compressed gases." In the week of Hallowe'en, the best possible way to make such a demonstration is with pumpkins, says chemistry technician Scott Nicoll, though he acknowledges that something very similar has been tried with snowmen in the past, with interesting results. He'll be conducting "the annual pumpkin expansion" at 2:00 today on the Village green, an area where it's possible to keep outside a generous safety perimeter and still see the satisfying eruptions. Nicoll is seen at right pumping liquid nitrogen into a pumpkin's steel liner as part of last year's demonstration.

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin referred to Mike Makahnouk as president of the Graduate Student Association; but, well, he isn't. Makahnouk is a past president of the GSA (he served in 2005-06) and a current member of the association's board of directors, as well as a PhD student in earth and environmental sciences. The GSA was asked to send a member to the working group on the organization of UW's student services department, and "I opted to delegate the responsibility to Mike," says current GSA president Jonathan Aycan, "due to his extensive experience."

[Seglenieks]Among the graduates at Saturday afternoon’s Convocation ceremony was Frank Seglenieks (left), receiving his PhD in civil engineering for a thesis titled “Creation of a Gridded Time Series of Hydrological Variables for Canada”. He’s perhaps better known for his role as coordinator of the UW weather station, and something of a media personality commenting on sun, cold and snow. “After eight and a half years doing it part-time,” he reports, “I finally finished my PhD. I'm officially on a one-year leave of absence from UW while I do a post-doc with Environment Canada. As there is nobody who is really able to do what I do with the weather station (and because I love doing it so much) I have agreed to keep working with it on a volunteer basis. I've tried to make this transition as seamless as possible to the public; however, the astute may realize that the summaries are not coming out as quickly after the first of the month and the blog might not have as many entries. Also as I'm not as in touch with the local weather. For instance, I have no idea if any snowflakes have been seen around Waterloo so far this year.” Answer: no; that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

And finally, here are a couple of notes left over from last week's "town hall meeting" for UW faculty and staff. Among the questions asked from the floor of the Humanities Theatre: “What would you say to all of the recently minted PhD graduates?” The reply, acknowledging the current financial pressures in universities, came from UW president David Johnston: “It’s a tough situation. I would say, stay the course. It’s so important that we have people who are prepared to undertake academic careers for our society. But I would advise them, be as flexible as possible,” for example in knowing technological and teaching techniques.

Another questioner observed that the university is concerned about pandemic flu these days, “but I’m concerned about the general health and cleanliness of this campus,” even the presence of rodents. Is action being considered? Said Johnston: “I’m not aware of any dramatic deterioration.” If you do see such a thing, on campus, he said, report it. “We can’t tolerate situations where we’re actually putting people’s health at risk.”


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Have your picture taken and added to an "e-card" at Library Day today, organizers suggest. Other celebrations are noted on a website.

Link of the day

40 years of the Internet

When and where

Employer interviews for winter term co-op jobs (main group) ends tomorrow; ranking opens Friday 1:00 p.m. Details.

Pre-enrolment course selection week for spring 2010 undergraduate courses, through November 1. Details.

Used coat and jacket sale in support of the United Way, final day, 11:00 to 3:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Student ‘town hall’ meeting to discuss student space and possible new construction, 12:00, Student Life Centre great hall.

Free noon concert: Soprano Sandra Tucker and pianist Beth Ann DeSousa, “Opera and Beyond”, 12:30, Conrad Grebel UC chapel.

‘Introduction to RefWorks’ workshop in UW library 1:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Water Environment Association of Ontario presents “Risk Assessment 101”, 2:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 208.

Chemistry seminar: Christian Pellerin, Université de Montréal, “Electrospinning and Dynamic Characterization of Polymers” 2:30, Chemistry II room 361.

Career workshops today: “Interview Skills, Preparing for Questions” 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208; “Work Search Strategies for International Students” 4:30, Tatham 2218. Details.

Columbia Lake Health Club “lifestyle learning” session: “How to Read a Food Label” 5:30, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

‘Dimensions of Suicide’ free community forum tonight 7:00, conference all day Thursday, at Sunshine Centre, Luther Village, Waterloo. Details.

Staff association annual general meeting Thursday 9:00 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302. Agenda online.

Blogging workshop sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, Thursday 12:00, Humanities room 334.

Nutrition and health awareness series: “Physical Activity” presentation Thursday 12:00 at REVelation, Ron Eydt Village; 5:00 at Mudie’s, Village I.

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

International Spouses monthly meeting: Elisabeth Adrian of UW career services, “Get your dream job with a super resumé and cover letter” Thursday 12:45, Columbia Lake Village community centre. Details.

Career workshop: “Interview Skills, Selling Your Skills” Thursday 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

K-W Symphony “Intersections” concert, “Nico’s Choice”, announced for Thursday in the Humanities Theatre, has been relocated and rescheduled.

Deadline for applications for winter term admission to UW is October 30. Details.

Last day for 50 per cent tuition fee refund (fall term courses), October 30. Drop (penalty 1) period ends, November 6.

Propel: Centre for Population Health Impact, formerly Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation and Population Health Research Group, open house Friday 12:30 to 2:00, Lyle Hallman Institute building.

Earth sciences alumnus Jim Reimer speaks on “North American Shale Gas, a True Game Changer” Friday 12:00, CEIT room 1013.

St. Jerome’s University John J. Wintermeyer Lecture: Lori G. Beaman, University of Ottawa, “Religious Freedom at a Crossroads: Multiculturalism or Pluralism?” Friday 7:30 p.m., Siegfried Hall. Details.

Hagey Hall of the Humanities first floor closed to all access, Saturday 8 a.m. to noon (X-rays in use for utilities maintenance).

Hallowe’en at Federation Hall Saturday, tickets $6 advance (Federation of Students office, Student Life Centre), $10 at door.

St. Paul’s University College presents Paul Polak, “Out of Poverty”, address, reception and book signing, November 5, 7:30 p.m., MacKirdy Hall.

School of Environment, Enterprise and Development forum, “Business Not as Usual”, keynote by federal industry minister Tony Clement, November 6, Federation Hall. Details.

Fall open house for prospective students and their families, November 7, 10:00 to 4:00; information booths at Student Life Centre, tours, academic presentations; also at Architecture building. Details.

Positions available

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

• Academic integrity coordinator, engineering undergraduate office, USG 6
• Administrative coordinator, Institute for Quantum Computing, USG 5
• Associate director, partnerships and programs, Social Innovation Generation, faculty of arts, USG 11
• Stewardship officer, principal gifts, development and alumni affairs, USG 9-11

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin