Friday, April 16, 2010

  • Grad students collect NSERC scholarships
  • Chemist's technique 'revolutionizes' analysis
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Camera phone shot: group of students]

More than 1,200 prospective students and their parents attended an open house at the School of Accounting and Finance on Saturday, when they had the chance to write the Accounting and Financial Management Admissions Assignment as part of the application process for September admission. Blue skies and beautiful weather greeted the big day, which was supported by scores of student volunteers. Arts student senator Reemah Khalid caught this cross-section of the volunteers on her cellphone.

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Grad students collect NSERC scholarships

Waterloo has been “extremely successful” in this year’s competition for graduate scholarships from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, says Marta Bailey, communications officer in the graduate studies office.

The office has released results from the 2010-11 competition for NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships as well as the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships. “These awards,” says Bailey, “provide financial support to high-calibre scholars who are engaged in masters or doctoral programs in the natural sciences or engineering. This year Waterloo received 131 awards; 77 of these awards were for master’s students (a success rate of 81%), and 52 of the awards were for doctoral students.

“The recipients who choose to hold their awards at the University of Waterloo will be offered an additional $10,000 President’s Graduate Scholarship.” (Other Waterloo winners can be expected to do their graduate study at other universities both in Canada and abroad.)

She notes that in another NSERC category, graduating PhD students from Waterloo received 14 NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowships this year. “The Postdoctoral Fellowships program provides support to promising researchers at a pivotal time in their careers. The Fellowships are also intended to secure a supply of highly qualified Canadians with leading-edge scientific and research skills for Canadian industry, government, and universities.”

At the pinnacle of NSERC graduate awards are the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships, which aim “to attract and retain world-class doctoral students by supporting students who demonstrate a high standard of scholarly achievement and leadership skills in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, and health fields. The prestigious award is valued at $50,000 per year, for up to three years.”

This year, Bailey reports, three Waterloo students are recipients of the Vaniers:

• “Deny Hamel enthusiastically began his research at the University of Waterloo in the department of physics and astronomy, one of the strongest such departments in Canada. He now studies at the Institute for Quantum Computing,which is the largest institute of its kind in the world.  Deny is currently working on a collaborative project where he is applying his knowledge and experience with nonlinear optics in quasi phase matched materials.”

• “Stephen Inglis also started his research in the department of physics and astronomy, and will be doing his research at the Guelph-Waterloo Physics Institute. Stephen is a gifted physicist and a promising researcher. He is a strong collaborator both in his extended research group, the ‘Quantum Matters’, and in other groups around the university.”

• “Ivan Kantor is currently pursuing his PhD degree in chemical engineering. Ivan has already proven to be a valuable contributor to his department and currently serves on the executive of the Engineering Graduate Studies Association. His proposed research project deals with the impact of industry on society and the environment, an issue of high importance for Canada.”

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Chemist's technique 'revolutionizes' analysis

by Britt Erickson, for the American Chemical Society

In the 1980s, while working at Utah State University, Janusz Pawliszyn tried to get funding for research on polymer-coated optical fibres that could extract both volatile and nonvolatile analytes from complex media in liquid or gas phase. As long as equilibrium is reached, the amount of analyte extracted by the fibre would be proportional to its concentration in the sample. Pawliszyn’s idea was to transfer the fibre to the injection port of a chromatographic system, where the analyte would be de-sorbed from the fibre and analyzed.

If he could pull it off, it would simplify sample preparation and eliminate the need for organic solvents. But his proposals were continually rejected by U.S. funding agencies because most scientists didn’t think the technique would have sufficient detection limits.

Pawliszyn didn’t give up, however. Instead, he moved to Canada and Waterloo, and with support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, he began making his own equipment. A few years later, that original idea led him to develop a solid-phase microextraction (SPME) device, which incorporates the fibres in a microsyringe needle.

Now Pawliszyn, a professor of chemistry at Waterloo, as well as a University Professor and Canada Research Chair, is being honoured for his invention of  SPME with the American Chemical Society's Separations Science and Technology Award. Pawliszyn will present the award address before the ACS’s Division of Analytical Chemistry.

The technique “has revolutionized many areas of sampling and analysis,” says Daniel W. Armstrong, a professor of chemistry at the University of Texas, Arlington.

SPME has gained widespread use in flavour and fragrance, food and beverage, and environmental applications. The technique is also increasingly being used in forensics, toxicology, homeland security, and biological applications. “SPME was used to sample the toxic compounds present in the air at ‘ground zero’ at the World Trade Center after the events of 9/11,” Armstrong notes.

Pawliszyn is “one of the stars of the separation science community,” says Norman J. Dovichi, a professor of chemistry at the University of Washington, Seattle. His paper on SPME has been the second most highly cited research paper published in Analytical Chemistry since 1990, Dovichi notes.

Although Pawliszyn is best known for his work on SPME, he is one of the “top 10 most broadly cited analytical chemists ever,” says Purnendu (Sandy) Dasgupta, a chemistry professor at the University of Texas, Arlington. That recognition “testifies that his contribution to analytical chemistry is broad-based, long-lasting, and not just based on the single discovery of SPME,” he says.

One of the most important aspects of his work is making a positive impact on the world, Pawliszyn says. “In high school, I recognized that progress in science and particularly chemistry will fundamentally improve the quality of life,” he says. As a result, he has made it a priority to focus on the practical aspects of SPME to make it as widely applicable as possible.

When he is not developing highly automated and integrated instrumentation for isolating analytes from complex matrices, Pawliszyn enjoys traveling the world and exploring different cultures. A native of Poland, he enjoys hiking, bicycling, jogging, and playing soccer.


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Link of the day

April 16 at Virginia Tech

When and where

Winter term examinations through April 23. Schedule.

Extended library hours through April 23: Davis Centre library open 24 hours a day, except Sunday 2 to 8 a.m.; Dana Porter Library open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Details.

Centre for Aboriginal Learning, St. Paul’s University College, government funding announcement 10:30 a.m., by invitation.

Electronic equipment recycling dropoff Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., central stores, East Campus Hall; information 519-624-3300.

OnStage Dance Competition Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m., Humanities Theatre.

University senate monthly meeting Monday 4:00, Needles Hall room 3001.

Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Cooperative Education seminar: Judene Pretti, WatPD program, Tuesday 12:30, Tatham Centre room 2218.

Luv Lulu, Hate Cancer sale of used workout wear, to benefit Canadian Cancer Society, Tuesday 2:00 to 8:00, TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard. Donate items in advance at TechTown, get chance to win $500 Lululemon shopping spree.

Book launch: Polish Orphans of Tengeru by Lynne Taylor, department of history, Tuesday 5:00 to 7:00, University Club, RSVP k4king@ founder Frank Warren speaks about his site and signs copies of his books, Tuesday 7:00, Humanities Theatre, sponsored by Arts Student Union, tickets $35 (arts students $25) at Humanities box office.

Discovery Days in Health Sciences event for high schoolers, Wednesday. Details.

Workshop for postdoctoral fellows: “How to Apply Successfully for Academic Positions” Wednesday 12:00, to register e-mail marta@

Annual used book sale sponsored by Canadian Federation of University Women, proceeds to scholarship funds, April 23 (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and 24 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), First United Church, King and William Streets. Details.

Bill Oldfield, library, retirement coffee break April 23, 10:00, Dana Porter Library staff lounge, RSVP ajdandyk@

Earth Day Eco-Showcase co-sponsored by UW faculty of environment, April 24, 1:00 to 5:00, Kitchener city hall. Details.

Campus-wide utility shutdown April 24 at 4 p.m. to April 25 at 8 p.m.: all main campus buildings, no heat or hot water; buildings in north and east areas, including Villages, SLC, Optometry, Davis, DWE and  CPH, also no electrical power.

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