Thursday, December 2, 2010

  • 'Math nerd' now at the faculty's helm
  • Talking teaching • Orchestra's free concert
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Goulden]'Math nerd' now at the faculty's helm

Ian Goulden, the dean of mathematics, was inducted last week as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada — a reminder that he’s a scholar and researcher as well as, since he took the dean’s job last July 1, one of Waterloo’s senior administrators.

Goulden (left) “is a superb algebraic combinatorialist,” said the citation issued by the RSC when his Fellowship was announced earlier this year. “He has had a profound effect on an area of mathematics that, increasingly, has been seen to deal with structures central to many other parts of mathematics. Much of his research has now entered into standard use within the discipline itself, as well as in applications to the mathematical sciences.”

(Also honoured as Fellows at the November 27 ceremony were Michael Yovanovich, professor of mechanical and mechatronics engineering; François Paré of French studies; Richard Cleve of computer science; Janusz Pawliszyn of chemistry; Lee Smolin of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, cross-appointed to Waterloo’s physics and astronomy department; and Savvas Chamberlain, who founded Dalsa Corp. while he was a faculty member in electrical and computer engineering. In addition, former Waterloo president David Johnston, now Governor General of Canada, was inducted as an Honorary Fellow of the society.)

Goulden calls himself “a math nerd” and “not an organizational genius” — but says he felt “some group responsibility” to be available as a candidate for the dean’s job. “We have to have a real live pool of candidates to choose from,” he said in a recent interview, and after twice serving as chair of the combinatorics and optimization department, he “wasn’t reluctant” to be considered.

“It’s our faculty,” says Goulden. “If we can’t find leadership from within, that’s disappointing.”

He’s been at Waterloo his whole adult life: as an undergraduate starting in 1972, then a grad student, and finally a faculty member in C&O since he finished his PhD in 1979. Now his curriculum vitae includes academic articles with titles like “Transitive factorizations in the hyperoctahedral group”. Early in his career he was co-author, with colleague David Jackson, of the textbook Combinatorial Enumeration, which is now something of a classic. But he also likes to stress the years when active involvement in the math faculty took a back seat to helping raise his two daughters.

In the dean’s role, he feels the demand for a lot of face time, and says life on the fifth floor of the Math and Computer building has been “pretty frantic. I’ve met a lot of people. People send you things that require awkward decisions, and those are the ones you have to take the most care to sort out.”

After his early months in office, Goulden says he has “been struck by how many people we have who care so much about this institution. They feel it’s a really good place to make a career.” As a result, he’s “very much conscious of the tremendous responsibility that I have. If I, and others, do our jobs well, we can translate all that good feeling into something really positive.”

Actually, that’s the way he has felt about Waterloo and the math faculty ever since he was a high school student and wrote one of the mathematics contests that have been a major outreach tool for Waterloo over the decades. It was “so cool”, he recalls. He’s proud now of the work done by the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, which has taken the contests and other outreach programs far beyond Ontario, most recently with programs starting in India.

“I am highly aware of how really strong our students are,” says Goulden, in part because of the CEMC’s outreach. He’d like Waterloo to be acknowledged as “the leading place in Canada for math… I think we have the capability of being there.” And that doesn’t apply just to undergraduate study, where the reputation is probably most advanced; he’d like to raise this university’s profile for graduate study and research as well.

His own contribution may be limited for a while; with the heavy workload of a dean, he’s not currently teaching, he said, and managerial work is bound to get done “at the expense of my own research”. (He does still have three PhD students, however.)

Since his early years at Waterloo, “everything’s bigger and more complicated”, says the dean, and he’s persuaded that “we need some reorganizing to modernize the functioning of the faculty” — nothing fundamental, but better techniques for communicating with students, for example. Another issue on his mind is the state of the 40-year-old Math and Computer building, which “certainly doesn’t show us well when new students come in”.

Perhaps it can be improved, he suggests. “I would like the space in which we operate to be good working space.” At least he’s optimistic for the new Math 3 building, joined to MC by an overpass, which will be “coming on line” in a few months as a home for the faculty’s statistics and business programs.

One major organizational issue is the way math manages those business programs, which now make up about a third of total activity (another third of students are in computer science and the remaining third in more conventional math fields). Repeated academic reviews of the math-and-business programs have said they need a formal organizational home, and Goulden says he definitely plans to address that need.

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Talking teaching • Orchestra's free concert

[Mazur, seen from behind audience]Student journalist Michael L. Davenport kindly sends this report on a significant event held yesterday: "Harvard physicist Eric Mazur spoke to a packed room of UW faculty and staff (right), in a presentation titled ‘Memorization or Understanding: Are We Teaching the Right Thing?’ The aim of the talk was to get educators to reconsider the ‘conventional methods’ of education. When Mazur first started teaching, he said, his inclination was to ‘do to my students what my professors did to me’. But after reading a paper on teaching methods in the American Journal of Physics, and conducting his own experiments, he realized that students weren't internalizing the knowledge he presented in class. His students rated him highly as a professor, and were able to solve problems, but only by rote. Given simple conceptual questions, students who had taken physics classes scarcely performed better than students who had no physics training at all. Using that as a starting point, Mazur talked about his career-long quest to be a better teacher. He stressed that education is not just about presenting information, but helping students assimilate information. He is also an advocate of using class discussion to get students teaching other students. He posited that students can be more effective at helping other students grasp concepts than teachers, because they had just grasped the concepts themselves — a student can be more aware of stumbling blocks than a professor who has long understood the material."

Orchestra @ UWaterloo will hold its free end-of-term concert tonight (8:00) in the Humanities Theatre. The title is "Three Edwards", referring to soloist Edward Cho and the composers of the two pieces he'll be playing, Edvard (okay, the spelling is slightly different) Grieg and Edward Elgar. Anna Lubiw, the computer science professor who chairs the orchestra's council, adds: "We have a rather unique situation in that our concerto competition winner will be playing on two instruments: cello and piano. He'll be playing some movements of Elgar's cello concerto and a movement of Grieg's piano concerto. This is really an amazing accomplishment! Also somewhat non-standard is the fact that he's now a WLU music student, although he was a UW Engineering student when we entered the concerto competition last January." The concert program also includes music by Brahms, Tchaikovsky (the Sleeping Beauty Ballet Suite), and Canadian composer Boyd McDonald; details and commentary are online. Conductor of the orchestra is local musician Erna Van Daele, and concertmaster (first violin) is accounting student Lucy Tong.

Waterloo Regional Police have issued a call for “assistance in identifying a [Video image of young man]male wanted in connection with a sexual assault investigation”, after a young woman was attacked early Tuesday (late Monday night) on Hazel Street. “She was approached from behind by an unknown male,” says the police announcement. “The male threatened her with a knife and forced her into a backyard where she was sexually assaulted. The victim was treated at hospital and released.” The police web site has several images taken by a surveillance camera at a nearby coffee shop, including the one at left. Police are asking for help in identifying the suspect: “late 20's or early 30's, 5'8", approximately 200 lbs., short black hair, tanned skin, facial stubble and a slight accent.”

The price of printing from computing facilities across the university will be going up as of January 1. An e-mail memo sent to students yesterday explains why: "Faculty printing facilities have evolved in recent years to become exclusively laser printing facilities. The costs associated with printing are significant and cost recovery takes into account the costs of paper, toner, networking, maintenance, and periodic replacement of printers. Despite increases in costs over the past few years we have managed to keep prices unchanged. However, in order to maintain high quality service and to reflect the recent implementation of HST, it is necessary to adjust our prices effective January 1, 2011." Single black-and-white pages will cost 10 cents, up from the current 8 cents; two-sided black-and-white pages will be 15 cents, up from 12 cents. (Prices include the Harmonized Sales Tax.) Colour printing will cost 50 cents one-sided, 80 cents two-sided, said the memo, signed by associate provost (information systems and technology) Alan George.

A software change that will affect hundreds of people across campus is less than two weeks away. “As of Monday, December 13,” says a memo from William Lewis of information systems and technology, “the official shared calendaring system for the university will be Exchange Calendar and you will no longer be able to use Bookit. In order to keep information consistent, all users and resources (meeting rooms) will be moved at the same time.” IST is telling Bookit users to continue using the present system up to Friday of next week, “as it remains the official record until information from Bookit is transferred to Exchange. The transfer of data will happen during the weekend of December 10-13.” The memo encourages users to “take advantage of one of the many types of training being offered. You can choose from hands-on SEW courses, faculty/ department-specific courses, demos and online training videos.”

And a third announcement from IST, specifically from security manager Jason Testart: "In late October, the Firefox browser add-on called Firesheep was released to the public. This tool makes it easy for any user, on unsecured wireless networks, to intercept and steal other people's browser-cookies to gain access to their accounts on sites such as Hotmail, Facebook, and Twitter. IST is aware of at least two victims of account theft from someone using Firesheep on the uw-wireless network. To protect from account theft caused by Firesheep, the campus community is strongly encouraged to avoid using the uw-wireless network in favour of the secured Eduroam network. For more information, Mike Patterson of IST has drafted an information document."


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[Tree, with boxes underneath for gifts]

'Tis the season for trees, such as this one in the lobby of the Pharmacy building. "We're having a food and toy drive," says Jenny Seguin of the Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns. "Blue ornaments represent donations from pharmacy students and silver ornaments represent donations from grad students and staff."

Link of the day

National Day in the Emirates

When and where

Imaginus poster sale December 1-2, 10:00 to 8:00, Student Life Centre.

ChaRisMa: First Waterloo Conference on Characteristics, Risks and Management of Natural Hazards, Wednesday-Friday. Details.

Ideas Start workshop: Andy Houston, “Collaborating with Audiences” 9:00 to 12:00, Stratford campus, 6 Wellington Street.

Food Justice event scheduled for March 18-20, sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, first volunteer meeting 12:00, Student Life Centre room 2139.

Student recitals by Waterloo music students, final day, 12:30, Conrad Grebel UC chapel.

‘Quantitative Research Design’ workshop sponsored by Teaching Based Research Group, 12:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Chemical engineering seminar: Alan Nelson, Dow Chemical, “Molecular Level Aspects of Hydrotreating Catalysts” 3:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Canada’s Technology Triangle international reception and dinner, speaker former ambassador Ken Taylor, 5:30, Waterloo Inn, tickets $125. Details.

Waterloo iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) information session about this year’s competition, all students welcome, 5:30, Biology I room 271.

Smart Start Series: Kayleigh Platz, communications and public affairs, “Online Privacy”, 7 p.m., Stratford campus, 6 Wellington Street.

Matthews Hall (original building) ventilation shut down Friday 7 a.m. to noon.

Sustainable transportation “awareness event”, including talk by Jeff Casello, school of planning, about the proposed Waterloo Region LRT, Friday 3:00, Environment 2 room 1001.

UW Chamber Choir and University of Guelph Choirs, “Oil & Water” with premiere performance of “Ten Thousand Rivers of Oil” by Leonard Enns, Conrad Grebel UC, Friday 8:00, First United Church, Waterloo, tickets $10 (students $5).

24-hour Games Day sponsored by Math Society, Saturday noon to Sunday noon, Math and Computer room 3001.

Engineering Jazz Band charity performance Saturday 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

University of Waterloo Choir directed by Nancy Kidd, winter concert Saturday 7:30, First United Church, Waterloo, tickets $10 (students $5).

Instrumental chamber ensembles directed by Ben Bolt-Martin, department of music, Sunday and Monday 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel UC chapel, admission free.

Last day of lectures for fall term Monday, December 6. Exams run December 9-22 (online class exams, December 10-11).

CS4U Day at School of Computer Science for students in grades 8 to 11, Tuesday. Details.

PhD oral defences

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Fahad Al-Sulaiman, “Thermodynamic Modeling and Thermoeconomic Optimization of Integrated Trigeneration Plants Using Organic Rankine Cycles.” Supervisors, Feridun Hamdullahpur and Ibrahim Dincer. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Tuesday, December 7, 2:00 p.m., Energy Research Centre room 3012.

Biology. Sanghyun Lee, “Subcellular Localization and Protein-Protein Interactions of Two Methyl Recycling Enzymes from Arabidopsis thaliana.” Supervisor, Barbara A. Moffatt. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Wednesday, December 8, 1:00 p.m., CEIT building room 2014.

Chemical engineering. Amin Reza Rajabzadeh, “Membrane Fouling During Hollow Fiber Ultrafiltration of Protein Solutions: Computational Fluid Modeling and Physiochemical Properties.” Supervisors, Christine Moresoli and Bernard Marcos. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Thursday, December 9, 9:00 a.m., Engineering 2 room 1307G.

Health studies and gerontology. Sophia Papadakis, “Evaluation of Two Multi-component Interventions for Integrating Smoking Cessation Treatments into Routine Primary Care Practice: A Cluster-Randomized Trial.” Supervisor, Paul McDonald. On display in the faculty of applied health sciences, BMH 3110. Oral defence Thursday, December 9, 9:00 a.m., Lyle Hallman Institute room 3701.

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