Monday, June 21, 2010

  • Some high points of the 100th Convocation
  • Senate asked to close informatics institute
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Hawking in black surrounded by students in black]

Physicist Stephen Hawking made a rare public appearance at the reception following Waterloo's Convocation ceremony yesterday morning at the Perimeter Institute. He's seen chatting with the newly hooded MSc students in the "Perimeter Scholars International" program. Institute director Neil Turok, a former colleague of Hawking at Cambridge, is standing at left. Organizers had expected another VIP at the ceremony — Ontario lieutenant-governor David Onley — but he was ill and unable to attend. The unusual Sunday ceremony saw 28 degrees awarded; one of the recipients, Imogen Wright, spoke as valedictorian on behalf of the graduating class.

Some high points of the 100th Convocation

Here are some highlights of the Friday and Saturday Convocation sessions, for the mathematics and engineering faculties, with names that weren’t available in time for Friday morning’s Daily Bulletin:

  • Elyot Grant, graduating with a BMath degree in computer science and combinatorics and optimization, was the valedictorian at Friday’s ceremony, speaking on behalf of new math graduates. Grant also received this year’s alumni gold medal for the faculty of mathematics.
  • Valedictorians for engineering were Stefan Nespoli, graduating in civil engineering (morning ceremony), and Gajan Sathananthan, graduating in systems design (afternoon ceremony).
  • A Governor General’s Silver Medal, recognizing top academic achievement for a bachelor’s degree graduate, was presented to Zhe Zhu, receiving a BMath in actuarial science.
  • Another Governor General’s Silver Medal was presented to Ali Kazerani, graduating in electrical engineering, who also received the George Dufault Medal for Excellence in Communication.
  • The J. W. Graham Medal in Computing and Innovation was presented to Steven Woods, Waterloo site director for Google Inc., who holds master’s and PhD degrees from UW and was previously founder of several companies, including
  • The alumni gold medal for engineering went to Sandeep Koshy, who graduated with a BASc in chemical engineering.
  • The Albert Sherwood Barber Medal for “best overall work term and academic performance” was presented to Arun Das of mechatronics engineering.
  • An award for “outstanding achievement in graduate studies” was given to Lin Cai, whose PhD was in electrical and computer engineering, and to Reza Dorrigiv, receiving a PhD in computer science.

Earlier in the week, two other “outstanding achievement” awards were presented: on Wednesday to Daniel Guttentag, receiving a master’s degree in tourism policy and planning, and on Thursday to Joanna Jacob as she received her PhD in sociology.

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Senate asked to close informatics institute

The university senate will see a report today that says “all activities” of the Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research should “cease until such time as a strategic assessment of HI activities at UW be undertaken”.

The recommendation comes from a committee, chaired by associate vice-president (academic) Geoff McBoyle, that was asked to do a review of the centre after its first five years of operation. The committee is recommending to senate “that WIHIR not be renewed in its present form”.

The WIHIR report is on the agenda for senate’s monthly meeting today (4:00, Needles Hall room 3001) along with such diverse items as a revised policy statement on graduate student funding and a report from the provost on what was discussed at last month’s executive council retreat.

“WIHIR has been very successful,” says the report, “in promoting awareness of the role and importance of HI in health matters through its seminars, symposia and bootcamps. Through these activities WIHIR has broadened understanding of HI issues by members of health related organizations, the private sector and students.” It adds that external reviewers “were unanimous in their praise” of these activities, and it notes the “enthusiasm and commitment” of WIHIR director Dominic Covvey in building connections and a profile for Waterloo in the world of HI.

But the institute has been much less successful in reaching the “ambitious” goal, stated when it was begun in 2003, of generating “a high level of research output” and “major partnerships with industry” through connecting health informatics researchers into teams.

“The level of team research projects under the auspices of WIHIR appears to be considerably less than that aimed for,” say McBoyle and his colleagues. “WIHIR did create a community  of those with an interest in HI although not as extensive as originally envisioned from a research perspective. The high quality of research that existed in 2003 remains largely a result of each individual’s own research. . . .

“The research hub of WIHIR is not only very small but, perhaps more importantly, is not representative of the wider community of regular faculty members in HI related fields.  While most HI researchers across campus know of WIHIR, few chose to involve WIHIR in their scholarly pursuits.”

The report also says that even the seminars and bootcamps have been “conducted without reference to academic units at UW that offer HI-related programs. . . . No structure or culture of linkage has been formed between WIHIR and HI related academic programs.”

Waterloo does need “a clearly defined primary contact point for external groups” for health informatics research, says the report, hinting at conflict between WIHIR’s director and the executive director of university health research, who is based in the research office in Needles Hall. “Without smooth collegial communication, the problems of overlapping activities will continue.”

Rather than keep WIHIR going, says the report, senate should ask the vice-president (university research) to start “a strategic planning process to determine how UW might systematically position itself to create more impact and synergy in the field of health informatics through research, training and knowledge transfer”.


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Link of the day

Summer is here

When and where

Pre-enrolment for winter 2011 undergraduate courses, June 21-27 on Quest.

Co-op job rankings for “main group” students close 2 p.m., results 4 p.m.

Organizational and Human Development speaker series launch: Garry Watanabe, “The Inside Edge: Mental  Fitness Skills for High Performance” 3:00, Humanities Theatre. Details.

Career workshop: “Success on the Job” Tuesday 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Deep Saini, dean of environment, farewell open house  Tuesday 2:30 to 4:00, Environment I room 347.

25-Year Club annual reception Tuesday 6:00, Physical Activities Complex, by invitation, information ext. 32078.

Wilfrid Laurier University convocation June 23, two ceremonies in Brantford. Details.

Centre for Teaching Excellence open classroom session for AFM 331, Wednesday 11:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

QPR suicide prevention program training session Wednesday 12:00, Math and Computer room 4068, register ext. 33528.

Jake Thiessen, school of pharmacy, retirement reception Wednesday 3:00 to 5:00, Pharmacy building 7th floor, RSVP ext. 84499.

Lorraine Nesbitt, counselling services, retirement reception Wednesday 3:30 to 6:00, University Club, RSVSP cbernard@

Centre for International Governance Innovation dinner followed by panel discussion, “Danger, Disaster and Deadlines: Canadians Reporting from Abroad” Wednesday 5:30, 57 Erb Street West. Details.

Department of biology public lecture: Trevor Charles, “The Science of Synthetic Biology”, Wednesday 7:00, Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 302.

Innovators in Action speaker series sponsored by Social Innovation Generation: Bruce MacDonald, Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, Wednesday 7:00, The Museum, 10 King Street West, Kitchener. Details.

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

International spouses monthly gathering, tour of Brubacher House museum, Thursday 12:45 p.m., meet at community centre, Columbia Lake Village. Details.

Staff career workshop: “Trends in Leadership from UW Recruiters” Friday 9:00, Tatham Centre. Details.

Canada Day holiday Thursday, July 1; UW additional holiday Friday, July 2; offices and most services closed, classes not held. Canada Day celebrations on the north campus, children’s activities, music, arts and crafts fair, fireworks, 2 to 11 p.m. Details.

The Queen visits Research In Motion facilities in Waterloo, Monday, July 5, 11 a.m. Details.

PhD oral defences

Psychology. Tara Elton, “Sensory Beliefs about ‘Light’ and ‘Low Tar’ Cigarettes Influence the Belief That ‘Light’ and ‘Low Tar’ Cigarettes Are Less Harmful.” Supervisor, Geoff Fong. On display in the faculty of arts, PAS 2434. Oral defence Tuesday, June 29, 10:00 a.m., PAS building room 3026. (Information omitted when previously published.)

Electrical and computer engineering. Javid Jaffari, “Statistical Analysis and Design for Yield in Nanometer VLSI.” Supervisors, Mohab Anis and Karim Karim. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Wednesday, June 30, 2:00 p.m., CEIT room 3142.

Civil and environmental engineering. Weiwei Du, “Modeling Volatile Organic Sulfur Components in Anaerobic Digestion.” Supervisor, Wayne Parker. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Tuesday, July 6, 9:30 a.m., Engineering II room 1307G.

Friday's Daily Bulletin