Friday, June 25, 2010

  • Dean will work hard at leisure research
  • Astronomer Hawking pays a visit to IQC
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Dean will work hard at leisure research

Roger Mannell is sure he’s going to take some vacation time this summer, pretty soon after he finishes his five-year term as dean of applied health sciences.

“I am a professor of leisure studies!” he laughs, chatting about his plans after June 30, when his five-year term ends and Susan Elliott arrives from McMaster University to take his place.

[Mannell]Vacation, yes, he says, mentioning the family cottage. Sabbatical leave, yes, to help him move back into the full-time academic mindset after his administrative service. And then, a few years of teaching and research before he moves into retirement, facing that transition with all the expertise he’s developed over a career of studying issues related to “aging”.

But first — well, two days after the dean’s term ends, while people back in Waterloo are kicking back over the long Canada Day weekend, Mannell (right) is scheduled to be at the lectern and microphone for a major speech at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. He’s been invited to give the keynote address as PolyU launches an “Institute of Active Ageing” with an interdisciplinary symposium.

“It’s an effort to develop and be part of an international network,” says Mannell, talking about both PolyU’s ambitions and his hope to develop more worldwide links for AHS at Waterloo. Much of the credit for the connection with Hong Kong, he says, goes to George Woo, formerly of Waterloo’s school of optometry, now dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at PolyU.

Once the Hong Kong gig is finished, Mannell will be working on another keynote talk, this one for the Retirement Planning Association of Canada at its conference in Toronto in October. He’ll speak on “the leisure and lifestyle side of planning for retirement”, he says, reminding professionals that their clients can’t sensibly plan for their post-65 finances until they’ve made decisions — ones they can live with — about where to settle, how to spend their time and what their priorities are.

That’s precisely the point of a research centre launched this spring by the Royal Bank and Waterloo academics, led by Mannell himself. An announcement at the time promised that the centre “will provide Canadian boomers with relevant information and innovative ideas to enable their retirement planning and retirement living.”

That’s very much in line, Mannell says, with the question he likes to ask about all the research he’s involved with: “How do you make sure it has an impact?” That outcome is demonstrated, he says, through such AHS projects as the Schlegel-University of Waterloo Research Institute for Aging, which connects academic work directly with institutions where older people are actually living. It’s one of several agencies that, in total, mean that “half the mass” of the faculty of AHS is in research centres rather than academic departments.

When Mannell moved into the dean’s office in 2005, he recalls, “I inherited a faculty that was quite small but had a focus and was of excellent quality.” Since then, “a lot of my deanship has been cheerleading” as “some really good initiatives” have come along, in fields from aging to public health, nutrition, and environmental health (with links to Waterloo’s environment faculty).

“Our four or five-year plan,” he said, “is to create a school of public health. That’s our number one fund-raising priority.” No doubt, he added, Elliott will bring her own ideas and her own way of responding to other ideas that bubble up in AHS — her field of specialty is medical geography, and she’ll be cross-appointed to the geography department.

She may be surprised, Mannell said, as she realizes some of the responsibilities Waterloo deans have: they don’t just manage their own faculties, but “play more of a role in university-wide decisions, strategic policy decisions” through deans’ council and executive council. It’s been a complex experience, he said, but “I didn’t have any hair to start with, so I couldn’t lose that!”

As he turns back to full-time research, and looks ahead to getting into the classroom, Mannell is finishing a second edition of his textbook on the social psychology of leisure, done jointly with a colleague at Pennsylvania State (and “now we have brought in a third author,” to make sure there’s continuity for future editions).

He’s making plans for a visiting professorship at the University of Georgia next winter, and continuing his involvement in a Harvard Medical School project training mental health professionals for work with refugees. In short, there’s no short of work to do. “I’m finishing up my term as dean with energy and enthusiasm!” said Mannell.

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[Boomerang presentation]
Astronomer Hawking pays a visit to IQC

Three days after making his big public appearance at the Perimeter Institute, celebrity physicist Stephen Hawking visited the university itself and was presented with… a boomerang.

“A wooden boomerang might seem like a peculiar gift to give the world’s most famous scientist,” writes Colin Hunter of the Institute for Quantum Computing, which entertained Hawking on Wednesday at its temporary quarters in the north campus Research Advancement Centre. “But Hawking immediately understood the significance of the gift he received from his former doctoral student, IQC director Raymond Laflamme.”

Hunter explains: “A couple of decades have passed since Laflamme proved to Hawking — his PhD supervisor at the University of Cambridge — that time behaves more like an arrow than a boomerang in a contracting universe. But Hawking’s visit to IQC demonstrated that the arrow of time can sometimes bring longtime friends and colleagues full-circle.

“In the 1980s, when Hawking was writing his best-seller A Brief History of Time, Laflamme’s job was to mathematically demonstrate his mentor’s theory about what happens to time in a contracting universe. Trouble was, the math just didn’t add up. Laflamme instead proved that Hawking’s theory — that time reverses direction — could not be true.

“Hawking conceded the math was correct, and personalized Laflamme’s copy of the book with the inscription: ‘To Raymond, who showed me that the arrow of time is not a boomerang.’”

On Wednesday, Laflamme gave his former mentor the grand tour of IQC’s labs, introducing him to the faculty, students, and staff of the institute. “These are the people that allow great science to happen,” Laflamme said. UW president David Johnston and provost Feridun Hamdullahpur stopped by to meet the renowned astrophysicist.

During a small reception, Laflamme presented Hawking with the boomerang (photo above). It’s engraved with an optimistic message: “Come back soon!”

On Sunday, Hawking dropped in at a reception following the university’s special Convocation ceremony at Perimeter, where he is visiting for the summer, and gave a public address to a packed audience in Perimeter’s Theatre of Ideas. Speaking through a voice synthesizer, he recounted his research, life and times, saying that it has been a glorious period to contribute to humanity’s picture of the universe.

Said Perimeter director Neil Turok: “Stephen joins us at a particularly special moment for PI, as the research centre expansion named in his honour progresses rapidly toward completion. The Stephen Hawking Centre at Perimeter Institute will increase research capacity and provide an exceptional environment for physicists to conceive, visualize and gain an improved understanding of the nature of physical reality.”

In an official welcome to Hawking, Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty said the British scientist “is passionate about helping humanity understand the complexity of the universe. We're honoured to welcome him to Ontario and Perimeter Institute, where we are pushing the boundaries of our shared knowledge even further.”

Speaking of his excitement and enthusiasm for scientific progress, Hawking said, “The recipe is simple: Bring brilliant people together, in an inspiring and free intellectual environment, where they are encouraged to pursue ambitious and timely research. The importance of special places and special times, where magical progress can happen, cannot be overstated. It seems to me, the same ingredients are being assembled here. I am hoping, and expecting, great things will happen here.”


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Link of the day

Multicultural festival this weekend

When and where

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

‘Drop, penalty 1’ period for spring term courses ends June 25.

Eco-Eats presents the film “Food Inc.”, with guest speaker Ellen Esjardin, free snacks, 5:30 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

Warrior Weekend with food, activities, crafts, movies, performance by Engineering Jazz Band, scavenger hunt, Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m., Student Life Centre. Details.

Bojangles dance recital Saturday 12:00 and 6:00, Humanities Theatre.

Applied Health Informatics Bootcamp sponsored by Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research, Sunday-Tuesday. Details.

‘Celebrate Canada’ luncheon, University Club, Monday-Wednesday, 11:30 to 2:00, reservations ext. 33801.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Jasteena Dhillon, Harvard Law School, “Rule of Law and Justice Development in Post-Conflict: Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan” Monday 11:45, 57 Erb Street West.

Career workshop: “Exploring Your Personality Type”, first of two sessions, Monday 2:00, Tatham Centre room 1113. Details.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Dealing with Classroom Disruptions” Tuesday 12:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

‘Romance of Medicine’ audiovisual presentation on the history of medicine by Prakash K. Pispati, Mumbai, India, Tuesday 12:00, Renison UC chapel lounge, reservations ext. 28657.

Propel Centre presents Saul Shiffman, University of Pittsburgh, “How Smoking Lapses Progress to Relapse” Tuesday 3 p.m., Matthews Hall room 3119.

Mashable Meetup for social media users, sponsored by Stratford campus, Wednesday 5:30 p.m., Parlour Hotel, Stratford. 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.

Women’s volleyball “all skills development camp” for girls 12-17, July 5-9, Physical Activities Complex. Details.

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

Canadian Undergraduate Mathematics Conference hosted by Waterloo July 6-10. Details.

‘Be Engaged’ lunch-and-learn presentation for staff about student engagement, July 7, 12:00, Arts Lecture Hall room 208.

The Impact of Canada’s Oil Sands, forum with Marcel Coutu, Waterloo graduate, president of Canadian Oil Sands Limited, sponsored by faculties of engineering and science, July 8, 4:00, CEIT room 1015. Details.

Class enrolment on Quest for fall term courses: students enrolling for the first time, July 12-25; open enrolment begins July 26.

Postdoctoral fellows social gathering in Waterloo Park, July 16, 5:00 to 7:00, vegetarian and halal hot dogs at 5:30, other food welcome. Details.

PhD oral defences

Electrical and computer engineering. Ammar Saeed A Alshamrani, “Resource Management in Cognitive Radio Networks.” Supervisors, Sherman X. Shen and Liang-Liang Xie. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Thursday, July 8, 10:30 a.m., CEIT building room 3142.

Kinesiology. Janice Moreside, “The Effect of Limited Hip Mobility on the Lumbar Spine in a Young Adult Population.” Supervisor, Stuart McGill. On display in the faculty of applied health sciences, BMH 3110. Oral defence Thursday, July 8, 1:00 p.m., Matthews Hall room 3119.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Mohammad Biglarbegian, “Systematic Design of Type-2 Fuzzy Logic Systems with Applications to Modelling and Control of Robot Manipulators.” Supervisor, William Melek. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, July 9, 2:00 p.m., CEIT building room 3142.

Electrical and computer engineering. Mohammad Izadi, “Multi-Mode Pixel Architectures for Large Area Real-Time X-Ray Imaging.” Supervisor, Karim S. Karim. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, July 12, 9:00 a.m., CEIT building room 3142.

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