Monday, May 10, 2010

  • Building a population health 'brain trust'
  • Paintings in the air, and other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[At café table, bikes in background]

Dutch treat: Brilé Anderson and Will Ogden, both Knowledge Integration students, catch some sunshine after a visit to Amsterdam's Rembrandt House museum. Two dozen classmates are doing "an in-depth field study of museums and galleries," writes Ryan Kennedy, who took the photo. "This experience is designed to help equip us with the tools, perspectives and skills that we'll need in third year to design our own original museum exhibits and learn about the ways that specialist knowledge is transferred to public audiences. We've been lucky enough to be here for Queen's Day, the Day of Remembrance and Liberation Day, each of which has brought festivals and parties throughout the city. We're having an amazing time." The first of the returning KI group are due home today.

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Building a population health 'brain trust'

from the Bridge newsletter published by UW’s Propel Centre for Population Health Impact

When she applied to PhD programs, Dana Olstad’s keen desire to work at the population level resulted in a recommendation from her supervisor, University of Alberta’s Kim Raine, to a new Canadian Institutes of Health Research training program. “As soon as Kim told me what it was about, I knew that I needed to be in it.”

Now Olstad is one of 17 trainees, ranging from masters to post-docs, funded as part of a CIHR Training Grant in Population Intervention for Chronic Disease Prevention. Propel serves as secretariat for the collaborative initiative, which provides trainees with a core curriculum and access to 65 mentors in nine provinces and 17 collaborators from policy and practice.

“The population level is the only way you can make a difference,” says Olstad, who is passionate about using her background in clinical nutrition research to combat the obesity epidemic. “One-on-one you just can’t do the same stuff you want to do at a population level.”

Barb Riley, Propel’s director of strategy and capacity development and senior scientist, describes the vision behind the program, which supplements mainstream graduate programs. “We want students to get excited about shaping the emerging field of population intervention science and making a difference. In the program, we focus on designing relevant and rigorous studies, and working across disciplines and with policy and practice leaders. I’m hoping students walk away asking themselves questions about their unique niche in the research community.”

[Olstad]As a trainee, Olstad (left) is enrolled in the foundations course in population health intervention. The course strikes a balance between theory and practice, for which she is grateful. “From methods and ethics to manuscript preparation, the course really addresses what we are going to have to do as scientists.” As the course nears completion, students are busy working on the main assignment — writing a CIHR proposal for a population intervention study. For hers, Olstad wants to stage an intervention to encourage recreation centres to implement Alberta’s current nutritional guidelines. “Instead of going to a facility where your kid plays hockey for an hour and then undoes all of the work by eating a burger and fries, it would provide access to healthy foods.”

As an adjunct to the course, trainees meet online for monthly “Dialogue & Debate” sessions. Conducted using advanced web-conferencing software, students across four time zones are able to participate in the conversation. Led by both program mentors and senior trainees, these sessions also provide an opportunity for peer mentoring. At a recent meeting, trainee Ryan Kennedy facilitated a discussion on research funding, complete with “Dear Abby” style questions.

This spring, Olstad will finally have an opportunity to meet her classmates face-to-face at a workshop and symposium. Planned to dovetail with the Canadian Public Health Association’s centenary conference, the first day will bring all the trainees and their mentors together at a symposium. For the workshop on the second day, the group will be joined by two other CIHR strategic training programs. Trainees may then choose to attend the CPHA’s robust student conference program.

For Riley, these kinds of networking opportunities are essential. “This program is about building people and community, and taking training beyond the walls of academia. Because the program really focuses on the intersection of research, policy and practice, we want the trainees to get that direct exposure. Instead of reading a paper on what decision makers think, talk to a decision maker, attend meetings where they are.”

It’s this potential to build Canada’s brain trust in population health intervention science that excites Riley the most. “We need to learn — in real time, and with urgency — about promising solutions to tackle complex public health problems like tobacco use and obesity.”

Olstad concurs, but admits she sometimes feels pressure because she is working in an emerging field. “A lot of the papers I read emphasize how different it is from traditional research. But that makes it more exciting in a sense too, because there’s so much that hasn’t been done — there’s so much more opportunity.”

Co-Principal Investigators for the training program are from four institutions: Roy Cameron and Barb Riley (Propel/University of Waterloo); Kim Raine (University of Alberta); Carolyn Gotay (University of British Columbia); and Roberta Ferrence (Ontario Tobacco Research Unit/University of Toronto).

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Paintings in the air, and other notes

An exhibition by artist Michael Capobianco that's been on view in the East Campus Hall gallery since late April is now in its last week. "This Site Is Under Construction" is the Master of Fine Arts thesis offering for Capobianco, who is already known as a multi-media artist based in Toronto. The gallery explains — well, maybe "explains" is too strong a word — that "The title alludes not only to the on-line, virtual space of the computer, but also quotes the physical spaces of building and urban development sites. The particular site indicated in the title refers to the nature of the image — as being a site under construction, as contemporary painting interests are directed towards the re-calibration and construction of pictorial representation. In the gallery space, the representational forms employed in the making of a space within a space are reminiscent of those found on construction sites. Similarly, like construction and computer imaging sites, manoeuvrability can be tricky. Inside, the paintings are presented in various ways: hanging directly on the un-treated plywood, projecting out from the walls, or suspended in mid-air." There will be a closing reception for the show, Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. in the gallery.

Federal industry minister Tony Clement announced last week that researchers at Waterloo will receive $115,000 over two years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada under its Automotive Partnership Canada initiative. “Results from this research project will lead to greener, better-performing vehicles and improved innovation in this sector,” Clement said. The project will focus on the development of a viable plastic heat exchanger, and is being led by Pearl Sullivan of the department of mechanical and mechatronics engineering in partnership with Dana Canada Corporation. The increasing shift to plastic materials for manufacturing automotive body components has led to considerable weight savings, a federal news release said. “Even greater impact is expected if more under-the-hood metallic parts, such as heat exchangers, are replaced with plastics. Although a number of all-plastic heat exchanger designs have been patented, none have been developed for commercial use.” The Automotive Partnership Canada is a five-year, $145 million initiative to support collaborative research for the Canadian automotive industry. Research projects approved to date will focus on improving the efficiency of transmissions and advancing the state-of-the-art in longer-range electric vehicles.

An e-mail message to staff members the other day announced that Information Systems and Technology and the office of Organizational and Human Development "are pleased to announce that the new Spring SEW 2010 workshops are now open for registration. In addition to SEW’s popular core programming for electronic workplace applications, highlights of this spring brochure include: a new course on Facebook & Twitter 101, which examines privacy settings and utilization as work tools; as well as Windows 7 Tutorial, which offers an opportunity to try Windows 7, and see how it differs from XP and Vista, and another session of the popular Preparing your Website Content workshop is running, a must if you update or maintain web pages on campus. For full course descriptions, please view the latest brochure. Registration for these workshops now takes place through MyHRinfo. This system allows attendees to view available spaces in workshops, register online, view your registration history and status, and receive immediate registration notifications via email. You can register for courses through the Learning and Development module of the Self Service menu (where you view your payroll and benefit information)."

What they’re saying on Twitter these days: “I have an epic new resumé ready for JobMining this term.” • “Playing Settlers of Catan in the Great Hall of SLC while first Bomber is going on attracts quite a lot of attention.” • “UW Grad Jasmine Hofer wins Stratford Chamber Young Entrepreneur Award!” • “Don't let their cute goslings fool you!! @uwgeese were being awfully protective this morning” • “Know an exceptional Student Leader? Nominate them for a Dean's Leadership Award by May 31st” “Can't wait to see Math's mascot, Pinky the Tie, during Orientation Week 2010!” • “Purple tree outside VeloCity”


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Canada 3.0 is under way

The big digital media conference, 2010 edition, gets under way this morning at the Rotary Complex in Stratford.

From Twitter already today: “People are here for #can30 and the excitement is building!” • “Lots of registrants in line.” • "Underdressed 4 #can30 — looks like Bay St. crowd.” • “Sitting in a dark room listening to drum and bass waiting for #can30 to start. Ok, we get IT conference. You're ‘cool’ and all ‘digitally’.” • “Checking out all the sweet booths.” • “Conference is much bigger than I expected. Definitely NOT an intimate gathering of minds.” • "We're in a hockey arena, about to get going. Hoping for big news from Clement." • “Stuck in Stratford!”

Canada 3.0 web site

Live streaming (industry minister Tony Clement to make "major announcement")

• Twitter feeds: official, overall, RevolutionizingEmpowering, Learning, Creating, Changing, Imagining

Link of the day


When and where

UW Blooms 10:00 to 4:00, multipurpose room, Student Life Centre: donate, pick up or exchange plants, seeds, pots, gardening material.

Senate graduate and research council 10:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Work reports to be marked by coordinators are due 4:00 p.m., Tatham Centre.

Senate undergraduate council Tuesday 12:00 noon, Needles Hall room 3004.

Arts faculty council Tuesday 3:30, Humanities room 373.

Biochemistry and molecular biology seminar: Ian Lorimer, University of Ottawa, “Cell Signaling in Glioblastoma” Tuesday 3:30, Chemistry II room 361.

Alumni reception in Calgary during Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists conference, Tuesday 5:00, BMO Centre. Details.

Book launch: Richard Payette, The Amulet of Apollo, print-on-demand novel, Tuesday 7:00 p.m., bookstore, South Campus Hall.

Gauss Mathematics Competition for grade 7-8 students, organized by Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing, Wednesday. Details.

Retirees Association bus tour, “Wineries of the Beamsville Bench” Wednesday, details 519-885-6719.

Book launch: Polish Orphans of Tengeru by Lynne Taylor, department of history, Wednesday 5:00 to 7:00, University Club, RSVP k4king@

Open class enrolment for spring term courses ends May 14.

Staff career workshop: “Exploring Your Personality Type” Friday 1:00 (and second session May 21), Tatham Centre. Details.

Co-op job postings for fall work term open Saturday (main group and pharmacy students). Employer interviews begin May 26 (pharmacy), May 27 (main group).

Arthur J. Carty Lecture by Richard Schrock, Nobel laureate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, on research results in olefin metathesis chemistry, May 18, 3:00, Davis Centre room 1350, reception follows.

President David Johnston Run for Mental Health May 18, 5:00, start at Student Life Centre. Details.

You @ Waterloo Day for applicants considering offers of admission, May 20, 4:00 to 8:00 p.m., headquarters at Student Life Centre. Details.

Victoria Day holiday Monday, May 24, UW offices and most services closed, classes not held.

Friday's Daily Bulletin