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Friday, April 1, 2011

  • Orange you glad to be a student leader?
  • Universities welcome budget 'investments'
  • Microscopic bits of news, seen close up
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Orange everywhere]Orange you glad to be a student leader?

Yes, yes, it's April Fools' Day, but the joke was on Brad Moggach, president of the Federation of Students, a couple of days early (left, photo by Davin Wang). He got coated in orange paint, the colour of the arts faculty, as part of Wednesday's climax to the Colour Me Educated campaign.

Orange was the hue of choice because arts students contributed to the most toward the $3,841 total raised by the Federation to support Pathways to Education, an agency that helps young people from underprivileged backgrounds find their way to higher education. The paint dump was a publicity stunt for the campaign, and Moggach was joined by other Feds executives as well as several university officials, led by president Feridun Hamdullahpur.

Moggach's successor-to-be, Matt Colphon, had a more enjoyable public role yesterday, hugging people with teddy-bear intensity in the great hall of the Student Life Centre. The embraces were part of another fund-raiser, this one organized by the Science and Business Students Association in support of the Hospital for Sick Children. Organizers hoped to set a certifiable world record, but there's no word yet on whether the requisite 1,206 hugs were managed within an hour.

With this kind of thing going on almost daily, it'll be no wonder if some of the students who make it all happen are experiencing "volunteer fatigue", a topic that was raised at Monday's meeting of the university senate when Moggach reported on the Federation's recent activities. The new executive that takes office May 1 — headed by Colphon — will need to look at devoting more staff resources to supporting the work of clubs and societies, Moggach said in answer to a question. "As they continue to grow, we're going to need some more resource support."

Among other questions put to the Feds president: how much influence does the student organization have with various levels of government? Moggach's answer summarized involvement with federal, provincial and local issues, and pointed out that sometimes the Federation can't take a strong position because student opinions are divided. That's the case, for example, with proposed changes to the rental housing bylaw that applies in the city of Waterloo. Students' council, the main Federation governing body, will be discussing that situation at its meeting on Sunday in the SLC, Moggach said.

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Universities welcome budget 'investments'

Leaders at Waterloo and other Ontario universities are saying good things about the budget that was presented by provincial treasurer Dwight Duncan on Tuesday, and especially about its plan to make room for more students.

“This is an investment in our young people, in talent and in Ontario’s social and economic future,” president Feridun Hamdullahpur said a few hours after the budget was presented. “Waterloo welcomes the Ontario government’s investment to enhance student access to post-secondary education.”

He added that the university “looks forward to seeing more details from the budget,” which was widely greeted as a pre-election document. The Liberal provincial government will be seeking a return to office when voters go to the polls on October 6.

The plan for additional spending on colleges and universities “is particularly appreciated in these tough fiscal times,” said Bonnie Patterson, president of the Council of Ontario Universities. And a University of Toronto official noted that “given that the overall budget is one of restraint, the focus on post-secondary education is a significant one.”

Duncan said the government was making a commitment to 60,000 new college and university spaces by 2015-16, with 41,000 of those being in universities and the rest in the college sector.

COU noted that the additional spaces over the next five years “come on the heels of the significant expansion that has occurred since 2003. Ontario universities have welcomed an additional 75,000 university students since then, which amounts to adding a university the size of the University of Toronto.”

Spending to provide the additional student spaces, according to Duncan’s budget, will be $64 million in 2011-12 and $309 million in 2013-14. COU said it’s talking to government officials about how the growth, and the funding, will be divided among the 20 provincially-supported universities.

Those millions will pay the cost of teaching new students, but not necessarily the cost of putting a roof over their heads, university leaders noted. “In particular,” said Hamdullahpur, Waterloo hopes to see “a capital plan for any expansion in classroom and laboratory spaces to accommodate the growth.” Patterson of COU echoed him: “We look forward to working with the government on a capital plan.”

Duncan reaffirmed the government’s commitment to the Open Ontario initiatives that were announced this time last year, with the goal of increasing the province’s post-secondary education rate to 70 per cent. That plan emphasized online education and an increase in the number of international students.

In Tuesday’s budget, the treasurer said Ontario also remains committed to its promise of “affordability” for college and university education. There was no new information about tuition fee levels for the years ahead.

The budget did say that as part of an emphasis on “managing responsibly”, the government would tell its “transfer partners”, including universities, that they must permanently cut the funding for their “executive offices” by 10 per cent over two years.

“The university recognizes the government’s fiscal realities,” Hamdullahpur responded, “and we have been doing our fair share in this effort, including compensation freeze for the senior executives, faculty and staff for two years. Having said that, we need to see the details of these projected measures in order to understand their impact.”

The president added that “it’s good to see” Duncan’s announcement of a $50 million grant over the next ten years for the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics — matching a commitment made by the national Conservative government in the budget it presented just before the federal general election was called last week.

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Microscopic bits of news, seen close up

Canada's first helium ion microscope was delivered to a basement lab in the Chemistry 2 building on Wednesday, and it was quite a job. “Professional riggers and the elevator folks were called in to help with the delivery,” says chemistry professor Tong Leung. “After they carefully loaded the microscope (weight 4,300 pounds), the elevator appeared to have dropped by almost an inch.” For a decade, there’s been no real improvement in the spatial resolution of the world's best electron microscopes, but this one is something new: “Manufactured in Peabody, near Boston, by Zeiss NTS, the Orion Plus makes use of the inherently shorter de Broglie wavelength of an energetic He+ ion to seriously reduce the diffraction effects, thereby dramatically improving the spatial resolution. As one of only 22 sites in the world with this new capability, WATLab will soon be exploiting this unique nanotool. I'll do a few public demos once the machine is up and running.” It was acquired as part of the "Smart Materials Ontario" Project supported by the federal and provincial governments in 2009.

[Beam]Paul Beam (right), a faculty member in Waterloo's English department from 1968 to his retirement in 2003, died March 9 in Ottawa. He had done his undergraduate study at Waterloo, arriving as part of the first entering arts class in 1960, and then did graduate degrees at McMaster and Toronto. Beam taught in such fields as Victorian literature, but was also active at an early date in studies in communication theory, computing in the humanities, and computer-based instruction. Fraser Easton, now chair of the English department, observes that "a big part of what Paul contributed to the department was the 'PW' in Rhetoric and Professional Writing; also computer applications for communication, and consulting outreach. He was also a big participant in co-op in English — so a builder of what sets UW English apart from all other English departments in Canada." A memorial ceremony is to be held this spring.

A pioneer in nanotechnology will deliver a public talk this afternoon in the inaugural installment of the Quantum Frontiers Distinguished Lecture Series. Don Eigler, a physicist at IBM’s Almaden Research Centre in California, will discuss how scientists can harness unique quantum properties to perform conventional computation. Eigler’s hour-long lecture will be held in CEIT building room 1015 starting at 2:30, followed by a small reception in the CEIT foyer. Eigler, who holds a prestigious IBM Fellowship and is a fellow of the American Physical Society, explores the physics of nano-scale structures and their applications to computing. In a landmark discovery, he demonstrated how to manipulate individual atoms with unprecedented precision. The Quantum Frontiers Distinguished Lecture Series, to be presented by the Institute for Quantum Computing once a term, explores the ways researchers are harnessing the properties of quantum mechanics to advance computing, communications and other fields at the forefront of science. Today’s lecture is co-presented by the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Celebrations were held last week as the Conrad Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology introduced a new name for a room in its suite in the Accelerator Centre building on Hagey Boulevard. The "Desire2Learn Case Study Room" recognizes a gift from Desire2Learn, a Waterloo spinoff company that's been flourishing selling education software. John Baker, the company's president and a Waterloo graduate, said he's "delighted to give back to the institution at which he gained his strong educational foundation", and the company boasted of "collaboration between this academic institution and a locally-based global technology company".

And . . . a few days early for April Fools', the Iron Warrior engineering student newspaper published its last issue for the winter term, with the traditional Tin Soldier parody issue wrapped inside. I rather liked one of its stories — "Worries Over Goose-Like Behavior Observed in EngSoc Running Club" — but the highlight was a piece reporting that Waterloo is opening a satellite campus in North Korea. "It is the obvious move for the unconventional and innovative university," a spokesthing said.


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Links of the day

FoolsOpening dayMaple syrup

When and where

Library extended hours during exam season: March 27 to April 21, Davis Centre library open 24 hours (except Sunday 2 to 8 a.m.), Dana Porter Library open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.

Philosophy Graduate Student Association 18th annual conference, Friday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Hagey Hall room 334 and 373. Details.

International Spouses get-together: “Making Pasta the Italian Way with Elena” 12:45,  Columbia Lake Village community centre.

Institute for Quantum Computing distinguished lecture: Don Eigler, IBM Fellow, "Classical Computation in Quantum Spin Structures" 2:30, CEIT room 1015.

Athletics Banquet tonight, St. George Banquet Hall,  Waterloo, tickets $35 from athletics department office.

Relay for Life at St. Jerome’s University in support of Canadian Cancer Society, starts 7:00 p.m., for twelve hours.

Instrumental Chamber Ensembles spring concert Friday and Sunday 7:30 (two different concerts), Conrad Grebel UC chapel, admission free, reception follows.

‘Open? A Story of Refugee Claimants in Canada’ play by peace and conflict studies students, 7:30, Conrad Centre, 36 King Street West, Kitchener. Details.

Poet and songwriter Dawud Wharnsby live concert, “bridging nations and tribes”, presented by Studies in Islam program, 8:00, Theatre of the Arts, tickets $10 (students $5) at Humanities box office.

Rhythm Dance Competition Saturday-Sunday from 9 a.m., Humanities Theatre.

Elmira Maple Syrup Festival bus trip sponsored by International Student Connection, Saturday leaving 9:30 a.m., tickets $5 at Federation of Students office.

Energy and Heritage Buildings Workshop sponsored by Heritage Resource Centre, Saturday-Sunday 10:00 to 4:00, REEP House, Kitchener, fee $225, information hrc@

Chamber Choir and University of Waterloo Choir spring concert, “The Glory of Light”, Saturday 8:00, Benton Street Baptist Church, tickets $10 (students $5).

Students’ council Sunday 12:30, Student Life Centre multipurpose room. Agenda.

‘Shear Madness’ at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, outing organized by UW Recreation Committee , Sunday 2:00.

Stage Band spring concert, “Give It All You’ve Got”, Sunday 2:00, Conrad Grebel U College great hall, $10 (students $5).

Last day of classes for the winter term Monday, April 4.

Heritage Resources Centre annual general meeting and lunch, Monday 12:00, Environment 1 room 221, information hrc@

Institute for Computer Research presents Kim Roberts, Nortel, “Digital Signal Processing for Optical Transmission” Monday 2:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Senate executive committee Monday 3:30, Needles Hall room 3004.

Kardinal Offishall performs at Federation Hall, Monday, doors open 9 p.m., tickets $17 advance at Federation of Students office, $23 at door.

Faculty association spring general meeting Tuesday 2:00, Math and Computer room 4020.

Board of governors Tuesday 2:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Master of Digital Innovation (Stratford campus) information session Tuesday 4:00, Bombshelter pub, Student Life Centre.

Annual staff conference April 6-7, Humanities Theatre and nearby classrooms. Details pending.

‘52 Jobs in 52 Weeks’ author Sean Aiken speaks on “Discover Your Passion” Wednesday 2:00, Student Life Centre great hall.

Winter term examinations April 8-21; unofficial grades begin to appear in Quest, April 22; grades become official, May 24.

Town hall meeting for faculty and staff with president and vice-presidents, April 11, 3:00, Humanities Theatre; submit questions by e-mail to townhall@

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