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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

  • Grads lauded for 'exceptional teaching'
  • Kik founder gives $1 million to VeloCity
  • Prof helps plan giant telescope in Chile
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Grads lauded for 'exceptional teaching'

Four graduate students are this year’s winners of the Amit and Meena Chakma Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student. Their names were announced at Monday night’s senate meeting by Sue Horton, the associate provost (graduate studies).

The award has existed since 1998, under a series of names, and is given “in recognition of excellence in teaching of all kinds by registered students. The awards are open to all students who have a formal teaching role at the University of Waterloo. The Selection Committee will look for intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter. Concern for and sensitivity to the academic need of the students is an important criterion.”

Names of the 2011 winners and their citations as provided by Horton’s office:

[Champaign]John Champaign (right):John Champaign, a graduate student in computer science, has been a teaching assistant and instructor for various computer science courses for several years. His explanations of topics and concepts are highly regarded by his students. They also remarked on his genuine concern for their understanding and progress, and in his readiness to create a comfortable learning environment. John has ‘built up a reputation as a very capable and approachable instructor’ according to a colleague. It is evident as his office is often filled with numerous students seeking assistance with course material and advice for future plans, even well beyond office hours. In addition to his approachable and encouraging nature, John is recognized as a recipient for his contagious enthusiasm and continuous self-improvement.”

[Eichel]Justin Eichel (left): “Justin Eichel, a graduate student in systems design engineering, has been described as an ‘outstanding engineer, teacher, scholar and academic — a one-in-a-million person’. His students from various systems design courses share their high regards in his ability to ‘explain concepts thoroughly and clearly while maintaining an engaging and enjoyable classroom’. His professors and students noted his contributions to course development such as locating alternative textbooks and supplemental material. Justin makes an effort to accommodate his students’ various levels of learning by seeking advice from professors on how to improve his teaching. His students are grateful for his support and recognize his confidence in the classroom as a motivator to their learning.”

[Neale]Adam Neale (right): “Adam Neale, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student, has been a teaching assistant and instructor for numerous electrical and computer engineering courses over the past several years. He is seen as an ‘invaluable resource for undergraduate learning’ by colleagues, and admired for his encouragement and support of his students. His innate ability to filter through course material and focus on important concepts are highly regarded and appreciated by his students. His ‘gifted ability to bring theoretical concepts to life through examples and practical experiences’ was also noted. Adam is recognized for his dedication to enhance student learning through his teaching and readiness to update course material.”

[Pirnia]Mehrdad Pirnia (left): “Mehrdad Pirnia, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student, has been described as an ‘excellent communicator with a very open and positive attitude towards the whole teaching process’. In the classroom, he creates a dynamic and friendly learning environment while motivating his students to challenge themselves academically. His well-prepared lectures, filled with real life examples and analogies, are highly regarded by his students who recognize the positive impact he has on their learning. Based on his ability to communicate course material, along with his efforts to improve his teaching strategies, his professors note that Mehrdad is a ‘great teacher who is well on his way to establishing a successful academic teaching career’.”

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Kik founder gives $1 million to VeloCity

A news release issued by the university yesterday announces a US$1 million donation "to support its students’ business startup ambitions".

The donation, made by 23-year-old former Waterloo student and high tech entrepreneur Ted Livingston, "will be used to help fund VeloCity, the unique residence-based program for student entrepreneurs," the release says.

"Livingston’s generous support of VeloCity has inspired the University to establish a $1 million seed fund for student startups," it says. "Over the next several years the fund will provide at least 30 student ventures with $25,000, four months of office space, incorporation services and mentoring. In addition, 75 student startups will receive $500 prizes as part of the first stage of the screening process."

Says university president Feridun Hamdullahpur: "This is truly a wonderful development for our students who dream of launching their own successful startup. Ted exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that so often defines Waterloo and the need to give back that we seek to encourage in all our students.”

Both VeloCity and the amount of the $25,000 investments have special significance to Livingston, the founder and CEO of Waterloo-based Kik Interactive Inc., the release says. Livingston, who studied mechatronics engineering between 2005 and 2009, founded Kik (then called Unsynced) while in the VeloCity residence in winter 2009. The $25,000 awards exactly match the amount of money left to Livingston by his grandfather — money that kept Kik afloat and fuelled the company’s development in its earliest days.

The news release says Livingston’s donation was made possible by the sale of some of his personal Kik shares in a recently completed $8 million round of venture capital funding. The shares, valued at $1 million, were sold to one of three VC investors to prevent further dilution of other Kik employees’ shares.

“With few responsibilities and surrounded by other talented minds, UW students are uniquely positioned to start world-changing companies,” Livingston said. “Unfortunately, few investors are willing to bet on young entrepreneurs, especially in Canada, so getting the start-up funds they need is a huge challenge. This fund is a step towards changing that.”

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[Black T-shirts and Waterloo lanyards]

Checking out the box lunches for the 39th annual Southern Ontario Undergraduate Student Chemistry Conference last Saturday are members of the student organizing committee — including Michelle Revoy, far right, who also picked up a prize for her conference presentation in the Inorganic Chemistry category. (Other Waterloo student winners were Carl Haugen, Natalie Koay, Duncan MacKenzie, and Blake Ziegler.) The conference included a record 118 student presentations, and heard a keynote talk by chemistry professor Jean Duhamel on "Bubbly Chemistry: An Optimistic Look at What the Future May Hold for Young Scientists". Photo by Mike Chong.

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Prof helps plan giant telescope in Chile

Waterloo and six other Canadian universities have joined as partners in the Cerro Chajnantor Atacama Telescope project, a proposed 25-metre aperture telescope that will be built in Chile. It will become the largest, most precise and highest astronomical facility of its kind in the world.

“This is a general purpose telescope that will be used to explore the cosmic origins of the early universe,” says physics and astronomy professor Mike Fich, who is the Canadian lead for the project. “The CCAT project will enable us to look at how stars and galaxies, such as the Milky Way, were first formed.”

The telescope, to be built 18,400 feet above sea level in Chile’s Atacama desert, will give astronomers a new window into the epoch of star and galaxy formation to answer some of the most fundamental questions of cosmology. With an extremely wide field of view, it will also enable large-scale surveys of the sky and complement the international Atacama Large Millimeter Array, now under construction. As CCAT discovers new sources, ALMA will follow up with images of those sources in unprecedented detail.

At 25 metres (82 feet) in diameter, CCAT will operate at wavelengths shorter than one one-hundredth of an inch (0.25 mm), which is longer than visible light but shorter than radio waves. Because this requires dry skies, the telescope will be built high on the mountain known as Cerro Chajnantor.

“The epoch of galaxy formation that CCAT is going to explore in a unique way is when most of the interesting things in the universe started happening, as far as we are concerned,” explains Riccardo Giovanelli, Cornell professor of astronomy and principal investigator for CCAT. “The carbon in our bodies, the silicon in our computers, the gold in gifts we give a girlfriend or boyfriend — all these things were made with stuff being produced when our galaxies were born. Understanding that process is understanding how the universe became sophisticated enough in a chemical way to produce things we enjoy now, like black and white movies and the stuff we use to build telescopes.”

Started as a project between Cornell and the California Institute of Technology in 2004, the partnership extended to include the University of Colorado at Boulder, the universities of Cologne and Bonn in Germany, and Associated Universities Inc. of Washington, D.C. The Canadian contingent, including British Columbia, Toronto, McGill, Western Ontario, McMaster and Calgary as well as Waterloo, signed a memorandum of agreement on March 9, Cornell says.

The $140 million project was strongly endorsed by “Astro 2010”, formally known as the Committee for a Decadal Survey of Astronomy and Astrophysics of the U.S. National Research Council. The project is expected to be completed in 2017. Fich told the Globe and Mail, in an interview published yesterday, that the consortium of Canadian universities has committed to raising one-quarter of the project’s cost. He hopes construction will begin in April 2013.


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Link of the day

[Pencil Day]

When and where

Colour Me Educated final activities and paint drop 12:00, Student Life Centre courtyard.

Recitals by music students continue today 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel UC chapel, free admission.

Biomedical Discussion Group presents Jennifer Cobb, University of Calgary, “The MRX Complex Regulates Cohesin During DNA Replication” 2:30, CEIT building room 3142. Details.

Student Appreciation Dinner with live music by engineering jazz band With Respect to Time, 4:30 to 7:00, Mudie’s cafeteria, Village I.

Social Development Night with networking (“students and faculty for development”), speaker Dan Andreae, 5:00 to 7:30,  Graduate House. RSVP.

Career workshop: “Medical School Applications” 5:00, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Applied health sciences Grad Send-off event with AHS alumni including Olympic bobsleigh medalist Heather Moyse, open to all graduating AHS students, 5:30 to 7:00, University Club, e-mail sl5johnson@ to register.

Society for Technical Communication, Southwestern Ontario chapter, wine and cheese awards night, 7:00, Davis Centre room 1301.

Digital media series: Rob Warren and Shelley Hulan, department of English, “Do a Billion Documents Change the First World War?” 7:00, Stratford campus, 6 Wellington Street.

General application deadline for September 2011 admission is March 31 (subject to earlier deadlines for selected programs and for Ontario high school students).

Beyond Borders at St. Jerome's University, applications due March 31. Details.

PDEng alumni lecture: “Skills That They Do Not Teach in Engineering School but Are Required for Career Advancement” Thursday 11:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Hug Me fund-raiser for Sick Children’s Hospital (attempt to break world record for most hugs in an hour) Thursday 12:00, Student Life Centre.

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

Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation presents Mike Batty, University College London, “Complexity, Scaling and Cities” Thursday 2:30, Tatham Centre room 2218.

School of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture: Jon Kleinberg, Cornell University, “Computational Perspectives on Social Phenomena in On-Line Networks” Thursday  3:30, Humanities Theatre.

Chemical engineering seminar: Stefan Spiegel, editor of Macromolecular Journals, “Scientific Publishing and an Editor’s Responsibilities” Thursday 3:30,  Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Graduate Student Association annual general meeting Thursday 5:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 301. Details.

Aftab Patla Memorial Cup hockey game in support of applied health sciences scholarships, Thursday 5 p.m., Columbia Icefield (pre-game barbecue 3:00, Matthews Hall student lounge). Details.

Mathematics Society general meeting regarding finances, budgeting process and bylaws, all undergraduate math students welcome, Thursday 5:30, Math and Computer room 3001.

Splitting the Sky (John Hill) speaks on “The Sun Dance and the Gustafsen Lake Standoff”, sponsored by department of religious studies, Thursday 7:00, Hagey Hall room 373.

Fine Arts Film Society showing of “California Dreamin’ (Endless)” (Romania, 2007) Thursday 7:00, East Campus Hall room 1220.

Orchestra @ UWaterloo spring concert, “Jupiter & Co.”, music by Mozart, Dvorak, Bartok, Wagner, Thursday 8:00, Humanities Theatre, admission free.

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” Friday 12:45,  Columbia Lake Village community centre.

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

Relay for Life at St. Jerome’s University in support of Canadian Cancer Society, starts Friday 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.

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

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

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department, viewable through myHRinfo:

• Laboratory technician, management sciences, USG 7
• Residence life coordinator, housing and residences, USG 7 (two positions)
• Employer advisor, cooperative education and career services, USG 6
• Instructional support coordinator, associate provost (resources), USG 8-10
• Manager, living-learning programs, housing and residences, USG 9
• Experiential/ curriculum administrator, pharmacy, USG 7
• Director of advancement, faculty of environment, USG 14
• Graduate studies funding coordinator, electrical and computer engineering, USG 5
• Project manager, marketing and undergraduate recruitment, USG 9
• Administrative coordinator/ student advisor, biology, USG 6

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