Thursday, September 4, 2008

  • Monte Carlo night fills SLC and PAC
  • 'Nerd' on co-op term fronts the band
  • $275,000 prize, and other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Thousands of students form

Some 1,300 first-year arts students and their orientation leaders fell into formation in yesterday's brilliant sunshine.

Monte Carlo night fills SLC and PAC

The events of orientation 2008 "are well underway", says Becky Wroe of the Federation of Students, who's coordinating the week's massive programming along with staff from UW's student life office.

Wroe, the Feds' orientation and special events coordinator, says about 5,400 first-year students have checked in for orientation — some 90 per cent of the 6,000 new students who are expected at UW by the time classes start next week. Some highlights of the program so far, she says, "have been Engineering's Earn Your Hard Hat, Math's Earn Your Tie, and the series of events hosted Tuesday evening by the orientation leaders from On Campus and Off Campus Housing."

Today's schedule features the classic Junkyard Wars for engineering and software engineering students, starting at 9 a.m. on the Village green, which will be a little muddier than it was yesterday following the overnight rain. Meanwhile, math students are off on "Metropolis Tours". Architecture students are scheduled for a special sitting of the English Language Proficiency Exam, applied health sciences students are promised a mystery bus tour this afternoon, and somewhere in there, many of the new students will see one of three performances of "Single and Sexy": 9:30, 12:30 and 4:00, in the Humanities Theatre.

International student orientation continues today with a session at 9:00 in Davis Centre room 1350 aimed at arts, environment and science students. A session is also coming for international graduate students; the Daily Bulletin has been listing it as happening "Friday", but it turns out it's Friday next week, September 12, not tomorrow. It'll start at 12:30 that day, also in DC 1350. Details are online.

Then tonight brings the most sophisticated event of orientation week, the semiformal Monte Carlo Night party in the Student Life Centre and the Physical Activities Complex. Wroe sends word that the SLC will be closing at 6:30 tonight — the one time of the 365-day year when most of the building is not available to the campus population at large. She notes that the Turnkey Desk, the Federation Express convenience store, Tim Hortons, and the multi-faith prayer room will continue to be "accessible to all who use those businesses and resources throughout the evening".

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'Nerd' on co-op term fronts the band

by Andrea Lorentz, from the Inside Scoop co-op student newsletter

Engineering students have garnered a reputation for being dorky, studious types that have trouble finding dates. We envision them in lab coats, toiling away with wires and computer chips, under oppressive fluorescent lighting that makes everything look sterile. That Michael Burek is one of them — a tall, powerfully built, bass player — is truly surprising. Sure, he’s a ridiculously smart nanotechnology student, and practically runs to nano-theory seminars, but his cool demeanour and laid-back attitude fend off the “nerd” word.

Burek spent his last work term — eight months of it — at the Pennsylvania State University, researching nanoscale materials with the best and the brightest. “The project itself is basically taking a membrane-based synthetic approach and applying it to the building of nanowires with inherent multifunctionality,” he says, then clarifies: “What I mean is, different material segments are placed within the same nanowire, and are used to exploit different ways of external control and chemical functionality.”

From there, he’s been going through all the relevant literature, grasping the latest results, and refining them to what he’s interested in. “It’s great to just dive into the science and really get a taste for what research and academia is like, and what graduate school is like. I know that I would love to have a PhD in chemistry.” He raves about Penn State’s resources and student support system: “It’s going to be hard to top Penn State. They’ve set the bar very high for me.”

This is owed in large part to Burek’s supervisor, Mary Beth Williams. She’s a rising star in her field —nanoscale materials. “She’s definitely the person you’d want to work for,” says Burek, telling me that Williams’s group was the first to make several important discoveries. “There have been a lot of breakthroughs in the lab, although being small steps forward, are very crucial within our field of research.” These include the development of techniques for the controlled motion of magnetic nanoparticles in micro fluidic systems, rapid chemical functionalization of nanoparticle surfaces, and more: “We’re building up the knowledge to eventually get into biomedical applications such as diagnostics and biomolecular sensing.”

[Burek with guitar]When the “I need to get out” feeling starts to set in, Burek flees the lab and hits the Penn State bar scene. No, not to get wasted — as his band name, Kayla’s Wasted, may suggest— but to play bass. After all, he’s not of legal drinking age in Pennsylvania (21). “With three quarters of the student population being underage, the rules are extremely strict,” Burek says of the university town. “It does cut down on socializing and what you can do." (Right: Burek plays with his band. “We definitely had a good time just catering to the students,” he says. “We had no shame up on stage because the songs made people happy.”)

“Things got kind of boring, so I impulsively started up a band and it took off,” he says. “We were paid pretty well. I think at the end we were gigging every weekend for about a month and a half. It was a good time.”

I asked Burek what he thinks about the “nerd” stereotype assigned to hard working engineering students, because, clearly, he doesn’t seem like one. “I don’t deny that,” he says, laughing. “Engineers are probably the nerdiest people on campus! It’s very tough to not get excited by research results, or by a seminar you saw with some really cool science.”

He blames the non-stop work-study sequences of co-op for keeping academics on the brain: classes can be tiring, and work can be repetitive. “It’s what you do to balance that,” he also reminds me, “Having an excuse to leave the lab keeps me motivated to come back.”

He considers his band to be a pleasurable distraction, and has experimented with several other activities within the three years that he has been in the nanotechnology program. “I’m not saying that engineering students are not nerds — we’re nerdy. When you boil it down, we enjoy what we do and we’re going to work hard.”

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$275,000 prize, and other notes

A team with strong UW links is one of ten winners of $275,000 prizes in the Android Developer Challenge sponsored by Google Inc. to promote the use of its products in mobile communications. Ecorio — which was called Eco2Go when it was last in the news earlier this year — is an application for cellphones that “allows the user to accurately calculate their travel carbon footprint,” the Android web site explains. “Given awareness of their travel carbon footprint, the user can take action in three ways: Reduce, Inspire, and Offset. The Reduce section of the application suggests carpooling and public transit alternatives for the trips the user has taken or is planning in the future. The Inspire section lets users share tips or stories on steps they have taken to reduce their own energy consumption. The Offset section allows users to invest in carbon reduction projects and offset their carbon footprint right over the phone. Android's background GPS capability allows accurate always-on tracking of the user's travel carbon footprint, and suggests carpool and transit options. Ecorio uses Android's Maps and Locations API to show Location Based tips on how to reduce your carbon impact.” Three of the five Ecorio team members graduated from UW’s systems design engineering program earlier this year.

[Black frame]

UW's alumni affairs office has a new way for UW graduates to spread the word and the pride: a licence plate frame (left) with the UW name and logo. There's no charge, says alumni officer Chantel Franklin; "alumni can request a licence plate frame by e-mailing alumni @"

The September issue of Chem 13 News, just published by UW's department of chemistry, includes an announcement of the winners in a pair of exams for high school students that the department sponsored last spring. At the senior level, a total of 2,790 students wrote the Chem 13 News Exam, and placing first and second were a duo from the University of Toronto Schools, Gordon Bae and Jeongho Lyu. At the more junior level, 4,879 students wrote the Avogadro Exam; first place went to Xingchen Chen of Forest Hill Collegiate in Toronto, and second to Jarno Sun of Western Canada High School in Calgary.

Also recently arrived is the second issue of Catalyst, a magazine published by UW’s Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology “to serve as a public forum in which the culture of innovation within the Waterloo community can discuss, learn, and grow stronger”. The new issue includes a feature piece on social entrepreneurship and a study about Rod McNaughton, associate director (research) of CBET, and his work on “developing a strategic knowledge cluster”. The cover of the issue features what might at first glance be a ventilation fan or a ferris wheel, but turns out to be a photographic rendition of the Dana Porter Library and the Davis Centre, spinning clockwise. It was done by UW planning student Ryan Felix, “inspired by the perpetual activity found in these on-campus hubs”.

Finally, this memo was sent to international students late last week from the Waterloo International office: "You must enroll your dependents (husband, wife, children) in the University Health Insurance Plan within 30 days of their arrival in Canada. Failure to do so will result in a $500 penalty fee. To enroll your dependents in UHIP, go to the Student Accounts Office in Needles Hall, room 1110 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. You must present your dependent's passport which shows the stamp made by the Canadian Immigration officer indicating the date of arrival in Canada."


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Link of the day

Toronto International Film Festival

When and where

Library hours through September 7 (Dana Porter and Davis Centre): Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

‘Educational Innovation in Teaching’: Mats Selen, University of Illinois, co-inventor of the iClicker, “The Pedagogy of Clickers and Beyond,” 9:00 a.m., Math and Computer room 2034, RSVP e-mail pkates@math.

International spouses group: “Discovering Waterloo: come learn what K-W has to offer,” 12:45 p.m., Columbia Lake Village community centre, children welcome, information

Warrior women’s golf team meeting and tryouts 4:30 p.m., Physical Activities Complex room 2021.

Warrior swimming (men and women) team meeting and tryouts 5:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex room 2021.

Warrior baseball at Western 7 p.m.

eHealth Risk Workshops from Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research: last day to register at reduced rate is September 5. Workshops on risk, privacy and security take place October 7, 8 and 9, details online.

Fall Faculty Event sponsored by research office and graduate studies office, Friday from 1:00 p.m., including remarks by vice-president (university research), workshops, open house and trade show, details online.

Math and Computer building southwest entrance closed for repair work Friday 2:30 to 4:00 p.m.

Open Text Corporation chairman Tom Jenkins speaks on “Technology, Communication and the Future,” sponsored by Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, Friday 12:30 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Warrior sports this weekend: football vs. McMaster, Saturday 1:00, Warrior Field, north campus; baseball vs. Laurier Saturday 1:00 and 3:30, and vs. Guelph Sunday 1:00, Jack Couch Park, Kitchener; men’s rugby at Guelph, Friday 8:00; soccer (men’s and women’s teams) at Laurier Saturday, at York Sunday.

Michael Houston, formerly of UW department of kinesiology, memorial celebration Sunday 1:00, Waterloo Motor Inn, reception follows, information and RSVP ext. 32968.

Warrior cheerleading team meeting and tryouts Sunday 2 p.m., Physical Activities Complex “blue” area.

Fall term classes begin Monday, September 8.

Campus recreation intramurals registration September 8-12, instructional registration September 15-18, details online.

Campus TechShop ribbon-cutting and cupcakes to celebrate becoming a Rogers Wireless dealer, Monday 11:30 a.m., Student Life Centre, lower level.

Scholarship information sessions open to students, faculty and staff: science, Monday 3:30, Math and Computer room 4046; arts, Tuesday 9:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 103; mathematics, Tuesday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302; engineering, Tuesday 2:30, RCH 211; environment, Wednesday 12:00, ENV courtyard; AHS, September 11 at 3:00, Lyle Hallman Institute room 1621.

Class enrolment appointments for winter 2009 undergraduate courses will be listed in Quest as of September 9.

Athletics open house, with club and team demonstrations and prizes. September 9, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Physical Activities Complex large gym.

Academic integrity sessions for international students about academic expectations at UW: September 10 at 12:30, September17 at 10:30, or September 24 at 3:30, Needles Hall room 1101.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council information session on scholarships and fellowships Thursday, September 11, 9:30 to 11:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

Warriors Band (student-run pep band) practises Thursdays 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., Physical Activities Complex room 2012, starting September 11. All welcome, no auditions, instruments provided.

Trash 2 Treasure goods recycling sale sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, September 13-14, Student Life Centre, following donation drive every Thursday starting July 31, information online.

Waterloo region technology firms joint information session for co-op students, Monday, September 15, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m., Federation Hall.

Faculty of Environment campus public celebration to celebrate the faculty’s new name and 40th anniversary, Wednesday, September 17, 11:30 to 1:30, tents between Modern Languages and the ring road.

5th Annual UW Powwow featuring Aboriginal drummers, singers, dancers, food, crafts; ceremonial opening by former lieutenant-governor James Bartleman; Saturday, September 20, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., St. Paul’s College, $5 entry fee.

Career Fair, Wednesday, September 24, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., RIM Park, Waterloo, details online.

UW Retirees Association annual wine and cheese party Thursday, September 25, 3:00 to 5:00, University Club.

Alumni and faculty art exhibition and silent auction September 25-27, with reception Saturday 3:30 p.m., Modern Languages gallery, information e-mail

Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ presented by UW department of drama, Theatre of the Arts, November 13-15 and 20-22 at 8 p.m., plus school matinees November 14 and 21 at 12:30, tickets $12 (students $10) at Humanities box office.

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