Thursday, December 17, 2009

  • Managing UW's attic since 1967
  • Federal research funding for six projects
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Managing UW's attic since 1967

UW says farewell today to Ed Goodwin, who has handled uncounted tons of recyclable paper, old scientific equipment and used furniture over a 42-year career in Central Stores.

“I could have stayed a little longer, but my body’s telling me it’s time to go,” says Goodwin, who joined the university in July 1967, as the Math and Computer building was being completed.

More things have changed than just the physical campus, he said in an interview last week, observing that “the money was freer” for UW departments in the 1970s than in this decade, when “there’s more pressure on everybody” and “doing more with less” is the order of the day.

“My physical ability won’t be missed here,” he says, “but probably my knowledge will.” He’s been at the keyboard a lot in recent days, writing down procedures that colleagues will want in the days ahead. His duties will be divided among various people in Central Stores, the department that handles mail and freight delivery across campus as well as the specialized services Goodwin has been managing.

His job includes recycling, storage and surplus, the various things that can happen to materials no longer needed (or not needed right now) by academic and non-academic departments. Goodwin notes that he also served as supervisor of the whole department for a dozen years, but found management too “stressful” and went back to closer involvement with the day-to-day work.

Recycling began in the 1960s with a small-scale project of sending computer punch cards and printouts away to be pulped. “It just got larger and larger,” he says, to the present situation where a three-ton truck visits campus every few days to haul away scrap paper.

He estimates that 80 per cent of the paper that UW buys ends up being recycled, either just as it is or after going through the big central shredder. Some of the rest is kept, either in departments or in the “records retention” program that also forms part of his job, and some, alas, finds its way into the regular garbage.

Waterloo has “the best recycling of any Canadian university”, Goodwin boasts, “just because we took it on ourselves to do it!” To a great degree “we” means him; and besides paper, he’s actively involved in finding markets for recyclable metal.

“Up until recently, I probably spent two hours a day at the desk, and the rest out back working,” says Goodwin at the Central Stores headquarters in East Campus Hall. The department has been there for 25 years now; when he first joined the staff, it was in the General Services Complex beside the smokestack. There’s also a facility at the Bauer Warehouse on the north campus, where a massive storage area houses everything from furniture to lab equipment.

“We’ve had robots!” he says, when asked what’s the most unusual thing ever sent to be warehoused. But the winning entry for strangeness is, without doubt, Porcellino — the bronze boar that once stood inside the Modern Languages building, was stored until a more suitable venue could be found, and ended up embedded in concrete on a plinth in front of ML.

Mostly, though, it’s research equipment, things he can’t even identify, some of them every bit as odd as the people who entrust them to him for lack of space in UW’s crowded academic buildings. “When you’re in a university environment, you’re always going to run into strange people,” says Goodwin, quickly adding that he’s had wonderful colleagues and bosses and clients across campus over all these years.

And they return the compliment; one co-worker, urging that Goodwin be featured in the Daily Bulletin as he approaches retirement, stressed to me just how much of a mentor and role model “Eddie” has been over the years, both to his contemporaries and to colleagues who weren’t yet born when he started work at Waterloo.

He’ll be the guest of honour at a reception this afternoon, 2:00 to 5:00 in the Davis Centre lounge. (Last minute information: e-mail cjaray@ His last day of work will be December 23, the day UW closes for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Plans after retirement? Definitely a cruise — he and his wife, who once worked in UW’s housing office, are headed for Mexico. After that, he thinks, he might look for something like a part-time job, just to keep busy. And he promises that when the crew in Central Stores are wondering how to handle some detail of storage, surplus and recycling, he’ll be available to them on the other end of the phone, “or maybe I’ll even drop in.”

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Federal research funding for six projects

UW researchers yesterday received $795,929 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support six projects in climate change and air pollution, theoretical chemistry and biology, and superconducting quantum devices. The money comes from CFI's leaders opportunity fund, which provides infrastructure support for laboratories and equipment. The six projects, as listed in a UW news release:

• Analysis and Modelling of the Land-Atmosphere System for Understanding Climate and Air Quality. Lead investigator: John Lin, earth and environmental sciences. CFI funding: $93,939.

To understand Canada's future climate and probe the consequences of climate policies, policy-makers must have accurate climate information. This requires comprehensive research into the land and atmosphere, two components of the climate system that interact strongly. Says Lin about current climate change: "Warming is particularly pronounced in the higher latitudes, where Canada's borders are found. Shifts in climate can have profound consequences for water resources, agriculture and quality of life. Another important environmental issue is air quality. Air pollution has been known to cause crop damage and human health problems, such as respiratory diseases."

The CFI-funded work will provide an extensive analysis of climate-relevant data, complement data analyses with simulations of the land-atmosphere system using advanced computer models and develop a new atmospheric model that simulates air quality.

• A Parallel Multi-Processor, Multi-Core Environment for Optimization. Lead investigator: Thomas F. Coleman, dean of mathematics and professor of combinatorics and optimization. CFI funding: $91,982.

Many practical problems in science and engineering — from the design of aircraft to the development of efficient manufacturing processes, to protein folding problems — amount to computational optimization problems. "These formulations are very large and require additional 'real-time' demands," says Coleman. "Efficient parallel computational optimization procedures that can use cluster technology in an efficient manner will provide enormous benefits."

The CFI-funded computing cluster, made up of eight computing nodes, one head node and mass storage for data, will enable researchers to develop efficient parallel optimization methods for a broad range of applications.

• Computer Cluster for Quantum Molecular Dynamics Simulations: from Quantum Nanoclusters to Biological Systems. Lead investigator: Pierre-Nicholas Roy, chemistry. CFI funding: $150,000.

The CFI-funded computer cluster supports research in theoretical and computational chemistry. The work involves developing theories and models to predict the properties of atoms and molecules at the microscopic level. "Our simulation work on the properties of hydrogen in nano-confinement, done in collaboration with experimentalists, will help explain new types of molecular superfluids," says Roy. "In the longer term, a better understanding of confined hydrogen could open doors to innovations in the field of hydrogen storage. These innovations are essential if hydrogen becomes a mainstream alternate clean fuel.

“Our biological simulations research could have an impact on health because a fundamental understanding of protein-carbohydrate interactions would allow researchers to tackle diseases such as tuberculosis and C. difficile with innovative molecular therapies."

• Fabrication Facility for Superconducting Quantum Devices. Lead investigator: Adrian Lupascu, physics and astronomy. CFI funding: $164,000.

The CFI-funded infrastructure consists of an electron-beam evaporation system, custom-built to meet the stringent requirements for micro-fabrication of superconducting quantum devices. The equipment will complement infrastructure for micro-fabrication at Waterloo and will be located in a clean room in the Quantum-Nano Centre, now under construction.

"Quantum information science has the potential to revolutionize the processing and transmission of information," says Lupascu. "It addresses the challenges of miniaturization through an emphasis on quantum effects, which are detrimental to the functioning of conventional computers. In this new framework, the subtle properties of evolution and measurement of quantum systems are used to enable applications that are not possible using present-day tools."

The EBE system will play a key role in research on superconducting quantum computing and devices. The tool will also spur research in other directions. For example, superconducting quantum devices will be used to explore quantum optics in a new domain: microwave frequencies and ultra-strong coupling between light (microwave fields) and atoms (superconducting qubits or quantum bits).

• Macromolecular Crystallography at Waterloo. Lead investigator: David Rose, biology. CFI funding: $171,008.

The CFI funding will provide a macromolecular crystallography facility, which gathers data to determine the atomic structures of macromolecules (proteins, carbohydrates, nucleic acids). The key instrument is an integrated X-ray diffractometer system designed for application to macromolecular crystals.

"How we determine the atomic structure of biological molecules is a critical step to understand how these molecules work in nature and how their functions can be altered or regulated towards specific outcomes," says Rose. His research team has been applying the technology to study the processing and metabolism of carbohydrates in such areas as deriving nutrition from dietary starch, synthesis of glyco-proteins, and the discovery and development of novel molecules for energy production from organic material.

• Organism-Environment Feedback Facility. Lead investigator: Kim Cuddington, biology. CFI funding: $125,000.

Research in population and community ecology assumes that the organism is a passive recipient of environmental conditions. But it's clear that some organisms, called "ecosystem engineers," modify the chemical and physical environment. The CFI funds will allow Cuddington's research team to develop a general theory of organism-environment feedback while studying two areas of application: biological control and the management of invasive species. "Our research will benefit society by reducing agriculture dependency on pesticides," says Cuddington.


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Link of the day


When and where

Fall term examinations December 9-22; unofficial grades begin appearing in Quest December 23; grades become official January 25.

Trellis (library computer system) software upgrade continuing to December 21; some online data and services unavailable. Details.

Fee payment deadline for winter term, December 17 (promissory note), December 29 (bank transfer). Details.

Christmas buffet luncheon served by UW Catering, through Friday, 12:00 to 2:00, Festival Room, South Campus Hall, $17.95, reservations ext. 84700.

Weight Watchers at Work information session and sign-up for winter series, 12:00, Humanities room 373; information ext. 32218.

St. Jerome’s University President’s Annual Christmas Gala, 6:00, Community Centre, by invitation.

Society of Waterloo Architecture Graduates holiday soiree (“fancy clothes, live music and hors d’oeuvres”) 8:00 p.m., Lily Ruth Restaurant, Cambridge, tickets $10 from swagcouncil@

University Club Holiday Cheer Reception Friday 4:00 to 6:00, hors d’oeuvres, cheese, fruit, pastries, $13.75 per person, reservations ext. 33801.

Carousel Dance performance of “The Nutcracker” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” Saturday 2:00, Humanities Theatre.

David Powell, civil engineering student who died December 11, funeral service Saturday 10:30 a.m., Glad Tidings Pentecostal Church, 1401 Guelph Line, Burlington.

New faculty holiday reception (family and friends invited) Monday from 3:30 p.m., Laurel Room, South Campus Hall; walk to Waterloo Park for Wonders of Winter display, 5:45. Details.

UW senate monthly meeting Monday — cancelled.

Payday for faculty and monthly-paid staff Wednesday, December 23, and Friday, January 22; for biweekly-paid staff, December 18 and 31.

Christmas and New Year’s holidays: UW closed Thursday, December 24, through Friday, January 1, reopening Monday, January 4.

Opera Kitchener presents “Die Fledermaus” Sunday, January 3, 3:00, Humanities Theatre. Details.

Winter term classes begin Monday, January 4.

Imaginus poster sale January 4-8, Student Life Centre.

Return-to-campus interviews for co-op students January 6-8, Tatham Centre. Work term reports from fall term co-op jobs due January 11, 4 p.m..

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