Friday, May 15, 2009

  • UW audience sees telescope launch
  • Rule to require outlines in all courses
  • Other notes as summer reaches Waterloo
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Video screen in background]
UW audience sees telescope launch

Michel Fich of UW’s department of physics and astronomy was the star of the show yesterday as an audience in the Humanities Theatre watched the successful launch of the Herschel Space Observatory and heard about Canada's contribution to the study of the birth of planets, stars and galaxies.

A breakfast-time event in Humanities, organized by the Faculty of Science, included a live video feed of the Herschel launch from Kourou, French Guiana, and remarks from Fich explaining his involvement in the project. (He’s pictured above with a shot of the launch rocket projected behind him.)

Other guests included Alain Berinstain, director of planetary exploration and space astronomy for the Canadian Space Agency, and Mike Pley, chief operating officer of Kitchener-based COM DEV International, which built the hardware for Fich’s part of the Herschel project. (More from this morning's Guelph Mercury.)

Herschel is the largest telescope ever put into space, with a diameter of 3.5 metres. Dubbed the Hubble of longwaves and built by the European Space Agency, it is expected to usher in a new generation of space telescopes as it investigates the history of how stars were formed and study how they continue to form in this and other galaxies.

"Herschel will be a major space observatory, much like the Hubble Space Telescope, though working at the longer wavelengths of light, where the processes creating planets, stars and galaxies become visible," said Fich. He serves as principal investigator for a key Canadian contribution to the telescope. "Canadian astronomers will use the Heterodyne Instrument for the Far Infrared (HIFI), a high resolution instrument on Herschel, to make the first detailed studies of water, the basic molecule of life, in all of these parts of the Universe."

Fich worked with COM DEV to build a local oscillator source unit, a key-subsystem in HIFI, with funding from the Canadian Space Agency, and he leads a team of some 30 astronomers from institutions across Canada who will use HIFI to search for water in the Universe.

They will look for the H2O chemical signature in extremely young solar systems, in dense interstellar clouds where stars are just beginning to form, and in other galaxies. HIFI will also be used to study many other simple molecules in the first detailed astrochemistry mission in space.

Herschel will be deployed 1.5 million kilometres from Earth, four times further away than the Moon. HIFI is one of three highly sensitive instruments kept at temperatures close to absolute zero using liquid helium. The mission will end when the helium is exhausted, probably after about 4 years of operation.

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Rule to require outlines in all courses

A proposed rule that every undergraduate course must have a course outline is on the agenda for approval at the monthly meeting of UW’s senate, to be held on Tuesday.

“I couldn’t find any statement anywhere in the university that said faculty members had to present a course outline,” explains associate vice-president (academic) Geoff McBoyle. So he drafted a rule and brought a proposal to the undergraduate council, which discussed it in mid-April and is recommending it to senate. The requirement is to go into effect in the fall term.

“Students need to know what’s going to be in the course and how they’re going to be assessed,” McBoyle said.

There are also administrative reasons why a course outline is necessary, he added. For example, students transferring from UW to another university often need to document what was covered, and at what level, in the courses they’ve taken. Within UW, discipline cases sometimes involve disagreements about course requirements and methods of assessment. The course outline records such matters “so that there’s no ambiguity”, McBoyle says.

Nearly all instructors do provide course outlines already, he said — “we’re not talking many” who fail to do it altogether — but some instructors leave out information that really should be there, and others provide nothing more than a few notes on a whiteboard or overhead projection. The new rule will say that a course outline must “be distributed to students electronically or on paper by the end of the first week of classes”.

It will also say that a course outline “should include the following basic elements: course number and title; class days, times, building, and room number; class instructor's name, office, contact information, office hours; TA's name, office, contact information, office hours (if applicable); course description; course objectives; required text and/or readings; general overview of the topics to be covered; expectations of the course, including requirements, deadlines, weight of requirements toward the final course grade; acceptable rules for group work; indication of how late submissions and missed assignments will be treated; indication of where students are to submit and pick up marked assignments; the institutional-required statements regarding ‘Academic Integrity’,‘Grievance’, ‘Discipline’, 'Appeals’, and the ‘Note for students with disabilities’.”

Finally, it will say that course outlines must be “filed with the appropriate administrative authority”, which means the academic department office unless some other records system is developed in future. They’ll be kept on file in case questions arise after a course has ended. After all, McBoyle pointed out, courses change over time, and “you can’t say what the format of that course was five years ago!”

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Other notes as summer reaches Waterloo

Yesterday’s Daily Bulletin asserted that Mike Iley, of the faculty of health sciences, was taking part in “The Wedding Singer”, the pop musical being staged this week and next in the Theatre of the Arts. The facts are otherwise. That particular Iley isn’t stage-struck, apparently. The one who’s involved in “The Wedding Singer” (continuing through May 23) is his brother, Matt Iley, a local optometrist and adjunct instructor in UW’s optometry school.

“There are fewer women in math and science-oriented career fields such as engineering and computer science,” a TVOntario program is asking this weekend, “but why? EQAO test scores show that girls aren’t lacking in mathematical ability; in fact, data for the 2007-08 school year indicates that 62% of Grade 6 girls were at or above the provincial standard in mathematics vs. 60% for Grade 6 boys. So why do girls often opt out of higher studies and careers involving math?” Your Voice, TVO’s web series for parents, discusses and debates such questions in a show titled “Why Girls Don’t Like Math”, available to watch on the web as of today and broadcast on TVO Sunday at 6 p.m. “Host Cheryl Jackson and a panel of expert guests will examine what it takes to keep girls interested and confident in math; the role of schools in developing their interest and ability; and the role parents play in encouraging their girls’ math pursuits.” Says Jackson: “Only 40% of girls believe they’re good at math, but their marks tell a more positive story. Our experts will help us understand more about girls’ EQAO test scores and how parents and teachers can use that information to help our young female students.” Guests include Fiona Dunbar, lecturer in the UW Faculty of Mathematics, who organized the university’s inaugural “Think About Math!” weekend conference for high school girls last month.

A photo contest for arts undergraduate students, offering prizes up to $200 for pictures of student life at UW, continues through May 31. • Participants in a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada youth convention will rub shoulders in Ron Eydt Village over the weekend with participants in the annual Ontario Folk Dance Camp. • Joel Norris of central stores reports happily that at the end of last weekend he and his colleagues sent five trailer loads of junk computers and other electronic gear off for recycling by Greentec, half of the equipment collected from across campus, half dropped off by members of the public.

Renison College is offering non-credit “Arabic for Beginners” courses at two levels this term, and space is still available (information, e-mail rchampion@ • Mudie's cafeteria in Village I is running a "great movie month" promotion under the title "Angels and Demons", leading up to a special dinner next Thursday, 4:30 to 7:00. • The Faculty of Arts has announced that Bruce Muirhead will be interim chair of the department of history for a one-year term that began on May 1.


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Victoria Day long weekend

Monday will be Victoria Day, a holiday for most things in this country, including UW. As one of my colleagues wrote in this space a year ago, “It's our gateway to the short, sweet Canadian summer, the date you can safely plant your annuals and set up the barbecue.” At UW, classes will not be held on Monday, and offices and most services are closed.

That includes the bookstore and other retail services outlets (also closed Saturday). Mudies cafeteria, in Village I, will be open as usual, but all other food outlets, including Tim Hortons in the Student Life Centre, will be closed Saturday through Monday. The Dana Porter and Davis Centre libraries will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday (open as usual on Saturday and Sunday). The Physical Activities Complex will be closed all weekend, and the Columbia Icefield closed Monday (but open Saturday and Sunday).

Some key services continue uninterrupted: UW police, 519-888-4911 (ext. 22222 on campus); Student Life Centre, turnkey desk 519-888–4434 (ext. 84434 on campus); maintenance emergencies ext. 33793; to report computer network outages, ext. 34357.

Link of the day

Pierre Curie 150

When and where

‘The Wedding Singer’ produced by K-W Musical Productions, continues today and Saturday and May 20-23 at 8 p.m., May 23 at 2 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets $29 at Humanities box office.

‘61 Years of Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine’ presentation hosted by Students for Palestinian Rights, Friday, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Computer vision workshop sponsored by Vision and Image Processing Group, oral and poster presentations on current work, noon to 4:00, Engineering II room 1307C. Details.

‘Global Financial Crisis’ one-day conference at Wilfrid Laurier University, Friday; free panel discussion, “Lessons from the Financial Crisis”, 3:30, SBE building room 1220. Details.

Canoeing the Grand: outing sponsored by International Student Connection, Saturday, bus leaves campus 11 a.m., tickets $30 from Federation of Students office.

Energy Futures one-day conference on residential energy systems, hosted by UW faculty of environment and other agencies, Tuesday at Centre for International Governance Innovation. Details.

Education Credit Union brown-bag lunch: “Financing and Purchasing a Vehicle” Tuesday 12:15, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Waterloo Region rapid transit public consultation centres Tuesday, May 19, 2:00 to 8:00, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Kitchener; May 26, 2:00 to 8:00, First United Church, Waterloo. Details.

UW Senate meets Tuesday 4:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Sharcnet Symposium on GPU and Cell Computing, Wednesday, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Sharcnet Research Day with two keynote speakers and presentations on high-performance computing, Thursday, May 21, Arts Lecture Hall. Details.

Last day to drop or withdraw from courses with 100 per cent fee refund; “drop, no penalty” period ends, May 22.

You@Waterloo Day open house for students who have received offers of admission to UW, and their families, May 23, 10:00 to 2:00, headquarters in Student Life Centre. Details. Bookstore, UW Shop, TechWorx and Campus TechShop open 12:00 to 4:00.

Renison University College 50th anniversary alumni dinner, speaker Bob Rae, May 23, 6:30 p.m., tickets $100, information ext. 28657.

UW Retirees Association annual general meeting May 27, 3:30, Sunshine Centre, Luther Village.

International Spouses “Grow Your Own Herb Garden” presentation by Samm McKay, May 28, 12:45, Columbia Lake Village community centre, pre-register by e-mail (dtamsg@ by May 22. Details.

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin