Tuesday, November 3, 2009

  • UW team issues ‘tobacco trends’ report
  • Voters try out new security system
  • New cars on campus, and other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

[Smiling adult, puzzled child]

Simon Ho, a third-year civil engineering student, is back from a project trip to Quezaltepeque, El Salvador, where he was part of a team of engineers and architects who volunteered their time to design an orphanage for the Father’s Heart Foundation. The Engineering Ministries International Canada team spent a week hearing the vision for the project, surveying the nine-acre site, and developing concepts for family-style orphan housing, a multi-purpose building that can be used as training facilities, a church, a medical clinic and a community centre, and an agricultural area. For Ho, seen with a boy from the orphanage, the trip was part of a larger experience with EMIC’s internship program. He’s now volunteering with the agency in Calgary, assisting in the completion of the project report.

Back to top

UW team issues ‘tobacco trends’ report

from the UW media relations office

A collection of patterns and trends on tobacco use in Canada, compiled by UW’s new Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, will help policy leaders and advocates focus their efforts on improving the health of Canadians through tobacco control.

The new report, Tobacco Use in Canada: Patterns and Trends, 2009 Edition, was released yesterday at the sixth National Conference on Tobacco or Health in Montréal. The report provides a collection of data related to tobacco use in youth and adults “for use by policy leaders, advocates and researchers to determine strategies to reduce smoking across Canada”.

The report says that in 2008, there were significant differences in smoking prevalence by level of education. Those with a secondary school education or less had double the smoking prevalence of university graduates. Educational differences were particularly large for daily smoking, at less than 6 per cent for university graduates, and 13 to 17 per cent in other groups.

It adds that two-thirds of smokers over age 15 were seriously considering quitting in the next six months. More than one-third were considering quitting in the next month. Half of adult smokers tried to quit in the past year, many of them more than once.

“Tobacco is the number one preventable cause of death,” says Paul Lapierre, vice-president (public affairs and cancer control) for the Canadian Cancer Society. “In Canada alone, there are almost five million smokers. If they continue to smoke, between one-third and one-half of these smokers will die from their use of tobacco.”

The Propel Centre for Population Health Impact, which was launched last week as a successor to two existing research centres, brings 30 years of experience in impact-oriented science. The new agency builds upon the Centre for Behavioural Research and Program Evaluation, which was founded by the Cancer Society, by bringing together staff from CBRPE and the Population Health Research Group. Propel connects leaders in research, policy, and practice from across Canada and beyond to join forces in the fight against cancer and chronic disease.

More than 40 scientists and staff work under its auspices to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases, including diabetes, stroke, and heart and lung diseases, as well as improve the quality of life for those touched by cancer. Propel's initial focus is in the area of tobacco control, youth health, active living and healthy eating, and quality of life for those affected by cancer.

"This report is an example of how Propel helps bring leaders in research, policy, and practice from across Canada to join forces and help transform the health of populations in Canada and around the world," said Roy Cameron, Propel's executive director.

Back to top

Voters try out new security system

As voters in the United States elect everything from sheriffs to governors today, a graduate student in UW’s school of computer science will be watching the voting in one little Maryland city very closely.

[Posing with US flag] Says Jeremy Clark (right), an engineering graduate of Western and the University of Ottawa who’s working on his PhD at Waterloo: “I am part of a project that will be running the very first public sector election that uses cryptography so voters can prove that the tally is correct and their votes were recorded correctly.

“Our system is called Scantegrity.” After tests and demonstrations, it’s being tried out for real today as voters choose a mayor and six council members in the Washington suburb of Takoma Park, Maryland, population 17,000.

“Within election circles, it’s a pretty big deal,” says Clark, noting that the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently held a workshop on such "end-to-end voting systems" and is looking at possible guidelines for them. Scantegrity had some publicity in the online version of Technology Review magazine this week.

The Scantegrity system is the work of noted cryptographer David Chaum with support from researchers at several institutions, including UW’s Clark. It’s described in a news release from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County: “For the first time, a government election will allow voters to check that their private votes are correctly recorded and included in the final tally using a new optical-scan voting technology.”

How it works: “After casting their optically-scanned ballot at the polling place, voters will be able to check ‘confirmation codes’ for their votes on the city’s website. The codes are revealed, for each oval a voter fills on the ballot, by an invisible ink system akin to that used in children’s puzzle books. Voters may, if they wish, note the codes and the ballot serial number while in the booth. Because the codes are separately randomized for each oval and for each ballot, nothing about who a voter has voted for is revealed by the codes on the website.

“The cost of the system is significantly lower than that of current systems since it is fully open source, the scanning setup uses commercial off-the-shelf scanners, and all printing is done with office printers.”

Scantegrity “has run a number of elections for universities and other organizations” as well as “a public mock election” last spring administered by Takoma Park’s Board of Elections.

More background: “Before the election, encrypted items of data were posted on the election website. Some will not be decrypted, but the individual keys needed to decrypt others will be posted after the close of polls. Which keys will be revealed depends not only on the results and confirmation codes, but also on impossible-to-predict statistics of a set of high-tech stocks. This lets anyone verify a full public audit ensuring that the official election results are consistent with the confirmation codes published on the website.”

“Something I find particularly exciting about the technology,” says Chaum, “is that it is robust enough to be used anywhere in the world — scanners at polling places can speed posting of results, but with centralized scanning, polling places need only pens, ballots and ballot boxes.”

Back to top

New cars on campus, and other notes

Grand River CarShare "is expanding its presence in Waterloo's university district" and will show off three of its vehicles in front of the Dana Porter Library today. "The non-profit co-operative has located a Mini Cooper at Wilfrid Laurier University for the past year," a news release yesterday said, "and has recently placed a Toyota Echo at Waterloo Co-operative Residence, Inc. on Phillip Street, and a Suzuki Aerio at Conrad Grebel University College." It quoted Grebel's director of operations, Paul Penner: "We are very pleased to support this Grand River CarShare initiative because we believe it represents a more sustainable approach to transportation." Drivers pay for their trips according to distance and hourly rates, the agency explains. "This allows many households to reduce the number of vehicles they own, and choose environmentally friendly transportation modes more often. . . . Now, employees in the university district can change their commuting habits, knowing that vehicles are available for them when necessary.” Twelve other CarShare vehicles are stationed throughout Waterloo Region and Hamilton, including one at UW's Architecture building in Cambridge. The Waterloo-based cars will be on display in the arts quad from 11:00 to 2:00 today, with CarShare people on hand to explain how it all works, and a ceremony at 12:30 to hand over the new vehicles. There will also be CarShare workshops on campus Wednesday and Thursday, with details available online.

A team based in UW’s school of optometry &mdash three faculty, nine third-year students and an optician — are spending today at The Bridges, a shelter in Cambridge, providing eye exams to some 30 homeless people. “We are doing this,” says a memo from optometry, “as part of an initiative which is being directed by the Communities and Partnerships Division of the Homeless Partnering Secretariat,” a federal government agency. “This secretariat is looking at ways to improve access to eye care for the homeless,” explains Debbie Jones, clinic director in the optometry school. “We will be providing spectacles at no charge to those patients who require them. Two companies are providing the spectacles to us.” A similar pilot project is scheduled for later this month in Montréal, home of Canada's other school of optometry.

A couple of meet-and-greet sessions — one today and one on Friday — will help connect Canadian and international participants in UW’s Shadow program, says Maggie Liang of Waterloo International. “The Shadow program,” she says, “is to pair a volunteer with a new international student in their very first term. The shadow will show the student around, help him or her get familiar with UW and the community environment, and make the first-term out-of-the-country experience more pleasant.” There are about 190 students, and 140 volunteers, currently registered, and they’ll be getting together in Needles Hall at noontime today and Friday, whichever day is more convenient. “It is a great opportunity for people to chat and socialize,” Liang observes.

Here’s something a little bit recursive: a research study about how people feel about being the subjects of research studies. Megahan Sinden writes from Conestoga College: “I'm a fourth-year Conestoga-McMaster BScN student, and along with one of my peers, we are involved in recruiting students for a study being conducted at several universities and colleges across the area. We have approval from UW’s research ethics board, so have permission to commence recruiting students from the university.The study in short is looking at post-secondary students’ perceptions about being recruited for academic research. The study is in its preliminary stages which will involve asking students to participate in taking an online survey.” Next step is to click to Surveymonkey.

Planning is under way for next summer’s Shad Valley program, and applications are now available for teenagers (currently in grades 10, 11 and 12) to fill out if they'd be interested in taking part. • Students living at St. Jerome’s University held their annual Penny Pinchers competition in the first week of October and, it’s now been announced, raised more than $2,400 for the Kidsability Centre for Child Development. • The Columbia Lake Health Club, in TechTown on Hagey Boulevard, is running a “Food for Fitness” promotion this month: bring in a non-perishable food item for the Food Bank of Waterloo Region and get a free workout or, if you’re already a CLHC member, be entered to win “an eight-week group personal training session”.


Back to top

Link of the day

Sandwich Day

When and where

Engineering exchange programs information sessions today and November 10, 11:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 3517. Details.

Hybrid Practices artist lecture series for department of fine arts, East Campus Hall room 1219: Jean-Pierre Gauthier, today 1 p.m.; Janet Morton, Wednesday 10 a.m.; Laura Milard, Wednesday 1 p.m.; Iain Baxter and Derek Knight, Thusday 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Rod Stoneman, November 11 and 12, 2:30 p.m.

Ontario Water Works Association student chapter presents the film “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” 1:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Chef’s Series: “Quick & Easy Meals” 5 p.m. today at Mudie’s cafeteria, Village I; Wednesday at REVelation, Ron Eydt Village.

Holocaust Education Week lecture: Robert Jan van Pelt, school of architecture, “Auschwitz, the Forgotten Camps and the Story of the Holocaust” 7:00, Arts Lecture Hall room 113.

Brubakers cafeteria, Student Life Centre, grand opening of newly renovated outlet, prizes, cake, Wednesday 10:30 to 2:30.

‘Introduction to RefWorks’ workshop in UW library, Wednesday 10:30, November 25 at 1:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

QPR for Suicide Prevention training session Wednesday 11:30, Math and Computer room 4068, register at ext. 33528.

Water Environment Association of Ontario webinar, “Membrane 101”, Wednesday 1:00, Environment II room 2002.

UW Biomedical Discussion Group: speaker Bo Cui, electrical and computer engineering, Wednesday 2:30, CEIT room 3142. Details.

Margaret Randall, poet, photographer and social activist, lecture, “My Years in Cuba”, Wednesday 4:00, MacKirdy Hall, St. Paul’s UC; poetry reading Thursday 4:30, Environment I atrium.

‘Are You Thinking about Dentistry?’ career workshop Wednesday 5:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Columbia Lake Health Club “lifestyle learning” session: “Cardio Training for Weight Loss” Wednesday 5:30, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

St. Paul’s University College presents Paul Polak, “Out of Poverty”, address, reception and book signing, Thursday 7:30 p.m., MacKirdy Hall.

Drop (penalty 1) period for fall term courses ends, November 6.

Work reports marked by co-op coordinators available to pick up at Tatham Centre, November 6.

School of Environment, Enterprise and Development forum, “Business Not as Usual”, keynote by federal industry minister Tony Clement, Friday, Federation Hall. Details.

Waterloo Engineering Competition Friday evening and all day Saturday, various campus locations. Details.

Symposium on Chemical Physics (25th annual regional symopsium), November 6-8, CEIT room 1015. Details.

Fall open house for prospective students and their families, Saturday 10:00 to 4:00; information booths at Student Life Centre, tours, academic presentatons; also at Architecture building. Details.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May speaks: “Countdown to Copenhagen: What’s at Stake? Where Is Canada?” Saturday 3:30 p.m., PAS building room 2083.

Department of drama presents “The Government Inspector” by Nikolai Gogol, November 12-14 and 19-21 at 8 p.m.; preview performance by invitation November 11, 7:00; school matinees November 13 and 20 at 12:30, Theatre of the Arts. Details.

Entrepreneur Week sponsored by Communitech, November 16-22, events include multiple presentations and Waterloo Region Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Gala. Details.

Staff association craft show and sale (16th annual) November 26-27, Davis Centre lounge, details to be announced.

Fall term classes end Saturday, December 5 (Monday schedule that day). Exams December 9-22; unofficial grades begin appearing in Quest December 23; grades become official January 25.

WatITis one-day conference for information technology staff, December 8. Details.

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin