Thursday, April 15, 2010

  • Killam Prize latest honour for CS prof
  • Notes about planning, Poland and money
  • The Faculty of Arts reaches 50
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Killam Prize latest honour for CS prof

A researcher in the Cheriton School of Computer Science has received one of the Killam Prizes — a national honour not seen at Waterloo in nearly three decades.

[Li]Ming Li (right) was already a faculty member in CS, a Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics, and (as of last year) a University Professor. The Canada Council announced Tuesday that he’s also the winner of the 2010 Killam Prize in Engineering.

Five Killam Prizes are awarded each year to Canadian scholars in the fields of health sciences, natural sciences, engineering, social sciences and humanities. Recipients are chosen by a committee of 15 eminent Canadian scholars appointed by the Canada Council. “These prizes are Canada’s most distinguished annual awards for outstanding career achievements in these fields and are an important part of building Canada’s future through research,” a news release states.

The sponsors cited Li as “one of a handful of internationally acclaimed computer scientists whose research has had major impacts outside his own discipline. His work is now finding new applications in computer science, bioinformatics, philosophy, physics, and statistics. Dr. Li's innovative work in the fields of computer science and bioinformatics has already moved well beyond theoretical investigation into exciting new ways to examine the sequence, structure and function of living cells."

More background on his work: “With co-author Paul Vitanyi, Dr. Li wrote the book on the so-called ‘Kolmogorov complexity,’ a measure of the amount of information needed to specify an object. Li’s 1997 publication, Introduction to Kolmogorov Complexity and Its Applications examined the dominant modern theory of randomness and information and introduced the incompressibility method, a way of analyzing algorithms which are used in computer programs.

“In addition to his many other duties, Dr. Li is Canada Research Chair in Bioinformatics at the University of Waterloo and currently serves as co-managing editor of the Journal of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

“Ming Li received his PhD in Computer Science from Cornell University in the United States and then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He is a professor at the University of Waterloo and also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.”

According to the school of CS, Li “specializes in Kolmogorov complexity, information distance, protein structure prediction systems and homology search algorithms. His research has led to advances in information retrieval and genome sequencing. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Association for Computing Machinery, and the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineering.”

He was nominated for the Killam Prize by Tamer Özsu, director of the Cheriton School. “Dr. Li’s work achieves a harmonic balance between theory and application,” says Özsu. “His theoretical work has created new methodologies, solved old open problems, and opened new research directions. His practical work, guided by theoretical models and algorithmic analysis, has resulted practical software systems that are widely used in the bioinformatics research community and the pharmaceutical industry. “

The annual Killam Prizes are at the top level of academic awards and scholarships funded by the Killam Trusts, which have been in existence since the death of Dorothy J. Killam in 1965. The Trusts’ website gives some background: “Funding for the Killam Trusts came from Izaak Walton Killam and his wife Dorothy J. Killam. Mr. Killam was one of the most successful Canadian business and financial figures of the first half of the 20th century. Having no children, Mr. Killam and his wife Dorothy planned to devote the greater part of their wealth to higher education in Canada. Mr. Killam died suddenly in 1955, and it was left to Mrs. Killam to work out the details of their plan in her Will. An astute business person in her own right, Mrs. Killam continued to build the Killam fortune. When she died in 1965, her lifetime gifts together with her testamentary bequests to higher education in Canada amounted to some $100 million. Today, the market value of the Killam Trusts approaches $400 million.”

The last Killam Prize winner at Waterloo was mathematician William Tutte, who received his award in 1982. In 1985, Ralph Stanton of the University of Alberta, who had been chair of what was then the “department of mathematics” at Waterloo in the 1960s, received a Prize.

Back to top

Notes about planning, Poland and money

Waterloo city council will look at "district plans" for much of UW's north campus at its meeting on Monday night, in preparation for official approval that's expected in June. Development of the area has been under discussion for years, and the documents that are coming forward now were hashed over at a public open house last fall. Tom Galloway of the university's plant operations department says one of the plans is an amendment to what's already in place for the Research and Technology Park, extending that region further north along Hagey Boulevard toward Bearinger Road. The other is a new plan for the "North West Campus District", the area bounded by Columbia Street, Fischer-Hallman Road, Bearinger Road and Westmount Road. Galloway says the general idea will be to divide most of the district into "five-acre blocks" for development that will one day look much like the R&T Park, apart from a region that will be set aside for new student housing near the existing Columbia Lake Village. The report contains nothing very controversial, he thinks — "the environmental impact statement is pretty benign" — and once council approval is given, work will go ahead, managed by the city, to put in main streets and sewers.

“I am in Warsaw,” writes history professor Lynne Taylor, “for the release of the Polish edition of my book Polish Orphans of Tengeru. The book is being well received. Yesterday was a reading at a book club, an internet interview, a radio interview, and an interview via email. Today, I meet with seven journalists from different magazines,” and so it goes. She adds that her visit comes at “a fascinating time to be in Poland, given what happened on the weekend,” the death of Polish president Lech Kaczynski and many other leaders in a plane crash in western Russia. “The country is truly in shock,” says Taylor. “The idea that they have lost much of their leadership, a generation gone, has set people back visibly. They are stunned. Last night, we walked past the presidential palace. The throngs were thick, the mood sombre, and the sea of candles and lanterns was awe-inspiring. People are not talking, but simply standing, watching the palace, by the thousands.” She’ll be back in Waterloo on Tuesday for a book launch at the University Club (5 to 7 p.m.), and “will be talking about the book and about  this week in Poland — both the tragedy of Smolensk and the book launch.”

At last week’s “town hall” meeting, provost Feridun Hamdullahpur said in answer to a question that yes, the university budget is available online for those who are interested. But until now, it’s been a little hard to find, buried in agenda material for the April board of governors meeting. There’s now a link to the draft 2010-11 budget from the “Public Accountability” web site, which can be reached directly from the university’s home page. The Accountability site also has links to budgets going back to 2006-07.

Of course, there's a difference between the budget, written before a fiscal year starts, and the financial statement, compiled after it ends — and for a different audience, not decision-makers but governors and auditors. The budget for 2008-09 was written two years ago now; the financial statement for that year was tabled at last fall's meeting of the board of governors. It was, or is, a thinner document than previous financial statements, with some of the charts omitted, including the one that actually corresponds most closely to the budget, the "Schedule of General Operating Expenses". That table, showing how the university spent $430 million in the year that ended April 30, 2009, is available on the finance office's web site. Again, there's a link from the Public Accountability page.

With tuition fees for the spring term due soon, scores of staff and faculty will be involved in making payments on behalf of their children and other dependants who are Waterloo students. So the finance office sent out an e-mail reminder the other day: “The Tuition Benefit form must be submitted with a Promissory Note. Tuition Benefit forms submitted without a Promissory Note will be discarded. Promissory Notes claiming the Tuition Benefit but not accompanied by a completed Tuition Benefit form will also be discarded.  If you and your student are not in the same location, one of you must assume responsibility for assembling the documents and submitting them to Student Accounts together. Please remember that the Tuition Benefit applies to charges for tuition fee, co-op fee and work report marking fee only.” The finance office doesn’t accept cash payment of tuition fees at the cashiers’ counter in Needles Hall, and also doesn’t accept personal cheques. Over-the-counter and mail payments should be by certified cheque, money order or bank draft, and are due by April 26. The deadline is three days later, April 29, for bank payments (such as online transfers) and international wire transfers.

Back to top

[Yellowing typescript]The Faculty of Arts reaches 50

Fifty years ago this week, on a campus that basically consisted of two brick buildings (DWE and Physics) and a couple of portables, leaders of the newly chartered University of Waterloo were making big decisions.

Check out the memo reproduced at left, from a crinkled copy in the university archives. "The administrators of the University are proceeding," writes president Gerry Hagey, "with the establishment of a Faculty of Arts. The first two years of the Arts program will definitely be offered commencing in the Fall of 1960."

There was still some hope that Waterloo University College would become federated with UW, as St. Jerome's College (not yet "University") had already done, and if it did, WUC could do much of the university's arts teaching. In the end, that didn't happen, and WUC turned into what's now Wilfrid Laurier University.

By the fall of 1960, Keith Thomas, Bill Dyck and others were teaching the first courses in an improvised BA program. "Arts I", known almost from the beginning as the Modern Languages building, would open in 1962.


Back to top

Link of the day

High five!

When and where

Extended library hours through April 23: Davis Centre library open 24 hours a day, except Sunday 2 to 8 a.m.; Dana Porter Library open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Details.

Staff career workshop: “Sell Your Skills” 2:30 p.m., Tatham Centre. Details.

Doug Payne, information systems and technology, retirement reception 3:30, Laurel Room, South Campus Hall, RSVP elmartin@

Computer Help and Information Place will close early (3:30) today.

Regional Transportation Master Plan open house 6:00 to 9:00, First United Church, Waterloo. Details.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Beth Jewkes, faculty of engineering, “Workflows and Forms in Sharepoint 2010” Friday 9:00, IST seminar room.

Centre for Aboriginal Learning, St. Paul’s University College, government funding announcement Friday 10:30 a.m., by invitation.

Electronic equipment recycling dropoff Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., central stores, East Campus Hall; information 519-624-3300.

OnStage Dance Competition Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m., Humanities Theatre.

University senate monthly meeting Monday 4:00, Needles Hall room 3001.

Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Cooperative Education seminar: Judene Pretti, WatPD program, Tuesday 12:30, Tatham Centre room 2218.

Luv Lulu, Hate Cancer sale of used workout wear, to benefit Canadian Cancer Society, Tuesday 2:00 to 8:00, TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard. Donate items in advance at TechTown, get chance to win $500 Lululemon shopping spree.

Discovery Days in Health Sciences event for high schoolers, April 21. Details.

Annual used book sale sponsored by Canadian Federation of University Women, proceeds to scholarship funds, April 24 (9 a.m. to 9 p.m.) and 25 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), First United Church, King and William Streets. Details.

Campus-wide utility shutdown April 24 at 4 p.m. to April 25 at 8 p.m.: all main campus buildings, no heat or hot water; buildings in north and east areas, including Villages, SLC, Optometry, Davis, DWE and  CPH, also no electrical power.

Retirees Association bus tour, “Wineries of the Beamsville Bench” May 12, details 519-885-6719.

President David Johnston Run for Mental Health Tuesday, May 18. Details.

PhD oral defences

Optometry. Ping Situ, “Sensitivity Across the Ocular Surface — Fundamental Findings and Clinical Applications.” Supervisor, Trefford L. Simpson. On display in the faculty of science, ESC 254A. Oral defence Friday, April 23, 10:00 a.m., Optometry room 347.

Electrical and computer engineering. Ghadamali Bagheri-Karam, “Physical-Layer Security in Wireless Communication Systems.” Supervisor, Amir K. Khandani. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, April 23, 1:30 p.m., CEIT room 3142.

Civil and environmental engineering. Elena Atroshchenko, “Stress Intensity Factors for Elliptical and Semi-Elliptical Cracks Subjected to an Arbitrary Mode I Loading.” Supervisors, Robert Graci and Grzegorz  Glinka. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, April 23, 2:30 p.m., Engineering II room 2348.

Electrical and computer engineering. Amirhossein Hajmiragha, “Sustainable Convergence of Electricity and Transport Sectors in the Context of Integrated Energy Systems.” Supervisors, Claudio Cañizares and Michael Fowler. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, April 26, 10:00 a.m., CEIT room 3151.

Management sciences. Md Shahedul Alam, “Market Oriented Technology Scanning as an Antecedent of Product Innovation Performance.” Supervisor, Rod McNaughton. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Tuesday, April 27, 9:30 a.m., Carl Pollock Hall room 4333.

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin