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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

  • Globe ranks Waterloo high with employers
  • Protein fusion project brings bronze medal
  • The living dead, the library, the new lab
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Globe ranks Waterloo high with employers

University rankings were on everybody's mind at yesterday's meeting of the board of governors, and will get even more attention today with the planned release of the annual Maclean's scores for Canadian universities, hitting the web just about the time this Daily Bulletin appears.

Yesterday, attention was focused on the three major worldwide rankings that have been published in recent weeks — from Shanghai, QS, and Times Higher Education — and on the Globe and Mail Canadian rankings, which were published yesterday morning.

Summarizing matters for the board, president Feridun Hamdullahpur said Waterloo aspires to be in the top 100 of the world's 10,000 universities, and is currently ranked somewhere between 140th and 225th according to the criteria the various agencies use. Those rankings matter in one primary way, he said: potential international students, "and especially their parents", may use them as a way of judging which North American universities are the best choice.

In specialized results just released by THE, Waterloo is ranked 48th in the world (tied with Japan's University of Kyoto) for its "engineering and technology" programs. First place in the world is shared by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Caltech; Toronto is in 18th place, with British Columbia and McGill also coming in ahead of Waterloo.

In yesterday's Globe and Mail report, "our ranking remains the same, with improvements in several areas," Hamdullahpur told the board, which met in a third-floor seminar room in the new Mathematics 3 building.

"I was glad to see that the ranking of residences improved," he said, but the real news was in a new category, "reputation with employers", where Waterloo was one of three institutions across Canada to earn an A-plus (the other two were McGill and Queen's).

"Waterloo improved in five categories this year and held steady in all remaining categories," says a summary of the Globe data prepared yesterday by Jennifer Kieffer of the university's institutional analysis and planning office. She notes that the rankings are based on the 33,000 responses received to a student survey sent out to undergraduates across the country.

Kieffer notes that Waterloo earned first place (an A-minus, the Globe calls it) for "career preparation" and tied for first place among large institutions in the categories of class size and "research opportunities" for students. Waterloo was in second place among large institutions in "course registration", and tied for second place in quality of teaching, most satisfied students, information technology, and student residences.

Waterloo rated a B-minus for "work-play balance", a B for "city satisfaction" (behind the universities in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver), a B-plus for recreation and athletics, a B-plus for libraries, and a B for student-faculty interaction.

Says Kieffer: "This year’s report included profiles of two recent uWaterloo graduates: Andy Zhang, BASc 2010, and Rebecca Kaster, BA in Arts & Business, 2011. Shannon O’Keefe, a graduate with a BASc from the University of Toronto, is also profiled in the report, and her profile mentions that she is currently a uWaterloo student in our Master of Engineering in Electrical Power Engineering program.

"This year the report also grouped some institutions into different categories (Ivy League, Boutique Schools, 401 Dream Team, New Kids on the Block, Urban and Hip, Regional Heavyweights, and Francophone) and uWaterloo was included in the Ivy League list along with Toronto, McGill, Queen’s, Western, UBC, Alberta and McMaster."

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[iGem team in black shirts]
Protein fusion project brings bronze medal

The Waterloo “iGEM” student team that will be competing for a world championship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology next week earned its way into the finals by sacrificing a turkey dinner for a chance to win a bronze medal in a regional competition in Indianapolis.

Team members, seen in the photo, are (top) James Scott, Jordan Lapointe, Chris Milousis, Joon Hyuk Hong, Diljot Chhina, Andrew Dhawan, Simon Burru and Ekta Bibra; (bottom) Arianne Villa, Michel Simard, Kasia Karpinska-Leydier, Angela Biskupovic and Conria D’Souza.

The annual Regional International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM) Americas Jamboree, a premier undergraduate synthetic biology competition, was scheduled over the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so the Waterloo team journeyed down to Indianapolis to enter and win.

Teams compete by designing and building their own innovative biological systems to operate them in living cells. At the Regionals, 64 teams from the Americas shared their designs and presented in front of each other as well as world renowned experts in their field.

This year, the Waterloo team created a biological system that will allow assembly of protein fusion in living organisms using self-excising ribozymes, or introns. It is described as a novel way of creating protein fusion by using a recombination site that is embedded within the intron, which then would allow insertion of a compatible protein fusion part as well as remove any extra sequences that would disrupt the reading of DNA. “The system we have created here will definitely move the field of synthetic biology forward”, said Joon Hyuk Hong, co-director of the team, “and can be applied in many different situations such as creating synthetic antibodies.”

Only 25 teams advanced to the World Championship, six of them from Canada. American finalists include Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, Caltech and MIT itself. Each will present its project again at the international event on November 4, with 18 schools from Europe and 18 from Asia also expected. “This will be a momentous opportunity to allow the team to expand their knowledge and proudly represent the University of Waterloo at an international level,” says Ekta Bibra, the outreach manager of the Waterloo team, “This is the first time that our team has advanced to the finals, and we are incredibly excited to be in such great company!”

Team director Hillary Yeung says she and her teammates were “very surprised to be included with so many impressive teams”, and now they’re working on their next challenge: “In order to represent our school proudly on an international level, we are in need of financial support.” The team’s website provides more information about the competition and the project, and about how well-wishers can direct financial support to the team.

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The living dead, the library, the new lab

There isn’t usually much about zombies in the Daily Bulletin, so let’s make the most of today’s news. “I thought it might be important,” writes Kirsty Budd from the Federation of Students office, “to [Zombies at Dana Porter Library]share some info about the humans v. zombies game being played on the Waterloo campus right now.” (We don’t want anybody to panic when they see the semi-dead in pursuit of the temporarily living.) “In the game,” she says, “two teams will be playing a version of tag. Most players will start as humans, while a few will start on the zombie team. The zombies can tag a human to turn them into a zombie. Humans can temporarily stun zombies using balled-up socks or nerf dart guns. There are currently 413 participants in this game. The game ends on Monday, or when all humans have been tagged.” (The image at left is from the “Jolly Zombie Christmas” video created last year by the Film Creators Club.)

The university’s library marks Library Day today — “an annual event that celebrates your connection to the Library. It is the Library’s chance to thank and show appreciation for students, faculty, and staff at Waterloo.” This year’s event is part of the Student Success Week that’s now underway, with its emphasis today on “Academic/ Intellectual” issues. Says the library’s web site: “Join us for celebrations from 10 a.m. to noon. Visit the Dana Porter or Davis Centre Libraries during this time for refreshments, to pick up limited edition Library buttons, and to enter a draw to win a Retail Services gift bag. This year we're taking the opportunity to celebrate the Library's fantastic student workers on Library Day. Every term the Library employs up to 80 students whose hard work and valuable insights help to make the Library a better place for all students. Meet two of our student employees, Edna Snyder and Marie Schega. Come and celebrate the role that the Library has in your learning, teaching, and research!”

A new digital media laboratory that will be located in a former felt factory is being opened with celebrations tonight (5 to 7 p.m.) in St. Jacobs, just north of Waterloo. The facility promises to “strengthen Waterloo Region’s reputation as a national innovation corridor while teaching the next generation of entrepreneurs how to design, build and commercialize interactive displays that anticipate and meet real-world needs.” It’s being created by the university’s Research Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program, headed by David Goodwin of the drama and speech communication department, in conjunction with Quarry Integrated Communications, Christie Digital Systems and Intel Corporation. The lab, which will keep the name FELT, is “a digital sandbox for serious play”, its creators say. “The lab provides a venue for University of Waterloo students to gain intensive, hands-on experience that involves taking an idea from conception to creation to adoption. Students, faculty and industry experts will access new technologies involving interactivity, responsiveness and digital display environments to spark research entrepreneurship.” FELT will officially open tonight with “an evening of interactive engagement and serious play involving a variety of Canadian academics, luminaries, politicians, technology influencers and media. Students will demonstrate various applications and uses for the new technology that support their projects.” The event runs from 5 to 7 p.m. at Quarry’s offices at 1440 King Street North in St. Jacobs.

And . . . Waterloo Women's Wednesdays "had a fantastic turnout at the inaugural September meeting," says a note from the organizers of the planned monthly get-togethers. "A significant proportion of those in attendance indicated that they are interested in identifying one topic for discussion for each W3 meeting. The suggestion was that we spend 4-5 p.m. socializing and then begin discussing the monthly topic selected by the group at 5:00 p.m." Today's the day, as the group will meet at the Graduate House on the last Wednesday of each month. "For this event," says the latest memo, "we were able to book the Green Room (the large room on the main floor), which will make the event more accessible to participants with mobility issues." The gatherings are aimed at female staff, graduate students, post-docs and faculty members "who are looking to make connections with other women from around campus".


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Link of the day


When and where

Pre-enrolment for spring 2012 undergraduate courses, October 24-30. Details.

International Women in Digital Media Summit co-sponsored by Stratford campus, final day, Rotary Complex, Stratford. Details.

Retail services ‘Fall into a Good Book’ sale final day, South Campus Hall concourse.

Free noon concert: Lori Freedman (bass clarinet), 12:30, Conrad Grebel U College chapel.

Centre for Advancement of Trenchless Technologies annual general meeting, dinner and presentation, 5 p.m., Mississauga Grand banquet centre.

Waterloo Public Interest Research Group “picture-lecture” on “Mountaintop Removal: The True Cost of Coal” 7 p.m., Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Staff association annual general meeting Thursday 9 a.m., Math and Computer room 5158. Details.

Stratford campus workshop: “Leadership Vision” Thursday 9 a.m., repeated November 24. Details.

Surplus sale of furniture and equipment, Thursday 12:30 to 2:00, East Campus Hall.

Philosophy colloquium: Ann Garry, Humphrey Chair in Feminist Philosophy, “Metaphors of Intersectionality” Thursday 1:00, Hagey Hall room 373.

Library workshop: “SimplyMap Canada” Thursday 1:15, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Chemical engineering seminar: Ajay Dalai, University of Saskatchewan, “Development of Novel Carbon Nanotubes Supported Catalysts” Thursday 3:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Web research skills for activists’ workshop organized by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group , Thursday 5:30, Student Life Centre room 2135.

Indian Film Festival presents “Three Idiots” (2009), Thursday 7 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 124. Details.

Global Youth Network information session about volunteer trips to India and Morocco in May 2012, Thursday 7:30, Math and Computer room 4042.

Deadline for 50 per cent refund of fall term fees, October 28.

Wilfrid Laurier University fall convocation, Friday 10 a.m. (installation of chancellor) and 2:30 p.m. (honorary degree to boxer Lennox Lewis), Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex.

Engineering 6 building grand opening Friday 10:30 a.m., by invitation, information ext. 33580.

Gem and Mineral Show Friday 12:00 to 6:00, Saturday 10:00 to 5:00, CEIT building atrium. Details.

International spouses “secret campus tour” Friday 12:45, meet outside CEIT building, information e-mail patty91872@

Co-op student rankings for winter term jobs (“main” group of students) open Friday 1 p.m., close October 31, 2 p.m.

Church college alumni outing to “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Stratford Festival, Friday, includes reception and introductory lecture, tickets $75, information fwmartin@

Science open house with children’s activities and presentations, Saturday 10:00 to 4:00, CEIT building. Details.

Shutdown for myHRinfo

The myHRinfo system will shut down for a systems upgrade from November 3 at 4:30 p.m. until Wednesday, November 9. During the shutdown period, users will not be able to login or to make changes to any information using myHRinfo. Check for updates on availability.

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department, viewable through myHRinfo:

• Senior development officer, faculty of mathematics, USG 11
• Manager, student technology (student innovation), student success office, USG 12
• Library clerk, optometry, USG 3
• Counsellor, counselling services, USG 11
• Building serviceperson I (mason), plant operations
• Building serviceperson I (locksmith), plant operations
• Custodian I, plant operations (7 positions)
• Account coordinator, co-operative education and career services, USG 7
• Employment service representative, CECS, USG 5/6
• Service representative, CECS, USG 4/5 (3 positions)
• Interview services representative (paging), CECS, USG 4/5
• Interview services rep (call centre), CECS, USG 4/5
• Interview services rep (employer greeter), CECS, USG 4/5
• Interview services rep (employer debriefer), CECS, USG 4/5
• Associate director, WatPD, USG 11 (30-month secondment or contract)

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin