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Monday, November 25, 2013



  • Senate talks strategic plan, program changes
  • Researcher receives commercialization award
  • Monday's notes



Alex Ohanian, co-founder of reddit, speaks at the University of Waterloo Friday.

"Play this like it's your last life remaining." Alexis Ohanian, founder of social media website reddit, dispensed some sage advice for the digital age to a packed house at the Davis Centre on Friday.

Ohanian, a startup investor and ambassador for the Y Combinator incubator in Silicon Valley, was on the University of Waterloo campus promoting his new book, Without Their Permission. He’s using his book tour to encourage students to be internet entrepreneurs. Waterloo was the first Canadian university on his tour of more than 70 universities.

Ohanian co-founded reddit after graduating from the University of Virginia in 2005. Now a reddit board member, Ohanian focuses on social enterprise Breadpig, which donates profits to worthy causes.

He has invested in more than 90 startups including Thalmic Labs, the makers of the MYO gesture control band that originated at VeloCity. Ohanian also helped launch hipmunk and ran marketing, public relations and community outreach before becoming an advisor and joining the fight against the US Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect I.P. Act.

As well as delivering remarks, Ohanian had dinner with several Masters of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology students at the Grad House, signed copies of his book in the Davis Centre, and attended a late-night student social at the VeloCity residence.

For a social media recap of the event, search for the hashtag #uwaterloogold on Twitter.


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Senate talks strategic plan, program changes

The university’s Senate plowed through a packed agenda in more than three hours at its last meeting of the term on Monday, November 18.

Senate discussed the version of the Strategic Plan that had been approved by the Board of Governors in August 2013. Some senators had voiced concerns over the process that led to the board’s approval of the plan on August 28 after a number of modifications to the original wording endorsed by Senate in the spring had taken place.

Chief among those concerns were six words added at the Board of Governor’s direction on page 20 of the plan: “Waterloo will allocate current resources and align future resources to support areas of research where we have the greatest potential for world leadership, including quantum science, water and aging (emphasis added).”

The issue of how that sentence was to be interpreted was the focus on much deliberation. Were the three areas being explicitly mentioned as examples of where the university was showing world leadership, or were they a signal that these were the three areas where the university was going to be focusing its attention (and operating dollars) going forward?

Several senators noted that this emphasis could complicate the funding application process for researchers whose work was not in those areas, as granting agencies often ask the applicant to outline how their work aligns with their institution’s strategic plan.

Enter the university’s strategic research plan, itself currently under development. The plan includes a list of research areas and shows, according to Vice-President University Research George Dixon, “the breadth of individual scholarship that is the strength on which all our academic activity is based.”

“If you take a look at how funding is being approached in this system, there is a requirement to show some kind of critical mass to attract money into those areas,” continued Dixon. “Identifying those three was an example of those areas where we had critical mass, to attract research funding and research talent.”

“These are three examples,” concluded Dixon. “There are others.”

Ultimately, Senate heard a motion to amend the main motion, to the effect that Senate’s endorsement of the strategic plan is subject to the direction of Senate to the implementation team on transformational research to design a strategy consistent with the strategic research plan of the university. The amended motion passed.

Among the other items on Senate’s regular agenda Monday:

  • Approval of changes to faculty standing regulations in Environment. Now, students must petition to repeat a course they have already passed and for which they have achieved credit. The proposed procedure, which had been approved by the Registrar’s Office, will ensure consistency in allowing students to repeat courses for which they have already received credit.
  • Amendments to Senate Bylaw #5, which were given second reading and approval. The amendment changed the number of signatures required for nomination to Senate positions: five for faculty and graduate students, 25 for undergraduate students elected from a single faculty, and 100 for undergraduate students elected at large.
  • Amendments to the guidelines for the Awarding of Honorary Degrees and amendments to the nominating committee’s terms of reference
  • Approval of the new Option in Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Engineering. This option would be available in all engineering programs and would give engineering students an opportunity to pursue “an innovative curriculum focused on two themes of entrepreneurship; venture creation and corporate entrepreneurship
  • Approval of changes to the academic plans for Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering that included wording revisions and course re-numberings
  • Approval of the new research specialization and practice specialization in the Bachelor of Environmental Studies, Honours International Development
  • Approval of changes to the academic plan for the Bachelor of Knowledge Integration
  • Approval of changes to the Faculty of Environment’s co-op plans and the removal of a statement regarding non-technical skills professional development course requirements
  • Approval of the inactivation of the Economics Specialization in the Environment and Business program
  • Approval of changes to the International Development Minor in the Faculty of Environment
  • Approval of changes to the International Development Option in the Faculty of Environment
  • Approval of name changes for the Mathematics/Chartered Accountancy program in the Faculty of Mathematics and the Biotechnology/Chartered Accountancy program in the Faculty of Science. In both cases the programs will be renamed to “Chartered Professional Accountancy”.


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Researcher receives commercialization award

A Waterloo researcher has been presented with a prestigious award recognizing his achievement of accelerating the time-consuming and tedious process of measuring fatty acid and cholesterol content in food and tissue samples, a necessary step required to comply with mandated food labelling regulations in Canada.

Adam Metherel, a 32-year-old Kinesiology student at the University of Waterloo, was awarded the Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization following a nomination by Waterloo-based Certo Labs Inc., a company that develops high throughput sample extraction methods for research laboratories.

The award was presented by Mitacs, a national private, not-for-profit organization that partners companies, government and academia to promote Canadian research innovation at the 3rd Annual Mitacs Awards Reception in Ottawa. The Honourable Greg Rickford, Federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, and Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario made the presentation to Metherel.

Working under the supervision of University of Waterloo Professor Ken Stark, Metherel’s work involved developing a unique filter system (previously removed by multiple steps involving solvent extraction, centrifugation and pipetting from food products, animal tissue or cooking oils) that allows fatty acids and cholesterol to selectively pass through for accurate measurement. The one-step process represents a huge time-savings over the standard, multi-step protocol for extraction, leading to substantial productivity improvement and cost savings.

Now commercialized and used by Certo Lab clients in both Canada and Argentina, the fatty acid and cholesterol extraction kits developed by Metherel are helping to maintain the accuracy of food labels by measuring healthy fatty acids like Omega-3, and ensuring common cooking oils comply with industry regulations for harmful trans fats. The kits are also being used by academic researchers to quantify fatty acid content of animal tissue and to confirm the lipid composition of rodent diets.

“In the eight years since Health Canada made it a requirement to list trans fat content on nutrition labels, there has been a growing interest in speeding the process of fatty acid determination,” says Metherel, adding that next steps include using the product to extract vitamins, pesticides and antibiotics in addition to fatty acids and cholesterol.

“With this product, we’re speeding a necessary activity, enabling food manufacturers to save time and money without compromising accuracy,” he says.

The Mitacs & NRC-IRAP Award for Commercialization is presented to a Canadian researcher participating in a Mitacs program who has brought an outstanding idea from research that is now – or will soon be – available in the market.


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Monday's notes

Human Resources is reporting that retired professor Henry Evans died October 27. Evans started his teaching career at the university in 1964 as a visiting professor affiliated with the mechanical engineering department until his retirement on April 1, 1990. He is survived by his spouse, Helen.

The Employee Assistance Program is inviting the campus community to a Brown-Bag Lunch session in support of organ donation on Thursday, December 5 from noon to 1:00 p.m. in DC 1302.

“Organ and tissue donation saves lives!” says the EAP's promotional material. “Andrea, an organ recipient, and John, a donor family member from our Location Life Donation Awareness Association and the Trillium Gift of Life Network” will “share their personal stories on this intimate and important topic.” Registration is not required.

According to information from Life Donation Awareness, one donor can save up to eight lives, someone in Canada dies every three days while awaiting a transplant, and currently there are roughly 1,500 Ontarians currently waiting to become a transplant recipient.


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Town Hall Meeting Thursday

This is a reminder that the Fall 2013 Town Hall Meeting will take place on Thursday, November 28 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Theatre of the Arts.

President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur and Vice-President, Academic & Provost Geoff McBoyle will deliver remarks and answer questions from the floor, from Twitter (#uwth) and from email.

The event will be webcast.

Link of the day

Saint Catherine's Day

When and where

Imaginus Poster Sale, Monday, November 25, 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

History Speaker Series event, “You Don't Know Jack: Why JFK Matters a Half Century after Dallas,” Monday, November 25, 3:30 p.m., EV1 350. Details.

Imaginus Poster Sale, Tuesday, November 26, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

Chemistry Department Seminar Series featuring Prof. Dmitri Goussev, Department of Chemistry, Wilfrid Laurier University, “Catalytic Reduction of Esters”, Tuesday, November 26, 2:30 p.m., C2-361. Details.

What Matters Now London, Tuesday, November 26, 6:30 p.m., London Children's Museum. Details.

WatRISQ and the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science present Steven Kou, Director, Centre for Quantitative Finance, National University of Singapore, "Robust Measurement of Economic Tail Risk," Tuesday, November 26, 4:00 p.m., DC 1304.

Indonesian Gamelan Music, Wednesday, November 27, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel Chapel. Details.

Chemistry Department Seminar Series featuring Prof. Ken Maly, Department of Chemistry, Wilfrid Laurier University, “Synthesis and Self-Assembly of Novel Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds: Controlling Molecular Organization”, Wednesday, November 27, 2:30 p.m., C2-361. Details.

Wednesday Night Discussion Group, Wednesday, November 27, 7:15 p.m., MC 5136. Details.

Fathy Ismail retirement celebration, Thursday, November 28, 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., University Club.

VeloCity Fund Finals, Thursday, November 28, 11:00 a.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall. Details.

Retirement Celebration for Carolyn Nelson, Thursday, November 28, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., HH 373.

Ecology Lab Holiday open house, Thursday, November 28, 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., EV1 134. Details.

Fall 2013 Town Hall Meeting, Thursday, November 28, 3:00 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages. Details.

Department of Chemical Engineering seminar featuring Brant Peppley, Canada Research Chair in Fuel Cells, Queen's-RMC Fuel Cell Research Centre, Queen's University, "The Nature of Breakthroughs from the Perspective of Progress in Fuel Cells," Thursday, November 28, 3:30 p.m., E6-2024.

St. Jerome's Reading Series presents Steve McCaffery, Thursday, November 28, 8:00 p.m., STJ 3014. Details.

Public lecture featuring Professor Steven Low, Caltech, "Optimal Power Flow for Future Smart Grid," Friday, November 29, 1:30 p.m., DC 2585.

Chemistry Department Seminar Series featuring Prof. Corey Stephenson, Department of Chemistry, University of Michigan, “Visible Light Enabled Catalysis," Friday, November 29, 2:30 p.m. C2-361. Details.

Observations and Free Inquiries series, "On God Question," Friday, November 29, 5:00 p.m., E5 6004. Details.

Rick Haldenby celebration, Saturday, November 30, 6:00 p.m. University of Waterloo School of Architecture. Details.

Lectures end, Monday, December 2.

Chemistry Department Seminar Series featuring Prof. Ashok Kakkar, Department of Chemistry, McGill University, “Designing Smart Nanocarriers : Consolidating Multiple Functions into a Single Macromolecular Platform”, Monday, December 2, 2:30 p.m., C2-361. Details.

Pre-examination study days, Tuesday, December 3 and Wednesday, December 4.

Employer Continuous Interviews (main group), employer interviews (architecture) in Cambridge, Tuesday, December 3.

Job Post (Main Group and Architecture opens, Tuesday, December 3, closes Wednesday, December 4 at 11:59 p.m.

Ranking opens (Main group and Architecture), Tuesday, December 3, 8:00 p.m.

Wednesday Night Discussion Group, Wednesday, December 4, 7:15 p.m., MC 5136. Details.

Examinations begin, Thursday, December 5.

Online examination days, Friday, December 6 and Saturday, December 7.

Cheriton School of Computer Science Colloquium Series presents Jo Atlee, Professor, University of Waterloo, Cheriton School of Computer Science "Feature Interactions: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," Monday, December 9, 3:30 p.m., DC 1302.

PhD Oral Defences

Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering. Yasin Hosseinkhani, "Control Methods for Improving Tracking Accuracy and Disturbance Rejection in Ball Screw Feed Drives." Supervisor, Kaan Erkorkmaz. On deposit in the Engineering graduate office, PHY 3004. Oral defence December 3, 10:00 a.m., E3 4117.

Electrical & Computer Engineering. Xiugang Wu, "Coding Schemes for Multiple-Relay Channels." Supervisor, Liang-Liang Xie. On deposit in the Engineering graduate office, PHY 3004. Oral defence Wednesday, December 4, 10:00 a.m., EIT 3142.

Statistics and Actuarial Science. Hui Zhao, "Variation Bayesian Learning and its Application." Supervisor, Paul Marriot. On deposit in the Mathematics graduate office, MC 5090. Oral defence Wednesday, December 4, 2:00 p.m., M3 3127.

Electrical & Computer Engineering. Aboelsood Zidan, "Reconfiguration and Self-Healing Mechanisms in Distribution Systems With High Distributed Generation (DG) Penetration." Supervisor, Ehab El-Saadany. On deposit in the Engineering graduate office, PHY 3004. Oral defence Thursday, December 5, 9:30 a.m., EIT 3142.

Chemistry. Samy Mohamady, "Synthesis of Nucleoside Polyphosphates and their Conjugates." Supervisor, Scott Taylor. On deposit in the Science graduate office, PHY 2008. Oral defence Friday, December 6, 9:00 a.m., B1 273.


Friday's Daily Bulletin