You are here

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Beyond 60 lecture kicks off anniversary year

Edward Snowden speaks via remote link in the Humanities Theatre.

Democracy, cryptography, and the ethics of torturing robots in the name of science were all part of the discussion Monday night at the Beyond 60 special anniversary lecture in the Humanities Theatre that featured former National Security Agency subcontractor Edward Snowden, robotics expert Kate Darling, and a panel of Waterloo professors.

President and Vice-Chancellor Feridun Hamdullahpur gave opening remarks at the packed event, framing the context for the evening’s discussions. “We are on a mission to redefine the human condition in the 21st century,” he said. “We are looking not only where we have been, but where we are going. We are going to continue challenging the status quo and challenge innovators to break into whole new fields of innovation.”

“What awaits the world is nothing less than an information and intelligence revolution.”

Kate Darling's digital birthday card, including a cake, robot, University shield, Canada goose, and balloons.Up first was Professor Kate Darling, research specialist at the MIT Media Lab who started her presentation by giving the University a birthday card that featured both a Canada goose and a robot. Darling spoke about how the two main pop-culture fears about robots—that they would either take all our jobs or rise up and destroy us—were largely unfounded (as a video of a hilariously inept soccer-playing robot was screened), but rather that the next 60 years would see a new era of increasing human-robot interactions.

Professor Kate Darling speaks at the Beyond 60 lectureWhen you combine the skills of humans and robots, Darling said, that's where the magic happens.

Darling spoke of a future where new ethical questions about the design and use of robots will arise.

Even as robots are increasingly being used in therapeutic and educational situations, Darling recounted an exercise where participants were asked to destroy small HexBug robots with mallets. Darling talked about the possibility of desensitization - where people who were being violent towards robots could find themselves being violent in other circumstances.

"Technology is a tool that can influence behaviour and even change it for better or worse," Darling said. "We can measure people's empathy by using robots. The question is, can we change people's empathy by using robots?"

Edward Snowden, who appeared onscreen from an undisclosed location in Russia, spoke about freedom, surveillance and democracy and the balance between national security and information privacy.

Snowden argued that his 2013 act of leaking classified information to journalists "was never really about surveillance. This was about democracy, and more generally how technology can change our relationship to the government."

He spoke about the relationship between technology and governing a free society, providing examples in several countries, including Canada, where government authorities have collected large amounts of private data and metadata on people, including innocent people who had done nothing wrong. The ability to conduct mass surveillance using technology inevitably leads to abuse, he said, because of the natural tensions and temptations of power and institutions. "Abuse results not because people are evil, but because they are weak."

"Privacy is the fountainhead of all rights," Snowden said. "If we are going to have individual rights we have to protect them for everyone." He illustrated this by saying that when everything we do can be tracked, we lose the ability to have a private space to form our own opinions, even unpopular ones. "A world in which we can't make mistakes is a world where we can't take risks."

Both keynote speakers took questions from the audience.

A panel, moderated by futurist Nikolas Badminton, included Waterloo professors Dana Kulic, Michele Mosca and Beth Coleman, who spoke about human-robot interaction, quantum cryptography, smart cities and smart citizens. The panelists also highlighted the need for students and researchers from different disciplines to engage at the University, strengthening vital collaborative links as Waterloo considers the next 60 years.

Check out the Storify for more information about the anniversary lecture.

A truly Canadian co-op experience

by Andreea Perescu

During his first co-op work term with R.J. Burnside, a Canadian engineering and environment consultant firm, Grant Mitchell traveled to northwestern Alberta to meet with a First Nations community. It turned out that Mitchell’s first co-op experience would involve working on a truly Canadian project: building an indoor hockey rink.  

“There’s not much to do out there because it’s so far north,” said Mitchell, who is enroled in Geological Engineering at Waterloo. “They only have an outdoor hockey rink, so they were looking to get an indoor rink to play hockey more often. It's things like that – little things that we take for granted that the communities out there don’t have – that’s what we were trying to bring.”

The community development plan was for a small community of only about 225 people located approximately five hours away from Edmonton. “The entire plan was centered on building this hockey rink. That was at the forefront - anything that we could do to make sure there was a hockey rink there,” explained Mitchell.

Mitchell and the Burnside team also worked on plans to improve housing facilities and build shared living residences for elders in the community. Many of the homes in the community haven’t been refurbished in nearly 40 years. “There are quite a few members living off the land that would like to move back. Being able to fund housing is something that we were really interested in,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell enrolled in Geological Engineering at Waterloo in 2014 but deferred for a year due to a concussion. During that time, he secured a job as a mechanical engineering assistant at a goat cheese factory in his hometown of Lindsay, Ontario. The opportunity helped Mitchell add valuable work experience to his resume. “They needed an assistant for their engineer,” said Mitchell. “I just got my name in there and managed to get the job. In Lindsay, where there are no engineering jobs at all, I managed to sneak my way into one!”

In the future, Mitchell says he hopes to return to the community and visit the rink he helped build.

Staff association seeks President-elect

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) has issued a call for nominations for its 2017 President-Elect. The position would take office at the association's Special General Meeting scheduled to take place on February 23.

The nominating period opens today and runs until January 25 for the three-year position, which proceeds in stages: President-Elect from February 2017 to October 2017, President from November 2017 to October 2018 (a full-time role plus stipend), and Past-President from November 2018 to October 2019.

"Please consider serving the University of Waterloo community by becoming a candidate for this Board position or nominating a staff member," says a note from the staff association. "To become a candidate, complete and submit the nomination form, available on the Election 2017: Call for Nominations page, before 12:01 pm on January 25, 2017."

Wednesday's notes

The next WCMS developer drop-in lab will be on Thursday, January 12 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. in MC 2060.

"If you’re developing for the WCMS, or want to start, and are stuck, in need of guidance, or aren’t sure how to do things “the WCMS way”, you can get help by dropping by and talking with a member of the WCMS developer team," says a note from the WCMS team. "Everyone is welcome – it doesn’t matter if you’re full time or part time, contract or coop. External developers are encouraged to work on projects that may be integrated with the central build or deployed to specific sites."

Employers on campus next week hosting employer information sessions include Aviva Canada, Electronic Arts, Capital One Canada, Pacific Services Canada Limited, ContextLogic Inc. (Wish), TD- Technology & Data & Analytics, CIBC Technologies Co-op Program, Loblaw Enterprise IT, Google: Ask an Engineer Anything Panel, Connected Lab, Manulife Financial – Data Science, Wattpad, Bata Innovation Lab, Google: Tech Interview Prep, Blackberry, McRae Integration, Facebook, Rackspace, Siemens Canada, Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., SAP, and Nulogy. Visit the employer information sessions calendar for more details.

Register to attend Waterloo’s refined brand training

Registration is now open for the University Relations 'Understanding our brand' and 'Working with our brand guidelines' training sessions. These sessions are being offered as part of the Brand Refinement Project implementation.

In these sessions, you’ll gain an understanding of Waterloo’s refined brand platform, guidelines and tools and how they can help you create effective communications.

Training is free, and is open to staff, faculty and students. 

Check out the list of training sessions and register today.

Link of the day

25 years ago: Nirvana knocks Michael Jackson off the top of the charts

When and where

Winter Welcome Week, Monday, January 9 to Friday, January 13.

The Writing Centre presents "Say it in your own words: paraphrase & summary," Wednesday, January 11, 10:00 a.m.

Campus Life Fair, Wednesday, January 11, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

Faculty Writing Café, Wednesday, January 11, 2:00 p.m., SCH 228F.

Student Success Office presents "Get This Term Started!" Wednesday, January 11, 5:30 p.m., SCH 108A.

Clubs and Societies Day, Thursday, January 12, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

WCMS developer drop-in lab, Thursday, January 12, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., MC 2060.

The Writing Centre presents "STEM lab reports: Improve your lab report writing," Thursday, January 12, 1:00 p.m.

WaterTalks Series featuring Christian Stamm, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, "Unravelling the Impacts of Micropollutants in Stream Ecosystems," Thursday, January 12, 2:30 p.m., QNC 0101.

Clubs and Societies Day, Friday, January 13, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

The Writing Centre presents "Literature reviews for grads (Part A): Organizing research," Friday, January 13, 1:00 p.m.

Knowledge Integration Seminar: Summer off? No — summer on! Friday, January 13, 2:30 p.m., EV3 1408.

The Writing Centre presents "clarity in scientific writing," Tuesday, January 17, 10:30 a.m.

The Student Success Office presents Test Preparation and Test Anxiety, Tuesday, January 17, 3:00 p.m., SCH 108A.

Research Seminar: Eric Fillion, University of Waterloo, Exploring and Exploiting New Reactivity of Alkyl-Tricarbastannatranes in Lewis Acid and Transition Metal Catalysis”, Wednesday, January 18, 11:00 a.m., Pharmacy 1008.

Philosophy Department Public Lecture featuring Professor Heidi Grasswick, George Nye and Ann Walker Boardman Professor of Mental of and Moral Science, Middlebury College, “Epistemic Autonomy and Trust in a Social World of Knowing,” Wednesday, January 18, 3:00 p.m., Hagey Hall 334.

Health City Panel Discussion, Wednesday, January 18, 7:00 p.m., Kitchener Public Library main branch.

Grammar Studio Series, "Nuts and bolts: Basic grammar and sentence structure," Tuesday, January 24, 1:00 p.m.

MAREP presents "Paving the Way: Excellent Dementia Care and Support: A three-part learning series," Part 1, Tuesday, January 24, 11:30 a.m., DC 1302.

WICI Talk: Blake LeBaron presents "Self-Generating Economic Forecast Heterogeneity", Tuesday, January 24, 2:30 p.m., QNC 1501.

KWCSSA 2017 Chinese New Year Festival Gala: Year of the Rooster, Tuesday, January 24, 7:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Grammar Studio Series, "Putting it together: Advanced grammar and sentence structure," Thursday, January 26, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Medieval Studies Lecture Series featuring Professor Flora Cassen, “Phillip II of Spain and his Italian Jewish Spy,” Thursday, January 26, 4:00 p.m., St. Jerome’s Academic Centre Room 1002.

Research Talks featuring Professor Joanne Atlee, “Detecting and resolving software errors,” Friday, January 27, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., DC 1302. Please register – seating is limited.

Noon-Hour Concert: From Vienna With Love, Friday, January 27, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University Chapel.

Waterloo Women: Ideas, Makers and Innovators, Saturday, January 28 and Sunday, January 29, 

Master of Taxation Open House, Saturday, January 28, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., 220 Yonge St, Unit 115, Toronto.

Weight Watchers at Waterloo sign-up deadline and meet-up, Tuesday, January 31, 12:00 p.m., EV2 1001. Contact mmfloyd@uwaterloo.ca for more information.

Grammar Studio Series, "Connecting the dots: Structure and organization," Tuesday, January 31, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Noon Hour Concert: Russian Songs & Sonatas, Wednesday, February 1, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel Chapel.

Grammar Studio Series, "Making it shine: Conciseness and revision strategies," Thursday, February 2, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Bechtel Lectures in Anabaptist-Mennonite Studies featuring Dr. Kenneth Nafziger, “Melting the Boundaries of Our Being: Explorations in Singing Together,” Friday, February 3, 7:00 p.m., Conrad Grebel Great Hall.

2017 Grimm Lecture: The Holocaust as History and Warning,” Monday, February 6, 7:00 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages.

Hagey Hub Grand Opening, Friday, February 10, 2:30 p.m., Hagey Hub.

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department, viewable on the UWaterloo Talent Acquisition System (iCIMS)

  • Job ID# 2017-1418 – Administrative Coordinator – School of Computer Science, USG 5
  • Job ID# 2017-1423 – Alumni Advancement Officer – Dean of AHS Office, USG 8-10
  • Job ID# 2016-1412 – Analyst – Cooperative Education & Career Action, USG 8-11
  • Job ID# 2017-1428 – Director of Advancement, Faculty of Engineering – Dean of Engineering, USG 15-16
  • Job ID# 2016-1415 – Director, Client Services – Information Systems & Technology, USG 16
  • Job ID# 2016-1407 – Executive Assistant, Events and Programs – Office of President, USG 9
  • Job ID# 2017 – 1425 – Faculty Assistant – Dean of Engineering Office, USG 5
  • Job ID# 2016 – 1404 – Information Systems Specialist (Business Systems Analyst) – Information Systems & Technology, USG 10-13
  • Job iD# 2017 – 1421 – Manager, International Mobility and Intercultural Learning – Student Success Office, USG 11
  • Job ID# 2016 – 1411 – Senior Manager, Funding Agencies & Non-Profit Sponsors – Office of Research, USG 12

Internal secondment opportunities:

  • Job ID# 2017 – 1420 – Assistant to the Director of Software Engineering – Electrical & Computer Engineering, USG 6
  • Job ID# 2017 – 1417 – Director, Graduate Academic Services – Graduate Studies Office, USG 16
  • Job ID# 2017 – 1424 – Financial Aid Systems Analyst – Registrar – Student Awards, USG 8
  • Job ID# 2017 – 1419 – Online Learning Consultant – STEM Specialist – Centre for Extended Learning, USG 10-11

You can also browse the list of affiliated and federated institutions job opportunities.