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Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Unique fire research facility one of many CFI successes

Spill fire data obtained in experiments at the Waterloo Fire Research Facility are used to validate computer tools for aircraft safety and design.

Spill fire data obtained in experiments at the Waterloo Fire Research Facility are used to validate computer tools for aircraft safety and design.

When firefighters enter an energy-efficient home during a fire, they’re prepared for a large surge of flame that can be caused by the burst of oxygen flowing in. Understanding scenarios like this helps firefighters predict how a fire will behave and the safest way to get everyone—including themselves—out.

This understanding, as well as the most effective way to combat fire, is the premise behind the University of Waterloo’s Fire Research Facility. Founded 15 years ago by Elizabeth Weckman and Allan Strong, professors in the Department of Mechanical and Mechatronics Engineering, it’s the only academic facility in Canada with a wind generation system to support fire research, including collaborative research with industry partners, while answering questions like, “how do various materials react in different fire conditions?”

“The performance of materials during fires and how firefighters approach each situation could mean the difference between life and death,” Weckman says. “If firefighters understand how a structure and its contents will behave while engulfed in flames, they’ll know how much time they have before the blaze escalates and can choose the best approach to get the fire under control.”

A $2-million contribution from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) was fundamental in developing the facility and has played a major role in advancing fire safety practices. It’s one of more than 300 projects funded since CFI was founded 20 years ago. The long history between Waterloo and CFI includes more than $130 million to support research infrastructure. As CFI celebrates its 20th anniversary of funding research infrastructure across Canada, a series of podcasts and videos outlines an evolution of Canadian research.

Using the knowledge generated at Weckman’s fire research facility through a variety of experiments and testing, spanning small-scale pool fires to large-scale house fires, researchers collaborate with local fire departments to improve public safety. The facility’s 20-foot wall of fans is often used in experiments to control the speed and direction of wind and determine the effect it has on fire.

The Fire Research Facility was the first academic centre in North America to offer scalable testing services to industry partners, and remains unique in the breadth of services available. Product developers can determine the fire-retardant abilities of products as small as a piece of foam and scale the experiments up to something as large as a room full of furniture or a wall. This can mean savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars for companies by avoiding materials that fail the fire-retardant certification process.

“The infrastructure funding provided by CFI over the last 20 years has been essential in providing Waterloo researchers and collaborative research partners with the equipment and facilities they need to address a wide range of global challenges with transformational research,” says D. George Dixon, vice-president, university research. “CFI funding has made a significant contribution to the world-class research at Waterloo and, in turn, a deep impact on the world we live in.”

Dixon leads research at Waterloo, including the Office of Research, a team of almost 100 staff members who provide support to researchers across campus. That support includes the facilitation of funding beginning with the identification and communication of funding opportunities to faculty, application support, management of funds, ethics review, research partnership development, and commercialization of innovations through Waterloo’s unique IP policy. 

Biology co-op student “steels” herself for unfamiliar work

Co-op student Lauren Hummel working in a lab at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Lauren Hummel on her current work term at Princess Margaret Hospital.

By: Christine Nhan

In fall 2011, Nahanni Steel Products hired their first Waterloo co-op student. Right away, they saw that co-op students would be intergral to their company’s future development.  

“Waterloo has been part of our business plan for years now,” says Darrin Wiegard, a plant engineer at Nahanni. “Our company size is around 70 associates, yet we have hired 135 co-op students in the last five years.

Lauren Hummel, a fourth-year biology student, completed her first work term with Nahanni. In her role as a production worker, she worked in quality control ensuring the integrity of products. At first, she wasn’t sure if she had the skills to tackle the job.

“Being out of my element and having a lack of background knowledge in mechanical engineering made my entire experience at Nahanni a great challenge,” admits Hummel.

But the mentorship provided by her supervisor and colleagues helped her succeed. “Nahanni fosters an environment designed for students to learn and build their skills,” she says. “Everyone at the company was extremely eager to help out if I had questions, which made learning the job much easier.”

Hummel was surprised to discover that the skills she learned in an industrial environment would be so relevant to her future work. She says this experience prepared her for her next work term at Princess Margaret Hospital.

“Nahanni taught me how to adapt to unfamiliar situations and work in environments I never expected to be in,” Hummel says. “During my second co-op work term in a cancer research laboratory, I was already comfortable with being uncomfortable in a fast-paced environment.”

Wiegard says Waterloo co-op students like Lauren are an asset to his team. He says that students from all years perform exceptionally well, but he loves to see what a student in their first work term can accomplish. “It’s rewarding to see junior students surpass the goals we set for them, and do so with a successful combination of enthusiasm, commitment and passion,” says Weigard.

Water Institute names seed grant winners

Global water issues are becoming increasingly complex and often require a collaborative approach across a breadth of disciplines. In order to facilitate collaboration and promote innovative and interdisciplinary water research, the Water Institute awarded four teams a combine total of $75,680 during its most recent Seed Grants Program application round.

The program awards a total of $150,000 annually, with competitions generally held during the fall and winter terms. The goal is to catalyze interdisciplinary collaboration, facilitate interaction with international authorities, and to encourage the development of research proposals.

“Our Seed Grant program is a true reflection of the Water Institute’s core mission of promoting relevant, impactful, collaborative, interdisciplinary research in the water sector,” said Roy Brouwer, executive director of the Water Institute.

Project teams must be led by a Water Institute member and demonstrate an interdisciplinary approach, involving a minimum of three departments or two faculties per team.

Grant recipients for winter 2017 include:

Polymer/graphene nanocomposite membranes to enhance demineralization of waste water

  • Pu Chen (Chemical Engineering)
  • Alireza Zehtab Yazdi (Chemical Engineering), Juewen Liu (Chemistry), Mohtada Sadrzadehz (University of Alberta)

Integrated assessment of agricultural best management practices and phosphorus runoff

International symposium on the development of government, insurance and building code policies to support innovation in flood damage reduction

Stormwater management and nutrients control in extreme events: Mobilization of knowledge on the reduction of nutrient loading from urban non-point sources under climate change

The winners of the fall 2016 term were announced in November.

Wednesday's notes

On Monday, the Daily Bulletin listed a number of Food Services operations that were running with reduced hours this week. Food Services would like to clarify that it is ML Diner that is closed, and not the adjacent Tim Hortons location, which remains open this week and through the summer from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekdays.

Employers on campus next week hosting employer information sessions include: Wish, Sun Life Financial (Technology), DAC Group, Asana Presents: Choosing Your First Startup, Uken Games, Work Market, Flipp and Bazaarvoice. Visit the employer information sessions calendar for more details.

Link of the day

World IP Day

When and where

Pharmacy Research Day, showcasing graduate student research, Wednesday, April 26, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., School of Pharmacy.

QPR Training, Wednesday, April 26, 10:30 a.m., Counselling Services, Needles Hall.

Staff Appreciation Lunch, Wednesday, April 26 to Friday, April 28, 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., University Club.

W3 Knitting Circle, Wednesday, April 26, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., Grad House (upstairs).

Annual Teaching and Learning Conference, "Cultivating Curiosity in Teaching and Learning," Thursday, April 27, Science Teaching Complex.

Biology Graduate Student Symposium, Thursday, April, 27, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 pm, QNC 1502 and QNC 2502

NEW - Retirement Celebration for Bob Hicks, Thursday, April 27, 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., University Club. 

David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series, “Data, predictions and decisions in support of people and society,” Thursday, April 27, 3:30 p.m., DC 1302.

Information Systems and Science for Energy seminar,Is time-of-use pricing effective?,” Reid Miller, Intelligent Mechatronic Systems, Friday, April 28, 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., DC 1331.

Annual Meeting of the Eastern International Region of the American Academy of Religion, Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29, Renison University College.

President's Community Breakfast, Friday, April 28, 7:30 a.m., THEMUSEUM.

David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series, “The one hundred year study on artificial intelligence: an enduring study on AI and its influence on people and society,” Friday, April 28, 10:30 a.m., DC 1302.

NEW - Sakura Language School Open House, Saturday, April 29, 1:00 p.m., Renison University College.

Co-op work term begins, Monday, May 1.

Lectures begin, Monday, May 1.

Database Systems seminar, MacroBase: Prioritizing attention in fast data,” Peter Bailis, Stanford University, Monday, May 1, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., DC 1302.

Systems and Networking seminar, Paradoxes in Internet architecture,” Srinivasan Keshav, David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, Monday, May 1, 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., DC 1331.

Database Systems seminar,The CloudMdsQL Multistore System,” Patrick Valduriez, Inria and Biology Computational Institute (IBC), Tuesday, May 2, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., DC 1302.

NEW - Chemistry Seminar Series featuring Steven J. Rehse, Associate Professor and Head, Department of Physics, University of Windsor, "Healing humanity one spark at a time:  Biomedical applications of a laser-induced plasma," Wednesday, May 3, 2:30 p.m., C2-361.

Asana presents "Choosing Your First Startup," Wednesday, May 3, 5:00 p.m., TC 2218.

CrySP Speaker Series on Privacy lecture featuring Lisa Austin, University of Toronto, "Access to basic subscriber information and the Spencer Decision: Disentangling normative and technological questions," Friday, May 5, 2:00 p.m., QNC 1502.

Data-Driven Learning: Can and Should Language Learners Become Corpus Linguists? Friday, May 5, 4:00 p.m., ML 245.

Feds Welcome Week, Monday, May 8 to Friday, May 12.

Warrior Breakfast, Monday, May 8, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

NEW - Applied Health Sciences 50th Anniversary Celebrations, Monday, May 8, 12:00 p.m., AHS Expansion.

NEW - Applied Health Sciences 50th Anniversary Public Lecture featuring Anne McLellan, "The legalization and regulation of cannabis – what does it all mean?" Monday, May 8, 2:30 p.m., AHS Expansion.

Ice Cream Social, Tuesday, May 9, 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

Design and Deliver I - Presentation Essentials, Tuesday, May 9, 1:00 p.m.

Campus Life Fair, Wednesday, May 10, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

EQUALS conference, Thursday, May 11 and Friday, May 12.

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

Design and deliver II: Creating assertion-evidence presentations, Thursday, May 11, 1:00 p.m.

David Sprott Distinguished Lecture featuring Professor Peter Diggle, "A Tale of Two Parasites: how can Gaussian processes contribute to improved public health in Africa," Thursday May 11, 4:00 p.m., STC 0050.

Clubs and Societies Day, Friday, May 12, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Student Life Centre Great Hall.

Sex Toy Bingo, Friday, May 12, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Bombshelter Pub.

Staff International Experience Fund application deadline, Monday, May 15.

More Feet on the Ground Training, Monday, May 15, 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., Counselling Services, Needles Hall. 

Living on the Precipice: Interdisciplinary Conference on Resilience in Complex Natural and Human Systems, Tuesday, May 16 and Wednesday, May 17, St. Jerome's University Conference Centre.

Discovering Digital Media Day - Internet of Things (IoT) 101, Tuesday, May 16, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Stratford Campus.

Ramadan and Health: a community approach, Tuesday, May 16, 7:00 p.m., School of Pharmacy.

CPA Ontario Networking for Success, Thursday, May 18, 6:00 p.m., Fed Hall.

Victoria Day, Monday, May 22, most University operations closed.

Understanding our brand, Thursday, May 25, 9:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., EC5 1111.

Working with our brand guidelines, Tuesday, May 30, 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Positions available

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

  • Job ID# 2017-1612 - Assistant Supervisor - Food Services, USG 5-6
  • Job ID# 2017-1610 - Engineering Student Machine Shop (ESMS) CNC Machinist – Engineering Machine Shop, USG 8
  • Job ID# 2017-1615 - IST Network Technician – Information Systems & Technology, USG 6-8
  • Job ID# 2017-1594 - Knowledge Management Specialist – The Water Institute, USG 9
  • Job ID# 2017-1582 - Manager, Data Analytic, Reporting and Research – Cooperative Education & Career Action, USG 12
  • Job ID# 2017-1602 - Research Project Accountant – Office of Research, USG 9-11

Internal secondment opportunity:

  • Job ID# 2017-1601 - Financial Aid Systems Analyst – Registrar – Student Awards, USG 8-9