Thursday, January 11, 2018

Hagey Lecture looks at the dark side of Big Data

Mathematician Cathy O'Neil, the 2018 Hagey Lecturer.

“Big Data has plenty of evangelists, but I’m not one of them,” writes 2018 Hagey lecturer Cathy O’Neil in her latest book, Weapons of Math Destruction. The goals in using Big Data might be laudable—more objective advertising or policing policies, for example. But, as O’Neil argues, “these models are constructed not just from the data but from the choices we make about which data to pay attention to — and which to leave out.” If those choices are flawed from the start, as often happens, the models confirm our errors, prejudices and biases. Find out just what kinds of damage these flawed algorithms are causing when O’Neil delivers the 2018 Hagey Lecture at the University of Waterloo on February 7.

O’Neil completed a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and a postdoctoral fellowship at MIT, and was a professor at Barnard College/Columbia University. She left academia to work as a quantitative analyst at a hedge fund in 2007. In 2008, she became painfully aware of the role that mathematics can play in the world’s problems, and vowed to become part of the solution. She is now a successful author and public speaker, and the founder of ORCAA, a consulting firm that audits algorithms for racial, gender and economic inequality. She also writes a popular blog at

O’Neil’s Hagey Lecture, Weapons of Math Destruction, takes place on Wednesday, February 7 at 7:00 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre. A student colloquium on the ethical challenges of AI, “Data Disarmament: A Fireside Chat with Cathy O’Neil,” hosted by Maura Grossman, will follow on February 8t at 10:00 a.m. in MC 5501. Registration is required for both events.

The Hagey Lecture, named in honour of the first president of the University of Waterloo, has been presented nearly every year since 1970, featuring such distinguished speakers as Ursula Franklin, Seymour Hersh, John Polanyi, and David Suzuki. The free event is co-sponsored by the University and the Faculty Association, and supported by the HeForShe campaign and the Faculty of Mathematics.

New employee benefit information booklet available

Employee Benefits Program booklet cover.Human Resources has launched a new booklet with information for active University employees regarding pension and benefit arrangements.

The information contained in this new booklet describes coverage and provisions, as they exist on January 1, 2018.

"The purpose of this booklet is to provide a description of the pension and benefits arrangements that are provided to employees of the University," says the booklet's introduction. "These arrangements are an important component of employees’ total compensation package."

Employees can find information about pension, healthcare benefits, disability benefits, life insurance, and the Employee & Family Assistance Program.

The booklet is available in an electronic version on the HR website and print copies are available at the Human Resources office located in EC1.

Anyone with questions is advised to contact HR Help at or by phone at extension 35935.

Tis the season for flu and norovirus

Amid reports of confirmed flu cases across Waterloo Region, Occupational Health here on campus is currently seeing two common illnesses affecting Waterloo employees - influenza and gastroenteritis/norovirus.

Occupational Health has prepared a document that provides signs and symptoms of both illnesses, and how to protect you and your colleagues.


The influenza virus (the flu) affects most Canadians between November and April. Here’s how to recognize, prevent, and recover from the flu this season.

Flu symptoms typically include the sudden appearance of a high fever (39°C and above), cough, muscle aches, and a headache.

The flu causes more severe symptoms than the common cold, and can lead to serious health problems like pneumonia. Fever and aches are typically characteristic of the flu and not the cold.

The flu shot is the best defense against influenza. You can get the shot for free at pharmacies or at your doctor’s office. It’s important to get the shot as soon as possible because it takes two weeks to fully take effect. Hand hygiene is essential in protecting you against the flu. The influenza virus can live on your hands for up to 3 hours, and washing your hands with soap and water will help prevent the spread to yourself and others.

It’s important to take precautions even if you’re feeling healthy. Flu symptoms can appear up to 4 days after you’re exposed to the virus, but the flu is contagious on day 1.

If you think you have the flu, it’s important to get plenty of rest. Public Health Canada recommends staying home, drinking lots of fluids, and taking over-the-counter medications such as Tylenol or Advil to help with the fever and pains as appropriate.

Most otherwise healthy people will recover from the flu within 7 to 10 days. Contact your health care provider if your symptoms worsen or persist past this. Make sure your fever and other symptoms are no longer present for 24 hours before returning to work.

Though mass immunization clinics are done for this season you can still contact Health Services and ask to book an appointment for influenza immunization.


Every winter, Canadians also suffer from a different kind of infection. Norovirus—the stomach flu—is not related to the influenza virus, but causes outbreaks of vomiting and/or diarrhea. You can become infected through physical contact with a contaminated person or object.

This infection causes sudden nausea, vomiting, and watery diarrhea that lasts up to 3 days. Symptoms usually appear within the first 2 days of becoming infected, and otherwise healthy people will recover 2 to 3 days afterwards.

Keep your hands and work surfaces clean to prevent becoming infected. If you do become infected, stay home and drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration. Public Health Canada recommends staying home until you are symptom-free for at least 48 hours.

Problem Pitch Competition applications now open

Problem Pitch logo with Ps that look like question marks.

The Problem Pitch Competition invites teams of up to four students to choose an important industry problem, and thoroughly research it to understand its history, scope, and impact, before pitching the findings to a panel of judges on February 15, to compete for a share of $7,500 in grant funding.

The 1st place team will demonstrate the best understanding of an important problem, and will win $5,000 to be used to fund R&D for a venture that solves the problem identified. The 2nd place team will win $2,500, and the audience will decide which team wins the 3rd place People’s Choice Award!

Applications are now open and will close on January 21, 2018, at 11:59 p.m.

Submit applications online.

The Problem Pitch Competition is a collaboration between Velocity, and the Problem Lab. 

Thursday's tales grow in the telling

Former member of the University's Board of Governors Bruce Gordon is this year's winner of the Waterloo Region Record Barnraiser Award. Gordon served on the board from 2004 to 2010.

The Barnraiser Award was inspired by the University's sixth president David Johnston who in 2007 called on Waterloo Region to strive to become Canada's Knowledge Capital. Among the 10 goals was the establishment of an award celebrating community leaders who exemplify Waterloo's tradition of collaborative achievement.

Past Barnraiser Award winners include Ginny Dybenko, former executive director of the Waterloo Stratford Campus, Ron Schlegel, retired AHS professor, and former Vice-President, University Relations Tim Jackson.

The award ceremony takes place today at 11:30 a.m. at The Waterloo Region Museum. 

Registration is open for the Alumni Big Ticket. The Alumni Big Ticket offers uWaterloo alumni and one guest free entry into Waterloo Warriors home games during the 2017-2018 athletics season for basketball, hockey, and volleyball. Check the Alumni Big Ticket site for details on how to register and how to watch out for upcoming Alumni Big Ticket Days, where Waterloo swag and free snack offers will be up for grabs.

The Registrar's Office is reminding students that the last day to add classes for winter 2018 is Tuesday, January 16. The last day to drop a class with a 100 percent tuition refund is Tuesday, January 23. Students are invited to contact their academic advisor if they have questions.

CEL closed this afternoon

The Centre for Extended Learning will be closing  at 1:15 p.m. for their annual holiday gathering. The office will reopen Friday morning at 8:30 a.m.

Link of the day

45 years ago in baseball: the designated hitter rule

When and where

Winter Welcome Week, Monday, January 8 to Friday, January 12.

Clubs and Societies Days, Thursday, January 11 and Friday, January 12, Student Life Centre Great Hall.

Getting it done: Productive writing strategies for big projects, Thursday, January 11, 10:00 a.m.

Centre for Career Action workshop, "Planning for Employment and Success with a Disability: Panel Discussion and Q&A," Thursday, January 11, 12:00 p.m., TC 2218.

Improve your lab report writing, Thursday, January 11, 12:30 p.m.

Personal Statement/ Letter of Intent - Undergraduate, Graduate students & alumni only, Thursday, January 11, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., TC 1112.

Chemistry Seminar Series:  Diacylglycerol kinase and the phosphatidylinositol cycle, Thursday, January 11, 2:00 p.m., C2-361

WaterTalk: “Exploration of the Earth’s Deep Hydrogeosphere and Subsurface Microbial Life,”presented by University Professor Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Thursday, January 11, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., DC 1302. Please register as seating is limited.

orchestra@uwaterloo audition, Thursday, January 11, 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Ron Eydt Village.

Résumé Tips: Thinking Like an Employer, Friday, January 12, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., TC 1208.

Chemistry Seminar Series: Recent advances in characterization of thermoelectric materials, Friday, January 12, 2:00 p.m., C2-361.

Knowledge Integration Seminar: Sustainability & Business Decisions in the Built Environment, Friday, January 12, 2:30 p.m., EV3 1408.

Biology Seminar: Redox proteomics and cell biology, Friday, January 12, 3:30 p.m., EIT 3142.

Warriors Summer Sport Camps Registration Opens, Monday, January 15.

World’s Challenge Challenge applications open, “Do you have a solution to a major global problem?,” Monday, January 15.

University Senate meeting, Monday, January 15, 3:30 p.m., NH 3407.

Volunteer Fair, Tuesday, January 16, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., SLC.

IP Series, “IP 101 and Commercialization,” Tuesday, January 16, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., DC 1304.

Get a Job using LinkedIn, Tuesday, January 16, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., TC 1208.

Clarity in scientific writing, Wednesday, January 17, 10:00 a.m.

Leather Jacket Day, Wednesday, January 17, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Waterloo Store, South Campus Hall.

Noon Hour Concert: Hamilton & Durand: Pub & Parlour, Wednesday, January 17, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College Chapel.

Exploring Career Pathways, Wednesday, January 17, 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., TC 1112.

GMOs: Facts and Misconceptions, documentary with director in attendance, followed by panel discussion, Wednesday, January 17, 7:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Warrior Men's Hockey vs Windsor, Wednesday, January 17, 7:00 p.m., CIF.

Interviews: Preparing for Questions, Thursday, January 18, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., TC 1208.

CBB Biomedical Discussion Group "Non-invasive fall detection using 3D Deep Convolutional Autoencoder" featuring Dr. S.Khan, University of Toronto, Thursday, January 18, 3:00 p.m., EC4 2101a.

Beyond Essays: Approaching Peace Education Differently opening reception, Thursday, January 18, 4:00 p.m., Conrad Grebel Gallery. 

Research Matters: Getting Published, Friday, January 19, 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Balsillie School of International Affairs.

Knowledge Integration Seminar, "The Web as Infinite Archive: Why we Turned to Machine Learning, Distributed Computing, and Interdisciplinary Collaboration to understand the Recent Past," Friday, January 19, 2:30 p.m., EV3 1408.

Biology Seminar: Bacterial Phages shaping the gut microbiome, Friday, January 19, 3:30 p.m., EIT 3142.

Warriors Volleyball vs McMaster Warrior Night, Alumni Big Ticket, Bell Let’s Talk, Saturday, January 20, (W) 6:00 p.m., (M) 8:00 p.m., PAC.

Warrior Women’s Hockey vs. Laurier Minor League, Residence Day, Staff and Faculty Appreciation Day, Sunday, January 21, 2:30 p.m., CIF.

Problem Pitch Competition applications close, “Apply to pitch important industry problems for a share of $7,500,” Sunday, January 21, 11:59 p.m.

Grammar studio series: Workshop 1, Monday, January 22, 10:00 a.m.

HeForShe Ideathon, Tuesday, January 23, STC 2002.

Grammar studio series: Workshop 2, Wednesday, January 24, 10:00 a.m.

Résumé Tips (for employees only), Wednesday, January 24, 12:00 p.m., TC1208.

Noon Hour Concert: Schubert Trout Quintet, Wednesday, January 24, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College Chapel.

Chemistry Seminar: Pushpull Alternating and Hypercoordinate Asymmetrical Architectures for Light and Moisture Stable Polystannanes, Wednesday, January 24, 2:30 p.m., C2-361.

Vision Science Research Seminar Series featuring Dr. Mitchell M. Scheiman, Salus University, “Objective Assessment of Disparity Vergence after Treatment of Symptomatic Convergence Insufficiency,” Wednesday, January 24, 4:30 p.m., OPT 347.

Velocity Start: What’s Your Problem? Wednesday, January 24, 7:30 p.m., Velocity Start, SCH 2nd Floor.

Getting organized: tools for resisting racism and white supremacy, Thursday, January 25 to Saturday, January 28.

Lectures in Catholic Experience featuring Austen Iverveigh, “Communicating the Church in the Age of Francis,” Friday, January 26, 7:30 p.m., St. Jerome’s University, Academic Centre Vanstone Lecture Hall.

WIMIN: Waterloo Women: Ideas, Makers, Innovators, Friday, January 26 to Saturday, January 27, Applied Health Sciences expansion.

PhD oral defences

Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering. Armin Abedini, "Constitutive Characterization of an Anisotropic and Asymmetric Alloy Sheet." Supervisors, Michael Worswick, Clifford Butcher. On display in the Engineering graduate office, DWE 3520C. Oral defence Monday, January 15, 1:30 p.m., E5 3006.

School of Public Health and Health Systems. Josephine Nabugoomu, "Adolescent Maternal Nutrition and Health in Uganda: Voices from the Community." Supervisor, Rhona Hanning. On display in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, BMH 3110. Oral defence Wednesday, January 17, 10:00 a.m., BMH 3119.

Mechanical & Mechatronics Engineering. Nikky Pathak, "Characterization and Modelling of Sheared Edge Failure in Advanced High Strength Steel." Supervisors, Michael Worswick, Cliff Butcher. On display in the Engineering graduate office, DWE 3520C. Oral defence Friday, January 19, 8:30 a.m., EC4 1139.

Biology. Maricor Arlos, "Modeling the emission, transport, and fate of key micropollutants and their treatment using novel TiO2 nanomaterials." Supervisors, Mark Servos, Susan Andrews. On deposit in the Science graduate office, PHY 2013. Oral defence Wednesday, January 24, 9:00 a.m., STC 2002.