Friday, November 20, 2020

Student wins Best Presenter at the Virtual Research Colloquium

A message from Waterloo International.

Nikolay Videnov.Nikolay Videnov, a master’s student at the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) has won the title of Best University of Waterloo Presenter at the virtual research colloquium, jointly hosted by the University of Waterloo and the University of Strathclyde, last Thursday.

Nikolay’s presentation was selected from a short list of 11 presenters, out of a field of 28 submissions from Waterloo, which focused on research areas such as, Nuclear Engineering, Quantum Technology, Digital Health, Sustainable Energy and Entrepreneurship.

The IQC student’s presentation of his research on Building an Open-access Quantum Information Processor won a $500 award. Nikolay said he was extremely impressed with the diversity of the research shared by his colleagues at both institutions. He added that he valued the opportunity to receive feedback from international scholars.

“Collaboration with different institutions is very useful to see what other people are doing,” he said. “On top of that, there’s an element of discipline collaboration, which is also extremely useful to get new ideas from fields that you wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to interact with.”

President Feridun Hamdullahpur and Principal of the University of Strathclyde Sir Jim McDonald opened the one-day research colloquium with a fireside chat that discussed the challenges facing higher education in light of COVID and the value of strengthening international collaboration among strategic partnerships. They also reiterated their commitments to working together to continue to provide ideas and research that solve vexing global challenges. The video of this chat will be available on UWaterloo YouTube channel.

“We hope this colloquium opened international research and networking opportunities for our students, who received valuable feedback from international experts while gaining conference and presentation experience,” said Bessma Momani, Interim Assistant Vice-President, International Relations, Waterloo International.

Organized by Waterloo International, in collaboration with Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs, the Office of Research, and several faculties, the virtual research colloquium drew wide campus involvement and strengthened international partnerships.

Skiing over moguls in the Dragons' Den

The set of Dragon's Den.

This is an excerpt of an article originally featured on Waterloo Stories.

One of the surest signs that Sam Dugan, 22, is a born entrepreneur might be this: he got the brainwave for his latest business venture, completely out of the blue, when he was on a date.

Two years later, while juggling studies as a third-year mechatronics engineering student at the University of Waterloo, he has turned that idea into a startup technology company to reduce injuries at ski resorts.

And on Thursday night, Dugan will realize a childhood dream when he appears in an episode of the CBC show Dragons’ Den to explain his product, SmartPatrol, and pitch the resident moguls for investments.

“I always secretly hoped I would be on the show one day, so it was surreal to be there in person,” he says of the taping in early September. “I mean, don’t we all, or was that just me?”

A Smart Patrol display with a green circle indicating good ski conditions.

A green circle on the SmartPatrol display means it's safe to proceed.

Dugan - who brought along his younger brother Jeff, a second-year systems design engineering student at Waterloo, to give a demonstration in full ski gear - can’t say too much about his eight-minute segment on the show until after it airs at 9 p.m.

But it went well enough that he and mentor Dean Pacey, an angel investor and adjunct business lecturer at Waterloo, have rented a local theatre to watch it with as many friends, relatives and supporters as COVID-19 restrictions will allow.

“This is a young man who has always been building and tinkering and creating stuff - and trying to make money,” Pacey says. “He is destined for success, whether it is with this business or not, because he is willing to listen and do the work to the nth degree.”

An avid skier who took half a year off between high school and university to work as an on-hill photographer in Whistler, Dugan developed SmartPatrol to monitor danger zones using a combination of computer vision and artificial intelligence.

A video camera mounted on a pole is aimed at areas, such as steep inclines and the landing zones of jumps, that approaching skiers and snowboarders can’t see.

Read the rest of the article on Waterloo Stories.

Q and A with the experts: COVID-19 and the insurance industry

Professor Tony Wirjanto

The University of Waterloo has a number of experts available for comment on various aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected almost every aspect of life in Canada – and that includes the insurance we pay.

Tony Wirjanto, a curator for Insurance and Asset Management for the World Economic Forum and professor at the School of Accounting and Finance, as well as the Department of Statistics & Actuarial Science at Waterloo, takes us through how COVID-19 has affected the insurance industry, and what can be done about it.

How has COVID-19 affected the insurance industry in Canada?

The insurance industry in Canada was projected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 4.1 per cent between 2020 and 2024. This has been revised to 1.7 per cent in the wake of COVID-19. 

The impacts of COVID-19 creates three challenges: rising claims, business continuity, and eroding capital reserves. There is an increase in life and health insurance claims. To support policyholders on claims and coverages, insurers offer grace periods on premiums, extend eligibility and coverage periods to customers, and relax underwriting requirements to expedite and encourage new policy issuance.

In maintaining business continuity, the sector encounters challenges from operational and back-of-office perspectives, and faces impediments in transitioning workforces and critical functions to a virtual work environment. Mergers and acquisitions are also affected by the pandemic. The pandemic creates a capital and liquidity problem on several fronts. On the asset side, brokers struggle to bring on board new proposals as clients cut their spending.  On the liability side, payouts rise over claims, increasing outflows. On the investment side, the low interest rate environment reduces investment returns in a volatile market.

What do industry changes mean for consumers? 

In the wake of COVID-19, insurance companies are making an effort to increase their online communication with customers. Some products are becoming out of step with reality, however, and no longer meet the needs of customers. What good is health coverage if it only pays for a surgery that is suspended? Is travel insurance worth buying if a disruption like COVID-19 is not included in the coverage?  In addition, there is an increased demand in products, such as disability and life insurance, and hospital indemnity, critical illness and/or business disruption policies with broader coverage. Income protection and other savings and retirement products that offer income certainty such as annuities are in demand as well. Home coverage is more valued given the amount of time that customers have to spend in their homes if working from home remains a viable option for them.

Is there a role for the government to play in helping the industry recover from COVID-19?

At a high level of engagement, government can respond to COVID-19 by taking concrete steps in support of promotion of continuity of operations; management of solvency and liquidity risks; and policyholders that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency.  

With regard to the solvency issue, Canada’s OSFI has introduced measures to ease some regulatory policies to reduce the operational burden. Other measures that governments can take would be to provide (re)insurance or financial guarantees to support the availability of insurance coverage for certain losses that are either becoming far too difficult to cover due to the impacts of the crisis, or are traditionally not covered by private insurance markets. The first measure is in the form of trade credit insurance and aims at providing insurance companies with coverage against payment defaults demanded by commercial customers. The second measure addresses a longer-term issue associated with the lack of insurance coverage for pandemic-related business interruption losses.

Professor Wirjanto is a member of the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, jointly appointed with the School of Accounting and Finance and cross-appointed with the Cheriton School of Computer Science. His research interests lie in the intersection between statistics and econometrics. In particular, he conducts research in the field of financial time series with a focus on volatility modeling/forecasting and financial risk management, and in the field of financial mathematics with a focus on portfolio optimization in a high-dimensional setting and on global climate change risks.

Winter is coming, so get a grip and don't slip

A penguin walks with its wings outstretched next to the words "Get a Grip, Don't Slip and Fall."

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, 44,000 Canadian workers are injured each year in fall accidents with 67 per cent occurring from slips and trips at the same elevation. 

Each year, the Safety Office receives a large number of incident reports for outdoor slips, trips and falls that occur at the same elevation and involve snow or ice. Many of these incidents are related to inappropriate footwear and inattention to weather conditions.

The Safety Office is asking everyone to please wear appropriate footwear and adjust your pace for weather and surface conditions, and leave yourself enough time to reach your destination safely.

If you’re working or studying on campus, you can also keep others safe by reporting unsafe conditions to Plant Operations at extension 33793. 

One of the green bins that says "Sand - Use as Needed."You can also spread salt from the green or yellow sand bins placed throughout campus to aid with traction on slippery areas. 

Review section 5.2 - Winter Safety Tips from the University's Slips Trips and Falls program, and post the Get a Grip Don’t Slip and Fall poster in your work area.

If you’re working remotely, make sure that you're being a good neighbour by clearing your sidewalks for pedestrians and your front porch for the inevitable delivery drivers, and put your favourite ice melting product down where necessary.

Beyond the Bulletin Podcast Episode 67

Beyond the Bulletin banner featuring two vintage microphones.

The latest episode of the Beyond the Bulletin Podcast is now live. An event like a pandemic that drastically changes our activity can affect the way we feel about indoor and outdoor spaces.  Colin Ellard, a professor of psychology, studies the ways built and unbuilt environments affects our emotions, our movements and even our physiology. Vivek Goel will be the University’s next president, taking office in July. There are changes to Waterloo’s winter schedule. And the University’s Christmas Project is underway, arranging donations of gifts for children in need in the region.

Link of the day

30 years ago: Milli Vanilli scandal lays bare the artifice of pop music

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment. The following workshops are current offerings from the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Independent Remote Course Design Essentials. Self-directed, continuous self-enrollment course in LEARN.

Remote Course Design Essentials, beginning Wednesday, November 11. 

Assessment Design Cafe, Friday, November 20, 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. 

NEW - Introduction to PebblePlus, Monday, November 23, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

NEW - Introduction to Bongo Virtual Classroom (Technical Session), Wednesday, November 25, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

Stay informed about COVID cases on campus by consulting the COVID case tracker

The Writing and Communication Centre is rolling out virtual services and programs for fall term: 

  • Undergrad students -- work with us to brainstorm, draft, revise, and polish assignments by meeting with our writing advisors in virtual appointments. Chat with our friendly and knowledgeable peer tutors in our virtual drop-ins and PJ-friendly writing groups. Or experience an online workshop at your own pace. 
  • First-year Warriors! Check out Waterloo Ready to Write to build your skills for writing success.
  • Graduate Students -- meet with an advisor in a virtual appointments, take an online workshop,  join the grad writing community at our Virtual Writing Cafés and #WaterlooWrites groups, develop your academic voice at Speak Like a Scholar, or make progress on your thesis at Dissertation Boot Camp.
  • Instructors and faculty -- Request and access WCC workshops for use in your courses, join a virtual writing group, or speak with a writing advisor about a writing project.

We understand that these circumstances can be troubling, and you may need to speak with someone for emotional support. Good2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline based in Ontario, Canada that is available to all students. If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment.

The Library has published a resource guide on how to avoid information overload.

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre facilitates the sharing of Indigenous knowledge and provides culturally relevant information and support services for all members of the University of Waterloo community, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, staff, and faculty.

WUSA supports for students:

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in the Student Life Centre. If you have any questions please email us at

The Bike Centre – Now open by appointment for your bicycle repair and rental needs in the Student Life Centre. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please go to:

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at More information at

WUSA Commissioners who can help in a variety of areas that students may be experiencing during this time:

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home. Free programming including Online Fitness, Health Webinars, Personalized Nutrition and more from Warriors Athletics and Rec. Open to students, staff, faculty and alumni. Register today.

Renison English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle, until December 2020. Join your fellow Warriors, donate blood and help us win the Blood Battle against Laurier for a second year in a row. Set up a profile or add the PFL code: UNIV960995 to your account if you have a account already. Questions? Contact

University Christmas Project is seeking sponsors for clothing and gifts for children in need. Contact Christian Girodat at for information on how to participate.

NEW - Take the UN75 survey. Waterloo International is asking the Waterloo community to fill out a survey to gather your perspectives about the state of global governance and where it should be headed. If you have questions, contact Aisha Shibli.

International Workshop on Nanotechnology for a Sustainable Future, Thursday, November 19 and Friday, November 20, online via WebEx.

Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) Speakers Series, Friday, November 20, 12:00 noon.

From Silos to Synergy, Tuesday, November 24, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., Webex event (registration via Eventbrite).

Fireside chat with Professor David Gosset, Tuesday, November 24, 7:00 p.m.

Noon Hour Concert: Music for Self-IsolationWednesday, November 25, 12:30 p.m., Online, Free.

The Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology presents: “CBB presents: Quality Management Systems Webinar Series - Product Life Cycle with Abdul Khalfan, Thursday, November 25, 1:00 p.m., Online via Webex. Please register to receive the link.