Research Talks presents A Year of COVID-19: Teaching and Learning
The final installment of the A Year of COVID-19 series is planned for Thursday, June 17 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
Please the visit the A Year of COVID-19 page to register for a link to this online event.
With a focus on teaching and learning, the panel session features:
- Clare Bermingham, Director of the Writing and Communication Centre, University of Waterloo (Access and Affect: Virtually supporting student writers and speakers during COVID-19)
- Rollen D’Souza, PhD student, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Waterloo (Lessons learned from designing an engaging remote lab in the applied sciences)
- Travis Ratnam, Co-founder and CEO, Knowledgehook Inc. (Knowledgehook’s Agrarian Office – The future of remote workplaces and K-12 teacher communities)
- Diana Skrzydlo, Continuing Lecturer, Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Waterloo (Beyond the pandemic: A breadth of meaningful assessments)
The Q&A discussion will be moderated by David DeVidi, Associate Vice-President, Academic.
Ontario enters Step One of reopening plan tomorrow
Just after the stroke of midnight tonight, the province of Ontario take its first step towards reopening after it applied an 'emergency brake' on April 3, 2021 that resulted in a provincial shutdown and stay-at-home order.
At 12:01 a.m. Friday, Ontario will officially enter Step One of its three-step reopening plan.
A memo from Director of Safety Kate Windsor outlines the immediate changes that will be felt on campus during Step One, and also what won't be changing for the time being.
The long and the short of it is that most restrictions currently in place on campus will continue until Step Two begins:
- In-person course activity continues to be limited to that which has been offered thus far in spring Term (subject matter or instruction that requires in-person teaching such as clinical or hands on training with a limit of 10 students, and some exemptions in health care disciplines).
- There will be no changes to current restrictions on research activities.
- Those working remotely must continue to do so, unless the nature of your work requires you to be on-site. Please continue to follow all University safety protocols and only attend campus for approved activities.
However, there will be some changes going into effect shortly, including:
- Food Services will open the Bomber patio for use on Friday, June 11, 2021 during Tim Hortons operating hours only (Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., seating for 1 person per table only);
- Athletics and Recreation will open outdoor programming at Columbia Ice Fields with restrictions (indoor facilities remain closed).
- The reopening of The W Store | Gifts + Apparel in South Campus Hall on Monday, June 14, 2021 with modified hours (Monday – Friday, 12:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.). Capacity is limited to 15 per cent (or 6 people at a time), with controlled entry through north doors and exit through south doors. W Store | Course Materials + Supplies remains closed until further notice.
"Step One restrictions will remain in place for a minimum of 21 days," Windsor writes. "Once more information is provided by the province, including any updates or a confirmation of Step Two start date, we will share further information with our campus community."
"Remember that help is available if you need it. We appreciate your ongoing patience and support in following current restrictions and creating a safe campus community," Windsor's memo concludes.
Velocity Incubator wants to help founders maximize their impact
A message from Velocity.
Velocity encourages all students, faculty, postdocs, and alumni with a startup idea to apply to join the Incubator.
Current Velocity companies are working on a wide variety of deeptech applications, with developments in clinical stage biotech, cultivated meat, graphene-based dehumidification membranes, zero-trust networking without a client, and pilotless delivery airlines. Velocity is equally keen to support software companies, which in the past have included Faire, ApplyBoard, and Vidyard. Regardless of your area of expertise, if you have a great idea, you have a shot at joining Velocity.
Velocity is one of the strongest pre-seed (early-stage) incubators in North America, and its companies not only survived but thrived throughout the pandemic. Over the last 15 months:
- Velocity invested $950,000 in 14 early-stage companies with >90% of the companies successfully raising follow-on funding from other institutional investors after Velocity’s initial investment.
- A large number of Velocity companies, both current and alumni, received funding from Tier 1 venture capital groups, such as Sequoia Capital, Founders Fund, Khosla Ventures, Bessemer Venture Partners, DCVC, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Index Ventures, Mayfield Fund, 2048, OS Fund, Fifty Years Fund, Y-Combinator, IndieBio, and Garage Capital. Receiving funding from top tier investors significantly increases the chances a company will continue to grow rapidly and have a lasting positive impact on the economy.
- 4 companies incubated at Velocity were accepted into Y-Combinator, the world’s most competitive Seed stage accelerator.
- 2 of the 24 Thiel Fellowship 2021 grants were awarded to founders currently incubated at Velocity. The Thiel Fellowship program awards $100,000 grants to exceptional young entrepreneurs, and it was founded in 2011 by famous technology entrepreneur and billionaire Peter Thiel who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook.
- Current companies and alumni have received preferential non-dilutive funding opportunities from various government programs.
Whether you have a specific opportunity in mind, or you are looking to chat about the feasibility of an early idea, we encourage you to reach out at email@example.com.
Modeling the mysteries of the universe, closer to home
By Elizabeth Kliesath. This article originally appeared on Waterloo News.
At first glance, astrophysics may not seem to have much in common with tracking and predicting the spread of a global virus. But to Professor Niayesh Afshordi, the link was clear – even early last year as our collective reaction to COVID-19 played out in real time.
As with modeling the dark matter behaviour in the Universe, modeling the spread of COVID-19 requires identifying invisible drivers and interpreting the changing variables that our universe throws at us, in the face of uncertainty.
Before the pandemic, Afshordi, a professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo had plans to start a project with a colleague, Professor Ben Holder from Grand Valley State University, who had just come to Waterloo to spend a sabbatical with Afshordi.
Holder, an expert in modeling within-host virus dynamics, had been planning to transition his work towards black holes. Instead of tackling the mysteries of space-time, however, the pair ended up taking on the mysteries of COVID-19.
“We were eagerly awaiting the data coming out of black hole collisions, and yet what we kept seeing was the deluge of data on exponential growth of epidemic across the world,” said Afshordi. “There were clearly patterns, but the geographic and demographic dynamics that drove these patterns was a mystery that was just too hard to ignore.”
In an effort to understand the changes happening around them, Afshordi and Holder started studying how population distribution contributed to the growth rate during the early epidemic. This project quickly expanded into a multi-disciplinary project as it caught the attention of other collaborators, including two expert data scientists from Wolfram Research Institute, Waterloo philosophy professor Steve Weinstein and a former PhD student of Afshordi’s, Elizabeth Gould (MSc ‘11, PhD ‘18).
The interdisciplinary team went on to develop a sophisticated COVID-19 model that uses not only population distribution, but also age, average household density, regional epidemic history, weather, social mobility in workplaces, mask usage, and the level of vaccination in an area.
Recruiting coop students Shafika Olalekan Koiki, a 2nd year physics and astronomy student, and Jolene Zheng, a 3rd year computer science student, the team was able to create an online portal for interacting with the data and model.
The MyLocalCovid portal lets anyone select a specific region in Canada, or county in the United States, and then see how changes in people’s activities affect the local model projections. Users can specify different percentages of face mask usage (as measured by Google searches for facemasks), the amount of social mobility in the region (how close to a total lockdown or normal activity), as well as the percentage of people getting a vaccine each week, to see how these factors all influence future COVID mortality in the region.
"I didn’t anticipate a coop position quite like this one for my first work term but it was definitely an intriguing experience. It opened my eyes and showed me the similarities between solving the mysteries of the universe and pandemic modeling,” said Olalekan Koiki. “Working on this dashboard has been a learning experience but it has also been quite fulfilling knowing that you’re working towards an important issue that will hopefully benefit many people.”
The preliminary results of this research (from Summer 2020) are available as a preprint and are being published in the proceedings of “Fields Institute Seminar on Mathematical Modelling of COVID-19”, while a more comprehensive publication is forthcoming. The MyLocalCOVID portal is being kept up to date as new prevention strategies are adopted and new infection drivers are identified.