Waterloo announces changes to public health restrictions beginning in May
A message from Vivek Goel, President and Vice-Chancellor and James W.E. Rush, Vice-President, Academic & Provost.
We are writing today to give you an update on public health restrictions on our campuses for the Spring term and beyond.
In light of the recent relaxation of public health restrictions as part of the Ontario government’s Roadmap to Reopen and on the basis of current local public health conditions, we will suspend our mask and proof of vaccination requirements for entry to campus, effective May 1.
As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the evolution of the virus and the course of disease activity are difficult to predict, so this decision is contingent on current public health conditions and directions continuing.
If the situation changes, it may become necessary to bring back requirements for mask wearing and proof of vaccination on short notice. To ensure we can minimize any disruption to work and learning if this happens, we will maintain a requirement for all members of our community to provide information on their up to date vaccination status. We’ll send you information on what and how to disclose this information before May 1.
This means we continue to strongly recommend that you have a full course of vaccination, including third or fourth doses when you are eligible. You should also ensure that you have access to your proof of vaccination and QR code if you have been vaccinated in a region that provides one.
We are very grateful to all members of our community who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated and maintain other public health protection measures. It is through these community efforts that we are now able to move ahead with the relaxation of requirements for the Spring term and beyond.
While we support those who wish to wear a face covering indoors and recommend doing so in crowded areas, we will no longer require you to wear a mask on campus after May 1. In the absence of a mask requirement, we expect everyone to respect the personal choices made by members of our community. Many individuals will have personal or family reasons for continuing to wear masks in public places. We will continue to make masks available, through Central Stores, for faculties and academic support units to provide to employees who request them, and at various campus locations for students.
What this means for students
Students who are not yet compliant with the University’s proof of vaccination requirement and who were not able to register for classes with in-person requirements will now be able to do so.
Be aware that if we need to reinstate our proof of vaccination requirement, students who do not keep their vaccination status up to date could find their in-person studies interrupted and may not be able to get necessary vaccinations in time to be able to return to campus to finish their term.
At this stage, we cannot offer virtual or hybrid learning options for those who are unable to attend campus in future terms. We strongly recommend maintaining up to date vaccination status to reduce the risk of interruption to your studies.
What this means for employees
We strongly encourage everyone to be up-to-date with their vaccinations. If we need to reinstate our proof of vaccination requirement, unvaccinated employees will be subject to the University’s discipline policy.
Employees should continue to consult with their managers or supervisors on their local unit-level return to campus plans. In general, we expect most employees will return to campus in line with unit-level plans and the University’s work from home guidelines.
Looking ahead to the future
The University is committed to the prevention of illness and injury and strives to provide a safe work and study environment for its employees, students, and visitors. We continue to recommend full vaccination and booster shots as advised by public health authorities for members of our community.
If you are eligible for vaccination or boosters, please book an appointment as soon as possible. Vaccination remains the best protection against the worst effects of COVID-19 and its variants and is the most important way to protect public health.
As always, we urge you to remain vigilant. If you are in contact with a COVID case or experience symptoms of COVID-19, please consult the Ontario government’s COVID-19 self-assessment to determine if you should be tested or self-isolate.
Looking ahead, while we see encouraging conditions, we know that the situation can change at any time, and the risks of new variants and outbreaks are very real. We must remain flexible and adaptive in our response. In suspending the mask and proof of vaccination requirements on our campuses, we are retaining our ability to reinstate either or both of these requirements on the advice of public health authorities if necessary.
We are immensely proud of the way that the University community has come together to keep one another safe since this pandemic started more than two years ago. This has been an extraordinarily challenging time for all of us, and we trust that you will continue to do your part to keep those around you safe and healthy.
WE Accelerate students turn a hopeful outcome into a rousing reality
By Matthew King.
It can be challenging enough to be a first work term student looking for a co-op job without adding a global pandemic to the equation. Yet, in 2021, that is exactly what Aseel Osman and many students like her faced.
Osman chose to enroll in the pilot offering of Waterloo Experience (WE) Accelerate for her first work term. And now, a year later, the decision is paying dividends. The Engineering student used her experience in WE Accelerate’s Digital Bootcamp stream to secure a position as a growth marketing intern at Sleek.
“I remember when I got the interview, they were saying, ‘Oh, wow, we really didn’t think an engineering student would apply to this job.’ However, when they saw my resume, they were happy with all the experience that I ended up getting from WE Accelerate,” said Osman.
The WE Accelerate program is available to those in all faculties and focuses on developing in-demand skills that students can then leverage to work in a variety of future co-op positions.
“When I was looking into WE Accelerate, I vividly remember reading that they went through a bunch of job descriptions and found that these were the certain skills that employers were looking for the most. In my case the skills I was able to put on my resume from WE Accelerate were exactly what my employer was looking for,” said Osman.
Fellow WE Accelerate pilot participant, Shaili Kadakia went without a successful co-op match in her first work term but had a very different experience this time around.
“When it came time to apply for jobs, I could more confidently say I meet most of these requirements and I feel like I have a good shot of getting that job,” said Kadakia. “I think that's what sets apart the difference from last time and is why I have a job this time. Not to mention I was offered a job in the first round, which I would not have dreamed of in my first work term.”
Kadakia is currently completing her co-op work term as a Software QA Test Engineer at Plooto. Given the skills she could now boast on her resume, she felt confident applying for the position.
“If it weren't for WE Accelerate, I don't know if the co-op experience would have been as smooth as it was this time around," said Kadakia. “I think the main thing employers are looking for when they're hiring students, and really anyone, is experience. Building a project with five other students and then working in a small company as part of WE Accelerate, I think that really helped me stand out and it gave me what I was missing.”
These are the results Norah McRae, Associate Provost, Co-operative and Experiential Education, had envisioned when this program was conceived.
“The outcome we are looking for here is that when these students go for their next co-op work term, they’ve got that experience and those extra skills under their belt, and that they are more successful when they’re seeking their next work term. We hope their employment path through co-op is easier as a result of having engaged in this program,” said McRae.
The spring 2022 term will be the fourth iteration of the WE Accelerate program and will continue to be offered to first work term students until at least the fall 2022 term.
MRI innovation makes cancerous tissue easier to see
This article was originally featured on Waterloo News.
A new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that makes cancerous tissue glow in medical images could help doctors more accurately detect and track the progression of cancer over time.
The innovation, developed by researchers at the University of Waterloo, creates images in which cancerous tissue appears to light up compared to healthy tissue, making it easier to see.
"Our studies show this new technology has promising potential to improve cancer screening, prognosis and treatment planning," said Alexander Wong, Canada Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Medical Imaging and a professor of systems design engineering at Waterloo.
Irregular packing of cells leads to differences in the way water molecules move in cancerous tissue compared to healthy tissue. The new technology, called synthetic correlated diffusion imaging, highlights these differences by capturing, synthesizing and mixing MRI signals at different gradient pulse strengths and timings.
In the largest study of its kind, the researchers collaborated with medical experts at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, several Toronto hospitals and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research to apply the technology to a cohort of 200 patients with prostate cancer.
Compared to standard MRI techniques, synthetic correlated diffusion imaging was better at delineating significant cancerous tissue, making it a potentially powerful tool for doctors and radiologists.
"Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men worldwide and the most frequently diagnosed cancer among men in more developed countries," said Wong, also a director of the Vision and Image Processing (VIP) Lab at Waterloo. "That's why we targeted it first in our research.
"We also have very promising results for breast cancer screening, detection, and treatment planning. This could be a game-changer for many kinds of cancer imaging and clinical decision support."
The core research team also included Hayden Gunraj and Vignesh Sivan, engineering graduate students at Waterloo, and Dr. Masoom Haider of the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.
Their paper, Synthetic correlated diffusion imaging hyperintensity delineates clinically significant prostate cancer, appears in the journal Scientific Reports.
Weekly Nutrition Month tip and other notes
This Week’s Nutrition Month Tip: Making your own snacks is a great way to make them more nutritious while reducing packaging, and cost. Take a few minutes and get prepared for the week ahead: Mix up a batch of homemade muffins or quick bread, combine bulk nuts, seeds and dried fruit for an easy snack mix, portion out sliced vegetables with hummus or some yogurt with fruit in reusable containers. In need of an easy recipe? Check out the Nutrition Month e-Recipe Book for my favourite easy Pumpkin Bread.
The Warriors truLOCAL Kickback Program, er, kicked off on Tuesday, March 22 and will run until April 22. "truLOCAL has a special promotion running offering pre-set boxes filled with the best quality locally sourced meat and fish for you to choose from. Purchase high quality locally sourced meat and fish while supporting your favourite Waterloo Warriors varsity team," says a note from Athletics and Recreation. "There are five different options to choose from and each box has three different price points available so there's a box to suit every budget and family size." A portion of the kickback will directly support the varsity team of your choice. The program is available to residents of Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec. The varsity team that receives the highest average kickback/athlete will also receive an additional $250 from truLOCAL.
Toronto-based award-winning violinist Subhadra Vijaykumar brings the unique sounds of her Carnatic (South Indian classical) violin to the Chapel at Conrad Grebel. Subhadra will explain Carnatic Music and how the Carnatic violin, while being identical to the western violin, still differs from it. She will briefly talk about the history of the Indianization of the western violin and the noteworthy place the Carnatic violin has earned both as an accompanying and as a solo instrument.
"Compositions in Carnatic music are predominantly devotional in nature," says the performance blurb. "Subhadra will commence with a traditional opening invocation to the elephant headed God – Lord Ganesha. She will next present a very challenging rhythmic song which reflects her artistic perseverance during this difficult pandemic time. This musical work was composed by a contemporary 20th/21st century Carnatic Violinist. This will then be followed by a spontaneous free flowing melody as a prelude to a composition that includes rhythmic improvisations. In conclusion the trio will present a fast paced song composed for instrumental music."
Vijaykumar will be accompanied on the Mrdangam (South Indian double headed drum) by versatile mrdangist Sathish Venkatraman and on the violin by her student Dhishan Kandala.
Employers hosting Virtual Employer Information Sessions (VEIS) next week include Jane Street. Make sure to register WaterlooWorks and check the calendar for any updates.
Waterloo Region is under a freezing rain warning, but the University is currently open. However, Bright Starts Co-operative Early Learning Centre will be closed today due to inclement weather. Remember to get a grip and don't slip when walking around campus by taking the appropriate precautions on icy surfaces. The Safety Office has resources available and encourages community members to report unsafe conditions on campus to Plant Operations by calling extension 33793.