Thursday, April 13, 2023

Pumping up astronomy outreach with the Astro-Bubble

The inflated dome-like planetarium.

By Roan Haggar and Carolyn McCoey, Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics.

Thanks to a generous philanthropic donation, the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics (WCA) has recently acquired an exciting addition to our outreach resources -- our inflatable planetarium!

The planetarium is advertised on our outreach page as the Astro-Bubble, so named to appeal to children and educators.  We will take the Astro-Bubble to schools regularly as well as have classes come to visit the Astro-Bubble as part of university visits. Initially, we will focus on high school classes but, as we gain experience, we will expand to elementary schools, as well as groups of Guides and Scouts. 

The Astro-Bubble is run by our Outreach Coordinator, Roan Haggar, and volunteer astronomy graduate students.  So far, the content of the planetarium shows has focused on planets, stars and constellations that can be seen in the night sky, to encourage students to develop an interest in looking at the night sky themselves. We also discuss the cultural significance of the night sky and the history of observational astronomy. In the future, we plan to expand the content of our presentations, tailoring them to the respective curricula for each year group.

An astronomer points to a projection of the Milky Way from inside the Astro-Bubble.

The Astro-Bubble is a 6m diameter inflatable dome and digital projector from Digitalis, who specialize in the production of projectors and domes for scientific education. The high-resolution 4K projector covers the entire dome, providing a fully immersive experience for a class of thirty school children and teachers who can be accommodated inside. Entry to the dome is by a zippered doorway, but it is also wheelchair accessible. Once deflated, the entire system is easily transportable.

The planetarium software is fully customisable, but also includes more than twenty planetarium shows and lesson plans for elementary through to high school classes. However, full-dome shows are available in many subject areas, meaning we are not just restricted to astronomy! If you are interested in collaborating with us to have a dome show at your next outreach event, please contact the WCA outreach team at

Spring cohort now open for Mental Health Literacy Program

A mental health counsellor sits across from a patient.

A message from Campus Wellness. 

Maintaining positive mental health is important to us all. Perhaps you’ve noticed signs of distress in a student or increased levels of anxiety in a colleague. Not sure how to help them? Understanding the signs and symptoms of distress and the steps you can take to ensure they get the support they need involves having a good level of mental health literacy. 

The Mental Health Literacy (MHL) Certificate was developed to support faculty and staff to develop and practice these skills. The program is aimed at faculty and staff to encourage discussion and reflection on mental health through an equity-focused lens. Additionally, it empowers participants to build a supportive community of care, concern, and compassion. Over the course of five modules, participants will enhance their understanding of barriers to mental health and competency in responding to a person in distress, accessing resources and supports. 

UWaterloo employees that have completed the program thus far find it comprehensive and easily applicable to their work. It provides a safe space for mental health conversations while prompting critical thinking about UWaterloo culture and systems. Participants will also walk away with strategies for incorporating self-care when supporting others​. 

For faculty and staff not able to complete the entire MHL certificate program, alternative options are available to build their capacity to support students, colleagues, or family members: 

  • Recognizing and Responding to a Person in Distress. This is a 2.5-hour standalone offering from the MHL program 

  • Question, Persuade & Refer (QPR) is a 1.5-hour suicide prevention training.  

If you’re interested in signing up for any of the mental health trainings, please visit Campus Wellness’ training page

Instructors urged to use Turnitin AI detection results with caution

A screen full of computer code.

Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software used by instructors across the University, has begun including AI detection results, according to a memo circulated by the Office of the Associate Vice-President, Academic to faculty this week.

Turnitin released an artificial intelligence detection tool on April 4, and it went live at Waterloo on April 6,” says the memo, which was sent to Associate Deans, Undergraduate for further cascade to instructors and teaching assistants. “The tool has been trained on GPT 3 and GPT 3.5 (which includes ChatGPT) and Turnitin claims that it has impressive accuracy.”

Instructors who use Turnitin will start receiving an AI detection score (independently generated from Originality score) as part of its Similarity report. The report on artificial intelligence will only be visible to instructors and administrators, and only from within the Originality report.

“We are writing to urge instructors to exercise caution if considering the results of the AI detection score,” the memo continues.

As Turnitin itself notes, “we must emphasize that the percentage on the AI writing indicator should not be used as the sole basis for action or a definitive grading measure by instructors.” A high percentage of “likely AI content” does not in itself warrant a determination of academic misconduct. The tool has not been widely tested by anyone besides Turnitin. Other existing AI detection tools have a high rate of false positives (i.e., incorrect determinations that human-produced prose was generated by AI). False negatives (i.e., suggestions that AI generated text is likely human) are also possible.

“If you are using Turnitin, you’ll have a statement in your course outline to that effect,” the memo continues. “We may modify the wording of the recommended statement in the future, but for now we will consider that statement to also cover the Turnitin AI Detection tool. However, your associate dean and appeal committees should treat its reports with skepticism until we have better evidence of reliability.”

“A high score from the AI detection tool may warrant a conversation with the relevant associate dean in your Faculty. They may suggest approaches for gathering other relevant evidence (e.g., meeting with the student to assess their ability to engage with the assignment’s subject matter).”

“In early February, we sent out a memo encouraging instructors to, when possible, use pedagogical approaches that avoid the need for detection tools in this rapidly changing landscape. See related FAQs or consult the other resources linked to in that memo. We also hope for a more thorough investigation on the usefulness of detection tools, among other topics, by the Standing Committee on New Technology, Pedagogy, and Academic Integrity that is also mentioned in the memo. We are still soliciting expressions of interest for this committee, which will have its first meeting (we anticipate) in early May.”

May Anti-Racism Reads presents Minor Feelings

A message from the Library and Print + Retail Solutions. 

The cover of Cathy Park Hong's book "Minor Feelings."We are pleased to announce that Sarah Menzies, Anti-Racism Specialist at the EDI-R office, will facilitate the May edition of Anti-Racism Reads. She will be facilitating a discussion of Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning with Janice Jo Lee, artist and anti-oppression facilitator. With sly humor and a poet’s searching mind, Cathy Park Hong's book uses her own story as a portal into a deeper examination of racial consciousness in America today. 

This event is scheduled for Tuesday, May 30 from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. and will be held in person at the Dana Porter Library. To register for this event, please visit the Library’s website

Copies of Minor Feelings are available through the Library's reserve system or for purchase at the W Store. Please note: We are working towards removing barriers to participation, providing easy access to the selected text. We have limited copies available free of cost for those who sign up for the event and indicate they'd like a copy on the registration form. 

"Keeping up with the Joneses"

Iuliia Nesterova interviews 2021 Laureate Joshua Angrist while a film crew records their conversation.

By Wendy Philpott. This article is part of the Global Futures series.

Iuliia Nesterova.Our very human tendency to want to “keep up with the Joneses” is as apparent today as ever. In fact, research shows that over the past decade, conspicuous consumption has intensified in developed economies.

While the impacts of economic inequality are complex, a negative social impact identified by a Waterloo graduate student is that it encourages consumer habits such as buying expensive clothing, cars, or personalized services at the expense of both essential consumption and savings.

Iuliia Nesterova, a PhD candidate in economics, has found that higher inequality is associated with more conspicuous consumption. Her research shows that people across income groups are spending more money on non-essential goods and especially services, regardless of their financial resources.

In her dissertation, Nesterova explores how consumer choices spurred by social comparisons — “keeping up with the Joneses” — encourages conspicuous consumption, which leads to excess borrowing and insufficient saving. Her research suggests that mitigating inequality can lower conspicuous consumption and consequently benefit everyone.

“I have always been intrigued by anecdotal evidence that relative consumption seems to matter to people,” Nesterova says. “Yet standard economic theories do not incorporate the interdependent nature of individual preference over consumption. So, I started my dissertation research by looking at the data on household consumption to find evidence of conspicuous behaviour.”

Her examination found that, empirically, inequality has had a significant effect on household consumer behaviour after 2010 — people in all income groups started spending more on goods and services.

Nesterova attributes historically low interest rates and the rise of social media as key factors in this trend. The former encourages more borrowing and buying, the latter normalizes the consumption of expensive products and services.

Importantly, she has found that the rise of the service economy — such as personal care, dinning out and other lifestyle services — is a significant contributing factor. To understand more about this transition in consumer behaviour, Nesterova looks at consumption as a dynamic process, including the role of social interaction and its pressures on individuals.

“If I care about my social standing,” she explains, “I might be inclined to buy too much conspicuous items that others will see, to improve my position relative to them. But consuming more today to improve my relative social position, also weakens my relative economic position in the future. It becomes a question of a rat race today vs a rat race tomorrow.”

Nesterova considers economic strategies that could help mitigate consumption inequality, such as more redistributive policies — sharing wealth across income groups. For instance, she found “the benefit of income taxes are particularly apparent through the lens of my research on conspicuous consumption. Redistribution from the rich to the poor may help both the poor and the rich via reductions in inefficient conspicuous consumption.”

Considering the future of consumer economies in Canada and other developed countries, Nesterova anticipates a growing shift toward service economies. “If we implement the right policies, this shift can bring new opportunities and challenges to make sure that inequality is kept under control and innovation benefits all.”

Hear more from Nesterova

Recently, Nesterova attended the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings and had the opportunity to meet 2021 Laureate Joshua Angrist to discuss what drew them into researching economics.

Link of the day

Mad Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee dead at 102

When and Where to get support

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

Instructors looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (

Faculty, staff, post-doc and graduate student instructors can find upcoming teaching and learning workshops, self-directed modules and recordings of previous events on Centre for Teaching Excellence Workshops and Events page.

Instructors can access the EdTech Hub to find support on Waterloo’s centrally supported EdTech tools. The Hub is supported by members of IST’s Instructional Technologies and Media ServicesCentre for Teaching ExcellenceCentre for Extended Learning and subject matter experts from other campus areas.

Supports are available for employees returning to campus. Visit IST’s Hybrid Work and Technology guidelines and workplace protocols to assist with the transition.

Students with permanent, temporary and suspected disabilities and disabling conditions (medical conditions, injuries, or trauma from discrimination, violence, or oppression) can register with AccessAbility Services for academic accommodations (classroom accommodations, testing accommodations, milestone accommodations).

Instructors can visit AccessAbility Services' Faculty and Staff web page for information about the Instructor/Faculty role in the accommodation process. Instructors/Faculty members are legally required to accommodate students with disabilities. AccessAbility Services (AAS) is here to help you understand your obligations, and to offer services and resources to help you facilitate accommodations.

Did you know that the Writing and Communication Centre offers many in-person and virtual services to support you with any writing or communication project? This term we've added The Write Spot: a new student space in South Campus hall, complete with bookable workspaces, drop-ins with our peer tutors, and free coffee and tea. We also have one-to-one appointments with our writing and communication advisors and peer tutors, email tutoring for grads and undergrads, drop-ins at Dana Porter Libraryonline workshopswriting groupsEnglish conversation practice, and even custom in-class workshops. For any communication project, the Writing and Communication Centre is here to support you.

Research Ethics: Find yourself with an ethical question, unsure if your work requires an ethics review, or need advice about putting together a research ethics application? Reach out to one of our friendly staff by booking a consultation or email us with your questions.

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action (CCA) has services and programs to support undergrads, grad students, postdocs, alumni, and employees in figuring out what they value, what they’re good at, and how to access meaningful work, co-op, volunteer, or graduate/professional school opportunities. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat, call 519-888-4047, or stop by our front desk in the Tatham Centre 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Drop-in to in-person Warrior Study Halls on Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in DC and DP. Join a Peer Success Coach to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

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

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 TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

The Library is here to help, both in person and online. Our spaces are open for access to book stacks, study spaces, computers/printers, and the IST Help Desk. For in-depth support, meet one-to-one with Librarians, Special Collections & Archives and Geospatial Centre staff. Visit the Library’s home page to access our online resources for anywhere, anytime learning and research.

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 Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-racism (EDI-R) works with students, faculty and staff across campus to advance equity and anti-racism through evidence-based policies, practices and programs. If you have a concern related to anti-racism and/or equity, please complete our intake form.

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: or visit the SVPRO website.

The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at United College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support - MATESGlow CentreRAISEWomen’s Centre - Click on one of the links to book an appointment either in person or online for the term.

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop-off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH, and all residences.

Co-op Connection all available online. 

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

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.

GSA-UW supports for graduate students: 

The Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) supports students’ academic and social experience and promotes their well-being.

Advising and Support - The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges and can help with navigating university policies & filing a grievance, appeal, or petition.

Mental Health covered by the Health Plan - The GSA Health Plan now has an 80 per cent coverage rate (up to $800/year) for Mental Health Practitioners. Your plan includes coverage for psychologists, registered social workers, psychotherapists, and clinical counselors.

Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 to 70 per cent of your dental costs and by visiting dental professionals who are members of the Studentcare Networks, you can receive an additional 20 to 30 per cent coverage.

Student Legal Protection Program - Your GSA fees give you access to unlimited legal advice, accessible via a toll-free helpline: +1-833-202-4571. This advice covers topics including housing disputes, employment disputes, and disputes with an academic institution.

The Graduate House: Open Monday to Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. We’re open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Graduate House is a community space run by the GSA-UW. We’re adding new items to the menu. Graduate students who paid their fees can get discounts and free coffee.

When and Where 

Fitness and Personal Training - Registrations opened January 5 this winter with Personal Training and Small Group Training as well as a Free Warrior Workout Program.

Waterloo Warriors Youth Camps. Spring and Summer camps available for Boys and Girls ages 5-18. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Hockey and Multi-Sport and Games. Register today.

Student Health Pharmacy in the basement of the Student Life Centre is now offering Covid booster shots (Pfizer and Moderna) and flu shots. Call 519-746-4500 or extension 33784 for an appointment. Walk-ins always welcome.

Final examination period, Thursday, April 13 to Friday, April 28.

Creating Inclusive Excellence in Research through Inclusive Leadership, Thursday, April 13, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Federation Hall, University of Waterloo. Waterloo researchers are invited to register for the workshop.

Canada's Indo-Pacific Strategy, Thursday, April 13, 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., DC 1302.

FINCAPES project launch, Friday, April 14, 11;00 a.m. to 12:40 with luncheon to follow, SLC 2144 (Black and Gold Room).

NEW - Celebrate World Quantum Day at UWaterloo, Friday, April 14, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., SLC Multipurpose Room.

Share how you experience the UWaterloo campus in the Inclusive Physical Space Framework survey for a chance to win a $50.00 on a WatCard. Survey closes midnight on Friday, April 21.

Call for Expressions of Interest: Canada Biomedical Research Fund and Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund (CBRF-BRIF), due Thursday, April 27. Learn more about the process.

NEW - University Senate meeting, Monday, April 17, 3:30 p.m., NH 3407.

NEW - Vision Science Graduate Student Conference 2023, Tuesday, April 18, 8:15 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., OPT 347.

NEW - WaterLeadership  Impact Pathways: Strategies for promoting the uptake of water research, presented by Nancy Goucher, Tuesday, April 18, 12:30 p.m., DC 1304.

NEW - Master of Taxation, Virtual Information Session, Tuesday, April 18, 4:00 p.m. To register visit,

Additional position available

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

  • Job ID# 2023-9826 - Manager, Counselling Services (Specialized Counselling and Advocacy) - Campus Wellness, USG 14 – Permanent position.