Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Global Futures: Fixing a patient care communication gap

A person looks at a tablet with the MedInclude interface on it.

This is the latest article in a series highlighting the Global Futures innovation update.

Health-care providers often provide patients and their caregivers with important information that include specific medical jargon. But research has shown that around 51 per cent of those patients don’t understand the medical language provided by their doctor.

Seun Adetunji, a student in the MBET, says this problem became more apparent to her while working as a communications professional in the health care sector. She took matters into her own hands by creating MedInclude — an AI-based data processing platform that can help health-care providers transcribe patient notes into lay terminology in real time.

Read how MedInclude is demystifying medical jargon with AI

Andrew Farr is the Douglas Wright Engineer-in-Residence for 2024

This article was originally posted on the Civil and Environmental Engineering website.

Andrew Farr.The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is pleased to welcome Andrew Farr, P. Eng., as the 2024 Douglas Wright Engineer-in-Residence.

Andrew Farr has been Halton Region’s Commissioner of the Public Works Department since November 2020. Prior to joining Halton Region, Andrew served as the interim Commissioner of Public Works for Peel Region in addition to holding various leadership positions in Peel’s Public Works department for over 18 years, including the General Manager, Water and Wastewater.

Andrew holds a Bachelor of Applied Science in Civil Engineering and Water Resources from the University of Waterloo and a Master’s Certificate in Public Management from York University. He is a member (P.Eng.) of the Professional Engineers of Ontario. He is presently the Chair of the Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario Committee (RPWCO), a role he assumed in January 2023 and will continue through to the end of 2024.

Andrew is a strong advocate of the public works industry and is a member of, and has participated on several associations including on the Board of Directors with the Canadian Water Network and is a mentor for new engineers through the Water Environment Association of Ontario. He is also a strong proponent of giving back to the communities in which he lives and works and recently was the co-chair Halton Region’s United Way Campaign.

Learn more about the Douglas Wright EIR program

Can hydrogels help mend a broken heart?

An illustration of a doctor holding a human heart.

You can mend a broken heart this Valentine’s Day now that researchers invented a new hydrogel that can be used to heal damaged heart tissue and improve cancer treatments.  

University of Waterloo chemical engineering researcher Dr. Elisabeth Prince teamed up with researchers from the University of Toronto and Duke University to design the synthetic material made using cellulose nanocrystals, which are derived from wood pulp. The material is engineered to replicate the fibrous nanostructures and properties of human tissues, thereby recreating its unique biomechanical properties.

"Cancer is a diverse disease and two patients with the same type of cancer will often respond to the same treatment in very different ways," Prince said. "Tumour organoids are essentially a miniaturized version of an individual patient's tumour that can be used for drug testing, which could allow researchers to develop personalized therapies for a specific patient."

As director of the Prince Polymer Materials Lab, Prince designs synthetic biomimetic hydrogels for biomedical applications. The hydrogels have a nanofibrous architecture with large pores for nutrient and waste transport, which affect mechanical properties and cell interaction. 

Prince, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Chemical Engineering, utilized these human-tissue mimetic hydrogels to promote the growth of small-scale tumour replicas derived from donated tumour tissue. 

She aims to test the effectiveness of cancer treatments on the mini-tumour organoids before administering the treatment to patients, potentially allowing for personalized cancer therapies. This research was conducted alongside Professor David Cescon at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center.

Prince's research group at Waterloo is developing similar biomimetic hydrogels to be injectable for drug delivery and regenerative medical applications as Waterloo researchers continue to lead health innovation in Canada.

Her research aims to use injected filamentous hydrogel material to regrow heart tissue damaged after a heart attack. She used nanofibers as a scaffolding for the regrowth and healing of damaged heart tissue. 

"We are building on the work that I started during my PhD to design human-tissue mimetic hydrogels that can be injected into the human body to deliver therapeutics and repair the damage caused to the heart when a patient suffers a heart attack," Prince said.

Prince's research is unique as most gels currently used in tissue engineering or 3D cell culture don't possess this nanofibrous architecture. Prince's group uses nanoparticles and polymers as building blocks for materials and develops chemistry for nanostructures that accurately mimic human tissues.

The next step in Prince's research is to use conductive nanoparticles to make electrically conductive nanofibrous gels that can be used to heal heart and skeletal muscle tissue.

The research was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Cindy Futher retires after nearly 37 years at Waterloo

A message from the office of Research.

Cindy FutherAfter an almost 37-year career at the University of Waterloo, Cindy Futher is retiring April 1 with her last day on campus set for early March.

Although Cindy began her career at Waterloo in the Office of Research (OR) and is retiring from Research Ethics, she has made a couple detours along the way. Cindy was first hired at Waterloo into Research Finance in June 1987 after a friend, Kim Gingrich, made her aware of the job opening. Realizing that finance was not the right fit for her, she quickly moved on to the grants unit in the office, under the management of Joan Hadley and Dr. Susan Sykes as a research secretary.

In October 1999, when she had a young family and was looking to spend more time at home, a part-time position opened in Kinesiology and she jumped at the chance, leaving the OR behind.

Although she loved the work and people in “Faculty-land,” she felt the OR was her home away from home and in December 2000, she returned as an administrator for research ethics under Dr. Susan Sykes. Her position evolved over the years and, as her kids got older, she transitioned from a part-time to a full-time role in 2014.

Reflecting on her 37-year career, Cindy is most proud of her involvement in the development of the state-of-the-art central animal facility at Waterloo. She also witnessed the evolution of technology (e.g., birth of the internet, answering and routing phone calls, working from home). There has been so much change, some for good and some that brought challenges.

Personal relationships with researchers, interacting with students and others across campus, like the Animal Care Committee members and facility staff is what she has enjoyed most at Waterloo. She also had a lot of relatives work at the University which created a sense of family (literally). “[Waterloo] is so family oriented and that is what I’ve enjoyed the most, it’s the people, the connections, the relationships, and the fact that I know so many people and they are so kind, and I’ve just had a wonderful experience with so many people over the years. That’s what I’ve enjoyed the most because I’m a people person.” (Author's note: Anyone who knows Cindy, will know that that is an understatement!)

Throughout her time at the University, Cindy “has been so blessed and so fortunate to work with so many amazing individuals.” It’s the relationships she built with folks across campus that she will miss the most. To this day, she maintains relationships with co-workers from earlier in her career and hopes to continue them after she retires.

Cindy plans to fill her time in retirement by volunteering and already has plans to be involved in a local festival, an elementary school reading program, cat sanctuary, Thrift store and making and serving meals to those in need. A priority will also be spending time with her very large family, especially her four grandchildren. If that is not enough, she already has a part-time job in an administrative role at a local business in her hometown. “I like to be kept busy. I will not be sitting at home watching TV. That’s not for me.” She also plans to travel and spend time making new memories with her family at her cottage.

“Waterloo has been an amazing place to work, and I’ve had a wonderful career,” says Cindy, who is proud and honoured to say she worked at the University of Waterloo for nearly 37 years. That said, she is looking forward to being able to choose what she wants to do. She will miss the University but is leaving with beautiful memories.

“We spend a lot of time at work. We are with our co-workers more than we are with our family and I just feel that staying positive and having a really good attitude will get you further, you’ll be happier and less stressed. Enjoy life and make the best of it.”

Cindy’s colleagues will be hosting a retirement celebration in her honour.

Bolts from Cupid's bow

Velocity Pitch Competition banner with the slogan "where big Idas lift off!"

The deadline for Velocity's winter 2024 pitch competition is coming up. "Held each term, the Velocity pitch competition offers the opportunity for University of Waterloo student-led teams with innovative solutions and high potential business ideas to showcase their hard work and compete for their share of $20K in grant funding," says a note from Velocity. "Participants receive valuable feedback, pitching experience, and idea validation from a network of experienced entrepreneurs and Velocity Coaches. This term's deadline is approaching quickly (Monday, February 19). Learn more or apply today!"

The Winter 2024 Student Experience Survey is now open, according to a statement from the Statistical Consulting and Survey Research Unit. Students can check their @uwaterloo email or visit LEARN to see if they have been invited to participate. Those that submit their responses will receive $5 on their WatCard. The survey is open until March 1.

Register for "Antagonistic Responses to Health Research in the Academy"

Registration for the next event in the Antagonism and Intimidation in Academia Speaker Series is now open. Antagonistic Responses to Health Research in the Academy will take place on Tuesday, February 27 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:10 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre (Hagey Hall 159). This event is open to all faculty, staff and students.

Link of the day

Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day

When and Where

Warriors Game Day Tickets: Season Passes, Black and Gold Alumni Passes and Single Game Tickets now available for the 2023-24 varsity season. Purchase your tickets today!

Waterloo Warriors Youth Camps. Winter, March Break and PD Day camps available for boys and girls ages 5-18. Baseball, Basketball, Football and Multi-Sport and Games camps available. Register today!

Warriors Youth Summer Camps. Registration opens Monday, January 22, 9:00 a.m. Find out more.

Love Data Week, Monday, February 12 to Friday, February 16.

University Club Valentine’s Special Menu, Monday, February 12 to Friday, February 16. Make a reservation today.

WUSA voting days, Monday, February 12 to Wednesday, February 14.

Chemistry Seminar: “Where there's a will, there's a way: How cells cope with eroding telomeres” featuring Lea Harrington, Professor, Department of Biochemistry, University of Toronto, Tuesday, February 13, 2:30 p.m. C2-361 (Reading Room).

Inspiring Black Flourishing in Waterloo Region and beyondTuesday, February 13, 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Kitchener Public Library, 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener.

Bake for the Animals, Wednesday, February 14, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., United College front entrance.

Stream restoration as a tool for water asset management, presented by Steve Brown, Senior Associate, Water Resources, Stantec, Wednesday, February 14, 12 noon.

KHS Seminar Series: "I never planned on being here: using opportunities to build a research program" featuring Heather Keller, Wednesday, February 14, 2:30 p.m., EXP 1689. No registration required.

Black History Month panel, "Building a Career Path for Black Talent," Thursday, February 15, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m., Zoom. Register today.

Q4Environment Information Session: How Can Quantum Address Environmental Challenges, held by Transformative Quantum Technologies (TQT) on Thursday, February 15, 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., RAC 1 3003. Register by February 12.

WaterTalk: Economics of valuing water resources, presented by Dr. Sathya Gopalakrishnan, Thursday, February 15, 11:00 a.m., TC 2218, lunch reception to follow.

Reading Week, Saturday, February 17 to Sunday, February 25.

Warriors Women’s Hockey vs. Laurier, Saturday, February 17, 4:00 p.m. (Elmira). In Elmira Battle of Waterloo, Camps and Minor League. Buy your tickets today! 

Warriors Basketball vs. U of T, Saturday, February 17, women’s game 6:00 p.m., men’s game 8:00 p.m., Physical Activities Complex. (W) Senior Night. Buy your tickets today!

Family Day holiday, Monday, February 19, most University operations closed.

Family Day with the Warriors, Monday, February 19, 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon, CIF. Football, baseball, basketball, ice skating and more. Join us for a morning of FREE family fun! Register online in advance.

Family Day at the Museum, Monday, February 19, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The Earth Sciences Museum will be open to the public for Family Day. Drop in and explore our activity tables, touch dinosaur fossils and view mineral exhibits.

UW Staff Board Foundations Workshop, Tuesday, February 20, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. 

Grade 10 Family Night, Friday, February 22, 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Antagonism and Intimidation in Academia Speaker Series event, "Antagonistic Responses to Health Research in the Academy," Tuesday, February 27, 3:00 p.m. to 5:10 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Inclusive Research Tools: Identifying Barriers webinarTuesday, February 27, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Chapters of Change: Anti-racism & Conversations, Wednesday, February 28, 1:00 p.m., SLC Black & Gold Room.

NEW - Repair Workshop with 4RepairKW, Wednesday, February 28, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., E7-1401.

Horizon Europe information session for Waterloo faculty and staff, Thursday, February 29, 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. (in person) or 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (online via Teams). Please register to reserve a seat or a link to participate.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Wellbeing Community of Practice (CoP) Session: UDL as a Framework to Amplify Instructor Wellbeing, Thursday, February 29, 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., MS Teams.

International Women's Day Breakfast, Friday, March 8, 9:30 a.m. to 11:15 a.m., Federation Hall. This event is currently SOLD OUT. To add your name to the waitlist, please visit the event page.

Research Impact Canada Quarterly Touchpoint: New Members, Wednesday, March 20, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Contact Nadine Quehl at if interested in joining this online meeting.

Positions available

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

  • Job ID# 2024-11704 - CTE Math Faculty Liaison - Centre for Teaching Excellence, USG 9 – 11
  • Job ID# 2024-11711 - Digital Communications Specialist - Dean of Science office, USG 8
  • Job ID# 2024-11715 - Director, Environment Technology and Instructional Support - Environment Technology and Instructional Support, USG 14
  • Job ID# 2024-11690 - Equipment Operator - Plant Operations, CUPE
  • Job ID# 2024-11736 - Information Systems Specialist - Information Systems and Technology, USG 9 – 12
  • Job ID# 2024-11735 - Internal Communications and Engagement Specialist - Dean of Science, USG 8
  • Job ID# 2024-11721 - Learning Services Coordinator – WatSPEED, USG 5 – 6
  • Job ID# 2024-11692 - Senior Development Officer - Faculty of Mathematics Advancement, USG 11
  • Job ID# 2024-11718 - Senior Development Officer - Dean of Science Office, USG 10 – 11
  • Job ID# 2023-11417 - Student Financial Services Senior Analyst – Finance, USG 10
  • Job ID# 2024-11694 - Patrol Officer - Special Constable Services, USG 7

Secondments/Internal temporary opportunities

  • Job ID# 2024-11737 - Academic Advisor - Arts Undergraduate Office, USG 8
  • Job ID# 2024-11700 - Administrative Assistant - Office of the Vice President, Research and International, USG 6
  • Job ID# 2024-11707 - Coordinator, International Agreements - Waterloo International, USG 8
  • Job ID# 2024-11708 - Instructional Digital Media Developer - Centre for Work-Integrated Learning, USG 9

Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo opportunities