Transitions

‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.’ (The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring, Book Two, Chapter VII)

I too have passed a test, managing engineering admissions for the past decade through a period of rapid growth and various changes.  And it is now time for me to diminish and remain a professor, finishing my term as Director of Admissions and returning to a focus on teaching and research in Chemical Engineering.  As of September 1 a new Director takes over, and he will likely continue our recent tradition of running an admissions blog with up to date information and insights.  Since my blog URL is rather eponymous, there will be a new site and I’ll provide an introduction and link to it when available in the near future.

I plan to continue this blog with things related to engineering teaching, careers, research, and other topics of interest to me.  I will also post things about admissions in a more generic sense, looking at trends across Canada, the U.S. and suggestions and insights for applicants considering an engineering program at any university.  However, I won’t be answering questions or posting details about current Waterloo admissions news, since I will no longer be directly connected to it.

Reflecting on what has happened during my time as Director of Admissions, Engineering has seen applications grow from about 6,300 to just under 13,000.  We’ve added two new programs (Biomedical and Architectural Engineering), expanded the Mechatronics program to two streams, implemented an optional video interview system, hired more staff to handle the increased volumes, and seen dramatic growth in applications from outside Canada, including the U.S. and India.  The time has flown by, and I’ve had fun and satisfaction working with lots of different people, including faculty and staff, applicants, current students, alumni, parents, guidance counselors, and secondary school teachers.  There have been plenty of behind the scenes challenges along the way, but our talented Associate Directors and hard-working admissions team has always helped me to hit the annual admissions targets with no major surprises or disasters, and for this I’m very thankful!

For faculty members, these administrative positions are usually something we do out of interest and a desire to help out with the operations of the university.  But as they say in business, my “core mission” is in teaching and research.  So, having done what I can to continuously improve engineering admissions practices it’s time to step back and let someone with a fresh outlook carry on.

So now I can focus on other things and make some progress on teaching and research projects.  These projects include some course updating and redevelopment, and new research studies with industrial partners on air pollution control, water testing, and antimicrobial materials.  Unlike Galadriel however, I have no plans to go into the West.

Life extending technology | TheRecord.com

A story at the link below about a company started by one of our nanotechnology engineering graduates (and a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, according to his LinkedIn page).  The technology is based on SPR, or Surface Plasmon Resonance, and interesting material property that appears at the nanoscale.  Some of my research work is based on this phenomenon, and this seems like a nice piece of equipment.

Kitchener startup’s ‘life extending’ technology helps researchers study disease and develop new medicines

KITCHENER — Ryan Denomme pursues cutting edge science from inside an old factory building where his grandmother used to work.

Denomme is the co-founder and chief executive officer of Nicoya Lifesciences, which recently launched the second version of its desktop device that measures interactions between some of the most important building blocks in the human body — proteins.

Source: Life extending technology | TheRecord.com

Long-term effects of forest fires pose threats to drinking water

An interesting article about my colleague Prof. Emelko’s research.  I’m somewhat jealous that she gets to fly in a helicopter!

Forest fires are sweeping North America with detrimental environmental, economic and human impacts. A research team, led by University of Waterloo Engineering professor Monica Emelko, will receive $5.5 million from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) Strategic Partnership Grant for Networks to provide new knowledge on the impacts of different forest management strategies on drinking water source quality and treatability.

Source: Long-term effects of forest fires pose threats to drinking water | Water Institute | University of Waterloo

Engineering 101 Welcome

Engineering 101 is a type of orientation event held in July for new admitted students.  It’s an opportunity to come to campus and look around, meet some fellow students, get some tips for success, and get some errands done before the rush starts in September.  There is an online guide summarizing everything, which is good for those who can’t make the trip or who want to review some of the advice.

I was asked to make some opening remarks, so following is a version of what I said. Continue reading

Ideas Clinic-Scanning Tunneling Microscope

I was visiting my colleagues in the Engineering Ideas Clinic the other day, to discuss a design-fabricate-test project for a heat exchanger that we’re working on for Chemical Engineering students.  The basic concept for the Ideas Clinic is that students can do hands-on activities requiring engineering design, some fabrication and assembly, and some performance testing, part of our experiential learning philosophy.  A bunch of activities have been developed over the past few years, and many more are in development to take advantage of new space available in our Engineering 7 building,  opening soon.

One activity they previewed for me was the building of a desktop Scanning Tunneling Microscope for imaging surfaces at the atomic scale.  The video below shows the basic principle of an STM.  Once it’s finalized, this will be an activity for our Nanotechnology Engineering students, and it’s amazing that something like this can be built by students for a couple of hundred dollars.  I look forward to seeing it in action.

 

Co-op students build first-of-its-kind machine in Canada | Engineering | University of Waterloo

An interesting article about some co-op student efforts in one of our research labs.  I learned about Spatial Atomic Layer Deposition, which is an interesting application of nanoscience and materials engineering.

With the help of seven University of Waterloo co-op students, Canada’s first Spatial Atomic Layer Deposition (SALD) system is up and running. At the celebratory ribbon cutting on May 10, 2018, project leader Professor Kevin Musselman said he couldn’t have done it without the co-op students who helped design and build the machine. “I was sitting at my desk the whole time. I don’t think I ever lifted a finger so it was entirely built by the students,” laughs Musselman.

Source: Co-op students build first-of-its-kind machine in Canada | Engineering | University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo engineering applicants sell themselves differently based on gender, new research says – The Globe and Mail

An interesting summary article of Prof. Golab’s semantic analysis work using parts of our Admissions Information Form.  Prof. Golab and his students are affiliated with our Management Engineering program, and semantic analysis is one aspect of data analysis and artificial intelligence.

Female applicants emphasized their desire to use engineering as a way to improve society. Male applicants choose to highlight their technical abilities

Source: University of Waterloo engineering applicants sell themselves differently based on gender, new research says – The Globe and Mail

These Are The Most Valuable Degrees In Canada In 2018

I’m always a bit wary of these rankings and their validity, but I’ll like this one because it has Chemical Engineering and Geosciences (which would include our Geological Engineering) in the top 5.  From Huffington Post…

The list ranks the top-10 bachelor’s degrees based on the highest average salaries as well as the most recent available tuition costs.

Source: These Are The Most Valuable Degrees In Canada In 2018

Is there grade inflation?

I get asked about the grade inflation that I’ve seen over the years.  I know that there is anecdotal evidence of grade inflation from various sources.  For example, the GCE A Level exams (based in the UK) had to introduce a new top grade (A*) because so many people were getting the previous top grade (A) that it was becoming somewhat meaningless.  Likewise, as I mentioned in another post there are reports that over half of U.S. high school graduates have “A” averages.  However from my side I can’t make any conclusions based on our admissions data.  Here is why… Continue reading