Meet the Faculty: Brian Doucet

Our “Meet the Faculty” interviews provide a window into the work lives of faculty across the University of Waterloo. Faculty members talk about the day-to-day joys and struggles, and share tips for getting the work done and staying mentally and physically healthy in academia.

Brian Doucet is the Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Urban Change and Social Inclusion and an associate professor in the School of Planning. In this extended interview, we dive a little deeper than usual into Brian’s research and its local applications.

What do you teach and research?

My main focus is trying to understand how people experience big forces of change that shape their neighbourhood. A lot of my previous work has focused on the lived experiences of gentrification and I am increasingly focusing on the relationship between neighbourhood change and mobility, with a particular emphasis on cycling and transit. In teaching, that connects to some of the big trends taking place in cities today: inequality, polarization, housing challenges.

Where does your interest in these aspects of cities come from?

I’ve always been interested in the ordinary, everyday parts of cities, and curious as to why things are where they are and what is driving change. There’s a lot of inequality in our society, so there’s a lot of inequality replicated in our cities and I’m trying to find genuine ways to reduce those divisions, whether it be through housing or transportation—and not just superficial ways, but looking at the root causes of some of that inequality.

When and where do you do your best work?

I find now that I have children, almost out of necessity, I tend to work well in the mornings. One of the big pressure points of the day is around dinner time, so I like to try and get home for that. Having a very spacious office that’s only a 15-minute bike ride or a 30-minute walk from home, I find I tend to come in to work much more than I did when I lived in a different city from where I work. Sometimes I’ll even come back up here after the children have gone to bed because it’s a better place to work than the dining room table.

Continue reading “Meet the Faculty: Brian Doucet”

Indigenization Reading Circle Notebook: Academic Gatekeepers

The FAUW Indigenization Reading Circle meets monthly to discuss readings relating to Indigenization and reconciliation in the university context.

In “Academic Gatekeepers,” Devon Abbott Mihesuah (pronounced “My-he-sue-ah”) examines the various ways in which academic knowledge production is subject to white settler norms and values that hinder the advancement and success of Indigenous scholars and teachers.

The conversation began by noting the broad context of academic gatekeeping on the University of Waterloo campus: the recent ranking of Indigenous visibility for the University of Waterloo, the importance of indigenous participation in high levels of the administration, and the inclusion of inclusivity and diversity in the 2020–2025 strategic plan. Participants wrestled with the challenges of including Indigenous academics, discussing peer review and merit as an objective façade, the lack of Indigenous voices in various fields, and how academia and academic culture is structured to exclude people.

Continue reading “Indigenization Reading Circle Notebook: Academic Gatekeepers”

Shifting gears on cycling: 8 ways UWaterloo supports biking to work

—A guest post from the Sustainability Office.

Fall may be in full swing, but it feels like spring is in the air for cycling in Waterloo Region.

There is a growing push for cycling across the community, catalyzed by concerns for accessibility and safety, effective use of space, economic development, affordability, and climate change, just to name a few. New segregated bike lanes on King, Columbia, University, Queen, and Belmont are kicking off much-needed infrastructure transitions outlined in municipal policy and planning. Trail improvements through Waterloo Park and soon the Iron Horse are making for a more pleasant cycling experience. Bike racks and spaces on busses and the iON make multi-modal transportation more accessible.

Efforts have been building on campus as well. Waterloo has been expanding programs and services to make riding a bike a more convenient commuting option.

  1. All campus buildings have adjacent bike racks, some of which are covered (QNC, B1, ESC, and EIT, for example).
  2. Parking Services manages a secure bike locker program, and there is a new secure bike cage under construction between EV3 and ML!
  3. Police Services runs a program to register your bike, so they can better help return it to you if it is stolen.
  4. Cyclists can access an emergency ride home program, $75 per trip 4 times per year, to help with unexpected circumstances (unfortunately, weather doesn’t count!).
  5. If you only ride during the summer, you can suspend your parking permit and regain your spot when the winter weather returns.
  6. Better yet, employees can purchase transit passes for winter months at a 15% discount off the regular transit price (no minimum monthly commitment) so you can bike in fair weather and bus in the cold.
  7. Waterloo has piloted a bike sharing program in 2019 to make getting across campus more convenient.
  8. The Sustainability Office organizes events like Bike Month to recognize cyclists, provide free bike tune-ups from community partners, and offer prizes for logging bike trips.

Of course, these don’t address every barrier. Bike theft remains a challenge, which is why the new secure cage is a critical step forward. We hope the cage is a model that, through partnerships, can be replicated in additional areas of campus if there is demand.

And the University is certainly not an island. It is connected to the network of roads and trails leading to the campus, many of which lack robust cycling infrastructure. It is a familiar sight to come to the end of your bike lane or trail and have to merge into morning or afternoon traffic. Municipal improvements are accelerating, but there is still a lot to do.

Nevertheless, the efforts underway are already shifting the gears upward. Cycling is not just for veteran riders. Diverse members of the University community—from a wide range of ages and abilities—arrive on all types of bikes every day. We’ve put thank-you cards on thousands of bikes across campus, so we know! Efforts to improve infrastructure will continue to make it safer and more comfortable.

If you are curious, explore your options. Google and gotravelwise.ca can pull up routes and directions that optimize bike lanes and trails, including new infrastructure, and the Sustainability website has more information and links to the above services that can help.


Mat Thijssen is the University of Waterloo’s Sustainability Manager. He coordinates the University’s sustainability activities and efforts, in partnership with a broad range of stakeholders on and off campus

Meet the Faculty: Bin Ma

Our “Meet the Faculty” interviews provide a window into the work lives of faculty across the University of Waterloo. Faculty members talk about the day-to-day joys and struggles, and share tips for getting the work done and staying mentally and physically healthy in academia.

Bin Ma is a professor in the Cheriton School of Computer Science and co-founder of Rapid Novor Inc.

What do you teach and research?

I teach and research in bioinformatics. In particular, I developed a new technology to read out the sequence information of protein molecules. This is an analog to the better-known DNA sequencing, except that we deal with protein molecules, which requires a totally new method.

What is it about your work that you’re really excited about?

I am most excited about the fact that my work can help patients and improve human health.

Tell us about your start-up.

I cofounded Rapid Novor Inc. in 2015 to commercialize new protein sequencing technology. We started a residency at the Accelerator Centre in 2016 and started offering antibody protein sequencing service to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Recently, the company moved to a purpose-built facility at Catalyst137 in Kitchener. We employ 25 full-time employees—computer scientists, lab scientists, and a business team—and have served more than 200 customers worldwide, including nine out of the ten largest pharmaceutical companies. The company has also developed a clinical assay to detect the relapse of Myeloma, a special type of blood cancer.

It is very important to have full-time business partners. This allows me to participate in the company only on a part-time basis.

How do you balance that work with your role at Waterloo?

It is very important to have full-time co-founders and dedicated business partners. The other two co-founders, Mingjie Xie and Qixin Liu, work full-time for the company as the CEO and CTO, respectively. This allows me to participate in the company only on a part-time basis.

Continue reading “Meet the Faculty: Bin Ma”

The hot topics at FAUW and OCUFA this month

What FAUW is talking about

  1. We’re working on identifying standard teaching workload expectations in each department so we can better advise members. We started gathering data on this at the October 29 Council of Reps meeting.
  2. Speaking of which, we are still missing Council members for: Accounting & Finance, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Physics & Astronomy, and Systems Design Engineering. If you’d like to be your unit’s rep, send us an email.
  3. The Policy 33 (Ethical Behaviour) drafting committee finished its public consultation on October 18. FRC will review all the feedback and give direction to the drafting committee about changes to make by November 11. We expect a final version back to FRC for approval on December 19. In particular, FAUW heard impassioned feedback about the policy’s silence on student-supervisor relationships. This was instead covered in draft guidelines. The Board voted on October 24 to ask that this be included in the policy itself.
  4. The Lecturers Committee had an insightful meeting with David Rose, new chair of the Policy 76 (Faculty Appointments) drafting committee and Benoit Charbonneau (chief negotiator for FAUW) about policy 76 and implications for lecturer salary equity.
  5. FAUW President Bryan Tolson met with the faculty reps on the joint health and safety committees about how those committees can advocate more explicitly for faculty safety issues.
  6. Ranjini Jha was appointed to the Pension Investment Committee.
  7. We’re starting to plan events for next term. Some topics we’re looking at include preparing for retirement, definite term contracts, the teaching scheduling process, and meet-ups for early-career faculty and out-of-town and bike commuters.
  8. The University is currently negotiating its third Strategic Mandate Agreement with the province. Currently, 92% of UW’s operating funding is based on enrolment, but the new performance-based funding model will bring this number down to about 33%, with the rest dictated by to-be-determined performance indicators. FAUW is more concerned with rejecting this funding model as a whole than getting into the details about which indicators UW should be using. If you want to learn more about how the model works, here’s a presentation from OCUFA (PDF) that breaks it down.

What OCUFA is talking about

OCUFA = Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

  1. Now that the provincial legislature has reconvened, Bill 124 (the one that will cap salary increases at 1%) will likely pass in November, and then there likely will be a court challenge, likely by CUPE (the Canadian Union of Public Employees). It’s still unclear if the legislation will apply to anything outside of base salary (e.g. benefits spending, merit increases).
  2. Bill 100 (the one that allows the government to reduce/eliminate the salary of faculty members collecting a pension) is already law; we’re just waiting to see if they will use it. OCUFA will file a charter challenge if needed.

OCUFA’s advocacy day at Queen’s Park is coming up on November 6. We can’t make it this year, but you can follow along on their Twitter account when the time comes.

Indigenization Reading Circle Notebook: “The Four R’s – Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity, Responsibility”

The FAUW Indigenization Reading Circle meets monthly to discuss readings relating to Indigenization and reconciliation in the university context.

At the October 4, 2019, session of our Indigenization Reading Circle, we asked what we can learn about universities by shifting our focus toward the experience of Indigenous students as they attend universities in Canada (or the United States). In “First Nations and Higher Education: The Four R’s – Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity, Responsibility,” Verna Kirkness and Ray Barnhardt argue that the underrepresentation of Indigenous students in universities and their comparably lower completion rates reflect the systemic tension between universities and the lives of Indigenous peoples. The authors’ programme for reforming universities is built around ‘The Four R’s’.

Showing respect for Indigenous students will require an examination of what kinds of knowledge count. Ensuring universities are relevant to Indigenous communities will necessitate ongoing conversations around how education fits into their life-worlds. For the relationships within universities to be reciprocal, the roles of teachers and learners must be reconsidered. As with other transformations in inter-nation relationships (governance, public welfare and justice, resource management), sharing control of universities with Indigenous communities is key to Indigenous communities being responsible participants.

Continue reading “Indigenization Reading Circle Notebook: “The Four R’s – Respect, Relevance, Reciprocity, Responsibility””

Meet the Faculty: Nada Basir

Our “Meet the Faculty” interviews provide a window into the work lives of faculty across the University of Waterloo. Faculty members talk about the day-to-day joys and struggles, and share tips for getting the work done and staying mentally and physically healthy in academia.

Nada Basir is an assistant professor at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business.

What do you teach and research?

My PhD is in strategic management, but a lot of my research looks at entrepreneurship as a vehicle for social impact and change. I tend to make these worlds collide when I teach. I teach social entrepreneurship in our Master of Business Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) program, where I focus on building innovative, financially sustainable businesses to tackle pressing social problems. My entrepreneurial strategy undergraduate course is very much focused on business strategy but there is definitely an element of leveraging businesses for social good in there.

What else do you do on campus?

There are many exciting entrepreneurship initiatives happening at the University, and I think it’s important for someone like me, a female visible minority, to be present and involved in as many as I can. The start-up space has a diversity problem, especially when it comes to female representation. Things are starting to get better, but we are not there yet. I help judge some of the campus competitions, such as the Norman Esch Awards and the World’s Challenge Challenge, and I speak on panels and act as a mentor for some student-led entrepreneurship clubs. I see and hear first-hand some of the challenges the female entrepreneurial students face and this has shaped my research and community involvement. For example, a few years ago, I was involved in organizing the Waterloo Women: Ideas, Makers, and Innovators event.

I’ve been working on building a network for faculty across campus who research innovation and entrepreneurship. Since UW doesn’t have a business school, this incredibly interesting research is happening across campus, with few connections between projects and people working on very similar problems. We’ve been playing around with a few models of how we can build better connections between all of us.

What is it about your work that you’re really passionate or excited about?

The more I learn, the more excited and passionate I become about leveraging ‘business’ for social good. Whether you are a Walmart or a social enterprise developing an affordable infant incubator for rural India, there are diverse and creative ways to make a positive impact in this world. Capitalism is an incredible force—let’s unlock that force for good. My teaching revolves around this, and much of my research does too. I feel very lucky and privileged to be able to come to work and spend my days asking questions that really excite me and working with students who are exploring how to make all of this happen.

Continue reading “Meet the Faculty: Nada Basir”