hand holding vial of vaccine

Researchers aiming to increase vaccine awareness

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a lack of knowledge about vaccines, and a team of UWindsor researchers has a plan to remedy it.

Paula van WykKinesiology professor Paula van Wyk (pictured at left) is leading a research project that will use a variety of tools to educate adults about vaccines and boosters for a range of illnesses. Together with fellow kinesiology professor Patti Weir, nursing professor Debbie Kane, and computer science professor Ziad Kobti, van Wyk will work with community agencies and local pharmacies to combat the vaccine hesitancy among adults that exists because of misleading information being promoted through social media.

“The evidence is clear that a large percentage of the adult population is not fully vaccinated for conditions and diseases that have been around for decades,” said Dr. van Wyk, referring to diseases such as pertussis, tetanus, influenza, pneumonia, and shingles. “This has been exposed by COVID-19, making these individuals a risk to themselves and the general population.”

The project is being funded through a $50,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada in conjunction with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The funding comes from a pot of money set aside to encourage vaccine confidence.

Van Wyk’s grant is one of four awarded to researchers at UWindsor, for total funding of $200,000.

The centrepiece of the project is an interactive website with a quiz that tests participants’ knowledge about vaccines. Education about different vaccines and boosters for adults is provided, in addition to when and where you can receive your shots. Participants taking the quiz can sign up to receive daily emails with vaccine facts. The material will also be distributed through social media and mailed or handled out in printed form.

For wide reach throughout Windsor and Essex County, including immigrants and migrant workers, the website and printed material will be available in Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin, as well as English and French.

The team includes two doctoral students from computer science and one undergraduate student from kinesiology who are helping to build the website and conduct an initial analysis based on early quiz results and by scraping data from social media. They will help develop educational materials based on what that initial analysis reveals.

The team has partnered with the WE-Spark Health Institute, a partnership among the university, Windsor Regional Hospital, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, and St. Clair College that supports local health research. Other partners include the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, the Windsor-Essex Compassionate Care Committee, seniors’ centre Life After 50, the Windsor Public Library, and local pharmacies.

Van Wyk said there is both misinformation unwittingly being spread about COVID and vaccines in general, and disinformation spread intentionally to undermine public health. While both have existed in the past, incorrect information spreads more easily today because of social media, she said.

“There is a lot of information available and it can be overwhelming. Not everyone has the critical thinking skills to weigh the validity of the information coming at them,” said van Wyk. Bad information gets repeated and misconstrued as fact.

“We want to make sure we are providing resources to educate people, particularly adults, about vaccine benefits, booster requirements, and disease risks,” van Wyk said. “What we’re saying is, ‘Here’s the information you may not know’.”

The goal is to help adults make evidence-based decisions about vaccination, translate their knowledge into vaccine compliance, and move Windsor and Essex County toward the national coverage goal of vaccine uptake.

The project’s funding will cover costs for one year and will create a product that can be used well into the future.

—Sarah Sacheli

Suzie SawickiThe second season of the Windsor Wednesday Show will kick off Sept. 15 with new host Suzie Sawicki.

Windsor Wednesday Show to kick off new season with new host

After a short break over the summer months, the Windsor Wednesday Show is back with a new season and new host.

Live every Wednesday at noon, the show gives viewers a chance to hear first-hand why people are proud to be a part of the UWindsor community.

New host, Suzie Sawicki, a fourth-year student of international relations and business administration, is excited about the opportunity to take over the reins from previous host Linden Crain and gain some real-life journalism experience.

“Working in the field of journalism has always been something that has interested me,” says Sawicki. “Hosting the show will allow me to gain valuable experience outside of the classroom while providing me and the viewers an opportunity to learn more about our UWindsor community.”

Season two will kick off at noon tomorrow, Sept. 15, with new guests, new topics, and new questions.

“I am eagerly anticipating giving guests on the show a platform to speak about topics they are passionate about and providing an exciting and engaging show for viewers,” Sawicki says.

“I hope that our conversations on the Windsor Wednesday Show will help connect our campus, as many of us continue to work and study remotely.”

The show can be streamed live each Wednesday at noon on the Office of Student Experience Facebook page, as well as the University of Windsor’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

If you are interested in being on the show or know of someone who would make a great guest, contact the Office of Student Experience at studentexperience@uwindsor.ca.

—Sarah Hébert

formulae demonstrating machine learningMath and statistics professor Mohamed Belalia is teaming up with retired professor Ron Barron on a project that aims to improve the aerodynamics of road vehicles.

Project to probe problems related to aerodynamics

A research partnership with deep connections to the University of Windsor aims to improve the aerodynamic performance of road vehicles.

Math and statistics professor Mohamed Belalia is teaming up with a nascent company founded by retired UWindsor professor Ron Barron on a two-year project that will first generate vast amounts of data related to the flow of air over a generic vehicle, then use artificial intelligence to analyze that data to come up with the best solutions for problems related to aerodynamics.

While designed to benefit the automotive industry, the goal of the project is to develop artificial intelligence tools that could also apply to other industrial sectors, including aerospace, petroleum and gas, water resource engineering, and the cooling of electronic components and systems.

“Such data-driven analyses have become an integral component in many application areas,” said Dr. Belalia. “For this project, we are bringing together a team of computational fluid dynamics engineers and applied statistics specialists.”

Computational fluid dynamics involves analyzing data to solve problems involving the flow of liquids and gases. The analysis will involve about 200 numerical simulations accounting for a wide variation of relevant parameters such as vehicle speed, wind speed and direction, and distance between vehicles.

It would take humans months to conduct the kind of analysis AI could do in mere seconds or minutes.

Dr. Barron founded his company, State-of-the-Art Engineering Simulations (SOTAES) Inc., to take advantage of such AI.

He likened the work to an example he once heard at a conference.

“Imagine you are the operator of a train going through a tunnel, and there is a fire on the train,” Barron began. “You need to get people to safety, but there’s a lot of parameters you need to consider before you can tell people what to do.”

Where on the train is the fire? How many cars are on the train? How many exits are there and where are they located? Where in the tunnel is the train? Are there fans in the tunnel? How fast is the train going?

“There are a lot of parameters that determine which decision you should make,” Barron said. “But you can’t wait hours to analyze all that information to tell people how to get to safety.”

AI can provide an answer in seconds.

“That’s sort of what we’re trying to do,” he says. “We need to generate these huge data sets, use machine learning algorithms to analyze them, and then predict the outcome of previously unknown scenarios based on new combinations of parameters.”

The project is funded through a $120,000 grant from Mitacs, a national not-for-profit organization that brings together Canadian academia, private industry, and government to provide research and training opportunities.

The grant will pay stipends to a Master’s student, a doctoral student, and two post-doctoral fellows involved in the project.

—Sarah Sacheli

exterior of the Incubator Art Lab.BFA students are invited to apply for positions as research/studio assistants in the Incubator Art Lab.

Art Lab seeking student hires

Incubator Art Lab and the School of Creative Arts are seeking to hire two Bachelor of Fine Arts students to support the opening of the new downtown storefront facility.

The research/studio assistants will perform creative work as well as help to host public visitors.

The job term runs October 2021 to April 2022. The deadline to apply is Sept. 17; find details of job duties, qualifications, and the application process on the Incubator website.

drawing of human head with meter insideThe Student Mental Health Strategy Implementation Committee is seeking new membership.

New members sought for group implementing Student Mental Health Strategy

The Student Mental Health Strategy Implementation Committee is seeking new membership for the one-year term. The University of Windsor’s Student Mental Health Strategy was launched in October 2018, and the implementation committee has since been working to guide the process of accomplishing the 39 recommendations laid out for the campus.

Committee members meet three times per calendar year to review the University’s progress on the strategy and provide guidance to units responsible for implementing recommendations. The committee also provides direction on funding disbursement to campus-wide mental health efforts through the selection of applications to the Mental Health Initiatives Fund that support recommendations and University wellness priorities.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada in partnership with the CSA Group released a new National Standard for post-secondary student mental health — the first of its kind in the world. The standard provides a voluntary framework that post-secondary institutions can adopt to guide their campus efforts through nationally recognized practice recommendations.

Recently, the University of Windsor received a $25,000 grant from the Bell Let’s Talk Post-Secondary Fund that was used to conduct a gap analysis between its Student Mental Health Strategy and the National Standard. Through these funds, a team of five students completed an environmental scan that assessed the strengths and gaps in the strategy and explored opportunities for aligning it with the recommendations found in the National Standard. The important findings of their work — notably in the area of equity, diversity, and inclusion — will be used to guide the implementation committee’s priorities moving forward.

Faculty, staff, and students are welcome to become members of the implementation committee. If you are aware of a student who is interested in supporting wellness at UWindsor, please share this opportunity with them.

Membership application: https://uwindsor.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_8cusNkRyYevBKu2. Requests to join the committee will be accepted until Sept. 20.

arm extended holding alarm clockHuman Resources offers suggestions to overcome the struggle sometimes posed by waking up.

Human Resources shares tips for an energizing awakening

If sometimes you find it difficult to wake up in the morning, you’re not alone, Human Resources advises.

A message sent Monday to UWindsor faculty and staff shares tips to help you stop dreading mornings and wake up eager to start the day:

  • Don’t press snooze. Allowing yourself to fall back to sleep after waking up is known as sleep fragmentation, which can leave you feeling even more tired and worn out during the day.
  • Get some music going. Put together a wake-up playlist and have it ready to go as soon as you get up. It can help you wake up and feel more energized about the day.
  • Stretch. Stretching is a great physical activity that helps you get the blood flowing to your muscles. It’s a simple way to wake your body and get you ready to face the day.
  • Keep a consistent routine. Stick with the same waking-sleeping schedule, even on weekends. Over time, you’ll find that you start to wake up at the same time naturally.
  • Get dressed. The act of getting out of your pajamas and dressed right away signals to your brain that you’re ready to start your day.

Read the entire Wellness Tip of the Week.

diploma rolled with blue ribbonThe Senate Governance Committee on Special Appointments/Honorary Degrees welcomes nominations for honorary degrees.

Senate committee invites nominations for honorary degrees

The Senate Governance Committee on Special Appointments/Honorary Degrees welcomes nominations for honorary degrees.

Anyone wishing to nominate a candidate for an honorary degree must submit a nomination form by Sept. 30. The selection criteria can be found here and the nomination form can be found here.

For more information, contact Danny Anger by email at angerd1@uwindsor.ca.