Dunlap Institute, University of Toronto, announces new director, astronomer Prof. Bryan Gaensler (June 10, 2014)

Toronto, 10 June 2014

After an international search, the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, announces the appointment of its new director, Prof. Bryan Gaensler, a leading international researcher in cosmic magnetism, supernova explosions and interstellar gas.

Gaensler comes to the Dunlap Institute from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for All-sky Astrophysics (CAASTRO) where he is the founding director. He is also an Australian Laureate Fellow at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy within the School of Physics at The University of Sydney.

“I am thrilled to be taking up the directorship,” says Gaensler. “The Dunlap is an institute with unique capacities and enormous potential. I’m excited by the prospect of developing new and innovative approaches to instrumentation, and combining this with the University of Toronto’s already impressive credentials in astronomy and astrophysics.”

For the past decade, Gaensler has made significant contributions to building long-term research capacity for observational astronomy. Much of that effort has been in the development and planning of the Square Kilometre Array which, when completed in twin locations in South Africa and Australia, will be the largest radio telescope ever built and will help answer questions about the very early Universe and how it evolved into the cosmos we see today.

“I want to understand why the Universe is magnetic,” says Gaensler, “and I aim to use explosions, flashes and flares throughout the cosmos as a unique probe of fundamental physics. The Dunlap Institute is the ideal environment for me to pursue these programs, because of its focus on groundbreaking instrumentation and on unique ways of studying the sky. I look forward to the chance to begin working with Toronto students on these projects.”

In addition to his research accomplishments, Gaensler’s achievements in teaching and mentoring resonate with the Dunlap’s commitment to training the next generation of astronomers. He has taught at MIT, Swinburne, Harvard and Sydney Universities, and has a strong reputation for advancing the careers of students and postdocs. At CAASTRO, he has implemented a successful national mentoring program; he has also led workshops for the Australian Academy of Science aimed at training researchers on mentoring and collaboration.

He is equally committed to the Dunlap’s mandate of engaging the public in astronomy, as reflected in his previous outreach efforts through public talks (including at TEDxSydney 2011), teaching in remote schools in Australia via video-teleconferencing, dozens of articles in the popular media, a bi-weekly astronomy segment on Australian radio, and his popular book Extreme Cosmos.

“The Dunlap Institute and the University are most fortunate to have Prof. Gaensler take on this important leadership role,” says Prof. Peter Martin, the Dunlap Institute’s Interim Director. Martin was instrumental in establishing the institute to carry on the legacy of excellence in astronomy and astrophysics associated with the Dunlap name. “A gifted researcher and an inspiring educator with international reach, he has a vision for astronomy in the 21st century that will ensure the institute has an enduring impact.”

Prof. Gaensler will officially join the Dunlap Institute in January 2015.

Contact:
Chris Sasaki
csasaki@dunlap.utoronto.ca
Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, U of T

Dr. Sidney van den Bergh awarded the 2014 Gruber Cosmology Prize (June 10, 2014)

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the selection of Dr. Sidney van den Bergh ⎯ Researcher Emeritus at NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics, in Victoria, British Columbia ⎯ as a co-recipient of the 2014 Gruber Cosmology Prize, one of the world’s most prestigious awards for astronomy. His co-recipients of the $500,000 award are Profs. Jaan Einasto (Tartu Observatory, Estonia), Kenneth Freeman (Australian National University) and Brent Tully (University of Hawai’i).

Together they are recognized by the Gruber Foundation “…for their pioneering contributions to the understanding of the structure and composition of the nearby Universe.Their work laid the foundations of Near Field Cosmology. They clarified the properties of nearby galaxies — dwarfs, spirals, lenticulars and ellipticals — through studies of their morphology, stellar and gaseous content. The early recognition of the role of dark matter, and of the filamentary clustering of galaxies together with setting the distance scale of galaxies was crucial in setting the cosmological context for our current understanding of the evolution of galaxies and large-scale structure.”

Dr. van den Bergh attended Leiden University, the Netherlands (1947 – 48), transferring on scholarship to receive his A.B. (Physics) from Princeton University in 1950, M.Sc. (Physics) from Ohio State University (1952) and his Dr. rer. nat. (Astronomy) at the University of Göttingen in 1956, followed by appointments at Ohio State University (1956-1958), University of Toronto (1958-1977) and the National Research Council (1978-1998), where he was Director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (1978-1986). He became NRC Researcher Emeritus in 1999, a position he holds today.

“Over a career spanning more than six decades, Dr. van den Bergh has made a profound and lasting contribution to our understanding of galaxies.” said Laura Ferrarese, CASCA President. “His vast volume of work on the age and size of the Universe, and on the physical mechanisms underlying the formation and evolution of galaxies, helped lay the foundation of “near field cosmology”. It is a distinct pleasure to see this grounbreaking work recognized by the Gruber Foundation. “

Author of more than 500 refereed publications, there is hardly an area of contemporary astronomy on which Dr. Van den Bergh did not write an important paper. His pioneering research includes: the properties of variable stars and exploding stars and their application as ‘standard candles’ for the extragalactic distance scale; the nature of the oldest stellar populations in the Milky Way and nearby galaxies, including their systems of star clusters as tools for unravelling the sequence of events in the formation of galaxies; discovering the first dwarf spheroidal companions of the M31, the Andromeda Nebula; the morphological structure and stellar populations of galaxies as a function of distance and environment; the relationship between dwarf galaxies and more massive systems; and the properties of galaxy clusters in the low-redshift universe.

He also played a pivotal role in Canada’s participation in the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, which became the most influential telescope of its size in the world. As DAO Director he provided exceptionally strong scientific leadership as it began transitioning to become a national centre for Canadian astronomy. He trained 28 students (and a comparable number of postdoctoral scholars) who themselves, and their students, continue to shape Canadian—and international—astronomy to this day.

An Officer of the Order of Canada, Dr. van den Bergh has received numerous honours and awards, including CASCA’s Beals Prize, the NRC President’s Medal for Science, Fellow of the Royal Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada , AAS Russell Lecturer, Canada Council Killam Prize, Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s Bruce Gold Medal, and election to the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame.

CASCA congratulates Dr. van den Bergh for this well earned recognition of his outstanding contributions to cosmology and to Canadian scientific excellence.

The Gruber Cosmology Prize honours a leading cosmologist, astronomer, astrophysicist or scientific philosopher for theoretical, analytical, conceptual or observational discoveries leading to fundamental advances in our understanding of the universe. Media materials and additional background information on the Gruber Prizes can be found at: http://gruber.yale.edu/news-media

CASCA Contacts:
Leslie Sage
CASCA Press Officer
+1 (301) 675 8957
cascapressofficer@gmail.com

Laura Ferrarese
CASCA President
casca-president@casca.ca

Sidney van den Bergh
Sidney.vandenBergh@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca
+1 (250) 656-6020