2018 Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Gwendolyn Eadie as the 2018 recipient of the J. S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Eadie completed her doctoral studies at McMaster University under the supervision of Dr. William Harris. In her thesis entitled “Lights in Dark Places: Inferring the Milky Way Mass Profile using Galactic Satellites and Hierarchical Bayes”, she developed a high-level statistical method to derive the mass and mass distribution within astrophysical systems. Mass is a fundamental variable driving the evolution of galaxies like our Milky Way, but it is notoriously difficult to measure due to the fact that it is dominated by the dark matter extending well beyond the visible starlight. This challenge is compounded by incomplete data on the positions and velocities of “tracer particles” such as stars, star clusters and dwarf satellites scattered through the galaxy’s halo. Dr. Eadie developed a powerful Bayesian formulation of the problem combined with Markov Chain Monte Carlo calculations of the relevant parameters in the problem and their probability distributions. Her formulation also included a hierarchical treatment of measurement uncertainties for each tracer. She used it to place a new constraint on the mass profile and total mass of the Milky Way, and it will be a very powerful tool in the exploitation of future very large datasets from the Gaia mission and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST).

CASCA congratulates Dr. Eadie on the receipt of the 2018 Plaskett medal for her groundbreaking work to shed light on the dark side of our Milky Way galaxy and other corners of the Universe.

2018 Qilak Award

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Robert Thacker of St. Mary’s University as the 2018 recipient of the Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach.

Dr. Thacker received his PhD in Physics from the University of Alberta in 1999. He is now Professor and Canada Research Chair at St. Mary’s. Dr. Thacker is a passionate communicator of science and a tireless advocate for astronomy research in Canada. In addition to maintaining an internationally recognized research portfolio, he dedicates his time to science outreach through mass media, and as it relates to the public understanding of science. Since 2009 he has participated in a vast number of outreach activities including promoting science weekly to 30,000+ radio listeners in Halifax and across Canada, participation in media (including TV, radio) interviews & science programmes, authoring popular articles for magazines and websites, co-spearheading the renovation of the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, giving public lectures (including prize lectures) and school/student presentations, co-authoring an integrated science textbook for beginning science students and promoting inclusion and accessibility in STEM fields. He has become a well-known subject area expert in the Halifax media earning popular nicknames such as “Dr Rob of the Science Files” and the “Science Ship Pilot”.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Thacker’s tireless efforts for communicating astronomy in Atlantic Canada and beyond.

2018 Dunlap Award

CASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2018 Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools is Dr. Kipp Cannon, Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Tokyo.

After receiving his PhD in 2003 from the University of Alberta, Dr. Cannon went to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 2004 to 2007 to pursue postdoctoral work. He was then a senior postdoctoral research with the LIGO Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology from 2007 to 2010 and a Senior Research Associate at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) from 2010 to 2016. He is now an associate professor at the Research Center for the Early Universe on the Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo.

Dr. Cannon has made key contributions to data analysis techniques in the search for transients in astronomy that led directly to the discovery of GW170817, the first gravitational wave detected from a neutron star collision, and ultimately to SSS17a, the first optical counterpart associated with a gravitational-wave source. In particular, his work on the development of the GSTCAL pipeline over more than seven years has enabled these transformational discoveries to be made from LIGO observations. Much of the work leading to these discoveries was conducted while Dr. Cannon was at CITA.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Cannon on the receipt of the 2018 Dunlap Award for opening a new and exciting window on the Universe through gravitational-wave astronomy.

2018 Executive Award

In alternate years, the CASCA Board has the honour to bestow the Executive Award for Outstanding Service “to an individual who has made sustained contributions in service that have strengthened the Canadian astronomical community and enhanced its impact regionally, nationally and/or internationally.” Dr. Greg Fahlman, of NRC Herzberg, is the recipient of the 2018 Executive Award.

Among his numerous accomplishments in research and service, Dr Fahlman is arguably most well known as the leader of the National Research Council Herzberg, Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre. During his time in this capacity, which is now 15 years, he has both developed and bolstered what is Canada’s defacto national laboratory for astronomy. His leadership has contributed both to the development of Canadian astronomy while also helping establish and strengthen our international partnerships. At the same time, his vision and execution have been immensely important to not only the day-to-day operations of our field, but also to its detailed planning process, as facilitated through the “Long Range Plan” for Canadian astronomy. His commitment to ensuring strong ties between NRC Herzberg and the university research community has provided a platform for the entire field in support of the execution of the two LRPs.

Prior to taking on the leadership of NRC Herzberg, Dr Fahlman was the Executive Director of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) and during this time CFHT laid the foundations for some of its most widely cited research to-date. He also continues on in advising capacity for CFHT as a Board Member, leveraging both his operational knowledge of the NRC as well as providing advice to help CFHT further build its international connections as it prepares to evolve towards a new facility.

His vast experience of facility operation and development played a pivotal role in Canada moving forward with the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) as well as the Square Kilometer Array, both projects singled out as top priorities in LRP2010. With Canadian researchers have being central to the development of the TMT project shortly after the development of the first Long Range Plan (LRP2000), Dr Fahlman’s contributions at the administrative level helped chart the path forward to eventual funding in 2015. As the TMT project moves forward Dr Fahlman continues to play a pivotal role on the Board of the TMT Observatory, while at the same time representing Canada’s interest in the SKA on its Board of Directors.

A graduate of the University of Toronto in 1970, Dr Fahlman began his faculty career at the University of British Columbia in 1971. His work would cover many different fields in astronomy, from magnetic fields in stars through to stellar clusters. To date, he has authored or co-authored more than 200 papers that have been cited more than 5,600 times by researchers worldwide and most recently is known for his research on the Milky Way’s star clusters, both young and old.

For almost five decades, Dr. Fahlman has been a driving force and steadfast supporter of astronomy both in Canada and beyond. In bestowing the Executive award the CASCA Board both applauds and recognizes Dr Fahlman’s exceptional accomplishments and contributions.

2018 Beals Award

The 2018 Carlyle S. Beals Award is presented to Dr. Mark Halpern for his outstanding career contributions to the foundations of modern cosmology.

Dr. Halpern is currently Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia. He has made many fundamental contributions to cosmological instrumentation and data analysis, and his work has been essential for making the measurements underpinning the Standard Model of Cosmology that is now the accepted framework for our current understanding of the Universe. Over the course of his distinguished career, Dr. Halpern has been involved in a number of high-profile endeavours in the study of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). He made the first measurement of the dipole moment of the CMB at submillimeter wavelengths in the 1980s, he developed prototype bolometers for the Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite experiment, and he was the only non-US member of the team that built the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). The WMAP team won the Gruber Prize in Cosmology in 2012 for determining the Universe’s vital statistics – age, geometry and origin. Dr. Halpern has been leading the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) which saw first light in Penticton, BC in September 2017. CHIME is set to make unprecedented measurements of Baryon Acoustic Oscillations in the distant Universe.

This portfolio of pioneering work in cosmology makes Dr. Halpern a most deserving recipient of CASCA’s Beals Award.