Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal for Early Career Research in Astronomy

The Richer Medal was established in 2016 thanks to a generous gift from Harvey B. Richer, a former Director of CASCA and Professor at the University of British Columbia.

The Richer Medal is awarded every second year, in odd-numbered years, in recognition of significant and sustained early career research in astronomy. To be eligible, the nominee must be a member of CASCA in good standing, and a Canadian astronomer or an astronomer working in Canada. The nominee will normally have received his or her PhD degree within the previous 10 years; allowances will be made for extended leaves of up to two years (e.g. maternity or paternity leaves, medical leaves, etc.)

The award consists of a gold medal, plus a certificate. The recipient shall be invited to address the Society at its Annual General Meeting. The nomination package must be submitted entirely in electronic form to the Chair of the Awards committee and should consist of:

  • A joint letter of nomination signed by at least two members of CASCA in good standing;
  • The CV of the nominee;
  • Three external letters of support (e.g., from international experts in the nominee’s field). No letter should exceed two pages in length.

No other material should be submitted. The deadline for nominations for the 2017 Award is 15 January 2017.

2017 Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the inaugural Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal is Dr. David Lafrenière of the Université de Montréal.

Dr. Lafrenière earned his PhD in 2007 from the Université de Montréal and went on to the University of Toronto as a postdoctoral fellow. He returned to Montréal in 2009 and joined the faculty in 2011. David has received many prestigious awards and honours such as Scientist of the Year 2008 – Société Radio-Canada, the 2010 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the 2010 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award, and the Medal of Honours of the Assemblée Nationale, Province de Québec.

Dr. Lafrenière is an expert in the field of exoplanet imaging who has made a substantial and significant impact very early in his career. He is among the few people to have led the first imaging discoveries of exoplanets. David’s early work on 1RXSJ1609-2105b has yielded one of the best spectroscopic/photometric datasets ever secured on a gas giant exoplanet. He is the inventor of a mathematically rigorous statistical method called the Locally Optimized Combination of Images (LOCI) algorithm, which was designed to improve contrast achieved in astronomical images. LOCI has become the worldwide gold standard in the analysis of high-contrast images. He also conducted the Gemini Deep Planet Survey (GDPS), the first statistically significant exoplanet imaging survey, which provided one of the best constraints ever obtained on the gas giant planet frequency in wide orbits around main sequence stars. He was a member of the team that first imaged a multi-planet system orbiting another star (HR8799). He is currently the leader of a major exoplanet transit and eclipse spectroscopy program for the Canadian-built NIRISS instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope. It has been said that, if a space mission does one day detect an Earthlike planet and reveal oxygen in its atmosphere, it will do so using techniques descended from Dr. Lafrenière’s LOCI.

In addition to his impressive scientific and technical achievements, it is worth noting Dr. Lafrenière’s extensive service to the Canadian astronomical community. Indeed, he has served on a number of important committees (e.g., JCSA, CanTAC) as well as on science teams for cutting-edge instruments with significant Canadian involvement such as CFHT/SPIROU, Gemini/GPI, and JWST/NIRISS.

Please join CASCA in congratulating Dr. Lafrenière for being awarded the Richer Medal in recognition of his significant and sustained early career research in astronomy.

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