2019 Plaskett Medal: Alexandra Tetarenko

CASCA is pleased to award the 2019 J. S. Plaskett medal to Dr. Alexandra Tetarenko from the University of Alberta. Dr. Tetarenko’s doctoral thesis is on the physics of relativistic jets in X-ray binaries, as revealed by radio, millimeter (mm), and sub-millimeter (sub-mm) observations. Dr. Tetarenko published six papers as a first author as part of her thesis, and was the second author on a recently accepted Nature paper. Dr. Tetarenko demonstrates exceptional skills both as an observer and in the physical interpretation of complex observational data, and has become a leading expert in mm/submm observations of black hole X-ray binaries. Currently a 2018 East Asian Observatory Fellow, Dr. Tetarenko continues to excel, recently publishing an investigation into Radio Frequency Timing Analysis of the Compact Jet in the Black Hole X-ray Binary Cygnus X-1.

CASCA is delighted to award Dr. Tetarenko the Plaskett Medal for her doctoral thesis.

2019 Richer Medal: Nicolas Cowan

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. Nicolas Cowan is the recipient of the 2019 Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal in recognition of significant and sustained early career research in astronomy. Dr. Cowan is an established leader in the field of exoplanets through his work on high precision infrared photometry, determining the energy balance in exoplanet atmospheres, and using exoplanets as `laboratories’ for planetary science. Dr. Cowan has 80 papers with a citation count of over 4700. In addition to this high level of scholarship, Dr. Cowan has an impressive record of supervision and training, having worked with 2 postdoctoral research scientists, 9 graduate students, and 36 undergraduate students.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Cowan’s scholarship with this award.

2019 Petrie Lecture: Gabriela Gonzalez

CASCA would like to recognize the scholarship of Dr. Gabriela Gonzalez.

Dr. Gonzalez is a professor of physics and astronomy at the Louisiana State University and has been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration (LSC) since 1997. Her group has been involved in noise-characterization and calibration of the LIGO detectors, as well as data analysis. Dr. Gonzalez was the spokesperson for the LSC from March 2011 until March 2017, and in that role oversaw the ground-breaking discovery of the first gravitational wave source with Advanced LIGO. She is a fellow of the Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2017.

CASCA is honoured to have Dr. Gonzalez give the Petrie Prize lecture.

2019 Martin Award: Bryan Gaensler

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Bryan Gaensler from the University of Toronto as the recipient of the 2019 Peter Martin award for Mid-Career Achievement. Dr. Gaensler is the Director of the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto, and has previously served as director of CAASTRO in Australia and International Project Scientist of the Square Kilometer Array. He is a world expert on polarimetry, pulsar wind nebulae and cosmic magnetism, and has produced more than 360 publications with 16000 citations. Since his arrival to Canada in 2015, Dr. Gaensler has played a highly active role in Canadian astronomy as a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair, head of the Canadian SKA consortium, Director of the Canadian Initiative for Radio Astronomy Data Analysis, and co-chair of Canadian astronomy’s next Long Range Plan.

CASCA is delighted to recognise Dr. Gaensler’s scholarship with this award.

2019 Qilak Award: Jan Cami

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jan Cami from the University of Western Ontario as the recipient of the 2019 Qilak Award.

Dr. Cami obtained his PhD from the University of Amsterdam and has been the director and coordinator of Western’s historic Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory since 2010. His work in outreach spans both large public gatherings and hands-on exhibits within the Observatory. In addition to this work at the Observatory, Dr. Cami is the Associate Director of Western’s Centre for Planetary Science and eXploration (CPSX) and is Western’s main organizer for the Science Rendezvous festival. On the national level, Dr. Cami has served for 10 years on CASCA’s Education and Public Outreach Committee, during which time he supported the development of the online platform Discover the Universe. Dr. Cami’s enthusiasm for outreach and his ability to ask ‘how we can’ rather than the ‘if we can’ about any activity makes him an ideal Qilak recipient.

CASCA is delighted to recognise Dr. Cami’s efforts with this award.

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.