2024 Executive Award: Kristine Spekkens

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Kristine Spekkens as the winner of the 2024 CASCA Executive award, recognizing her sustained contributions in service that have strengthened the Canadian astronomical community and enhanced its impact nationally and internationally, in particular through the key role she has played in enabling Canada’s joining the Square Kilometer Array Observatory (SKAO) as a full member in 2023.

Prof. Spekkens began her faculty career in Canada in 2008 after receiving her PhD in 2005 from Cornell University. In the last 15 years, Prof. Spekkens has served on four CASCA committees: Nominating (2022 – present), Equity and Inclusivity 2016-2022 (chair, 2020-2022), Awards 2013-2016 (chair 2014-2016), Ground-Based Astronomy (2011-2013) and on the CASCA Board (2016-2019). She also served on the ACURA TMT advisory council (2017-22), and was vice chair of the 2015 Long Range Plan mid-term review.

Dr. Spekkans also served as a Canadian representative on many international committees including the Visiting Review Committee for the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (Australia, 2023), the External Proposal Review Committee for FAST (China, 2023), the NRAO TAC (US, Chair, 2018-19), and NRAO Extragalactic Science Review Panel (2017-19). These many roles testify to the esteem in which the community and external agencies hold Prof. Spekkens’ judgment.

It is in service related to the SKA Observatory that Prof. Spekkens has played her most critical roles. She
currently serves on the ACURA Advisory Council on the SKA (2017-present), as the Canadian SKA Science Director (2019-present) and as vice-chair of the SKA’s Science and Engineering Advisory Committee (SEAC; 2023-present, committee member since 2021 and previously 2017-19). These roles along with her tireless efforts to advocate on behalf of the Canadian astronomy community were integral to Canada becoming a treaty member of this historic observatory.

Overall, Prof. Spekkens’ service to the Canadian community has been myriad and of the highest quality. She has had a significant impact in enhancing research done by all Canadian astronomers. Her commitment to our community makes her extremely deserving of the CASCA Executive award for 2024.

2023 Qilak Award: Doctor Laurie Rousseau-Nepton

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Laurie Rousseau-Nepton as the winner of the 2024 Qilak award, recognizing recent and impactful outreach activities.

Dr. Rousseau-Nepton received her PhD from Université Laval, and following a Resident Astronomer position at the Canada France Hawai’i Telescope, joined the faculty of the University of Toronto. Dr. Rousseau-Nepton receives this recognition for her leadership in and involvement with the award-winning and ground-breaking National Film Board of Canada documentary North Star/Étoile du Nord, which she co-directed, co-wrote and starred in, as well as for her associated outreach activities. This film and outreach activities have had, and will continue to have, important and broad impacts on public understanding and appreciation of the science of astronomy. In sharing her journey with young people, the film promotes the participation in astronomy of under-represented groups, in particular women and Indigenous people. In parallel to North Star, Dr. Rousseau-Nepton did weekly presentations to schoolchildren in Hawai’i and also did about 60 presentations to school classes in Canada through Connected North, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring educational resources to remote Indigenous communities.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Rousseau-Nepton for these outstanding outreach contributions.

Dr. Roberto Abraham and the Dragonfly team: 2024 Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools

CASCA is pleased to announce that Dr. Roberto Abraham and the Dragonfly team are the winners of the 2024 Dunlap Award.

This award recognizes a decade of innovation and effort on the part of Dr. Abraham and the Dragonfly team, who have designed, constructed, and operated the Dragonfly Telephoto Array in New Mexico. The Dragonfly team has used this facility to produce ground-breaking science results in the low surface brightness universe, including the discovery of ultra-diffuse galaxies and galaxies displaying exceptionally low amounts of dark matter. The Dragonfly team is relatively small compared to other high impact astronomical projects and the close-knit, hands-on environment fostered within the team has propelled many exceptional young scientists into high-profile, international careers. Dr. Abraham received his PhD from Oxford University and, following postdoctoral research at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge University, and the Royal Greenwich Observatory, joined the faculty of the University of Toronto in 2000.

CASCA is exceptionally pleased to recognize the efforts of Dr. Abraham and the entire Dragonfly team with this award.

2024 Plaskett Medal: Dr. Antoine Bédard

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Antoine Bédard as the recipient of the 2024 J.S. Plaskett Medal for the most outstanding doctoral thesis in astronomy or astrophysics.

Dr. Bédard received his PhD from Université de Montréal, under the supervision of Drs. Pierre Bergeron and Pierre Brassard, and is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Warwick (UK). His thesis, titled ‘Characterization and modeling of the spectral evolution of hot white dwarf stars’, combines observations, model atmosphere and stellar evolution calculations, data analyses, and interpretations. Dr. Bédard’s thesis begins with spectroscopic analysis of 2000 hot white dwarfs, providing our best picture of white dwarf spectral evolution. He then substantially reworked the STELUM stellar evolutionary code and used this to simulate white dwarf spectral evolution. Finally, he applied his numerical simulations to self-consistently explain the physics behind the spectral evolution of white dwarfs as they cool, solving several well-known longstanding problems in the study of white dwarfs. Dr. Bédard’s thesis introduction provides a thorough overview of the study of white dwarfs for graduate students and other researchers working on this topic, and his papers have already had a wide impact in the field.

ASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Bédard’s achievements with this award.

Dr. Julio F. Navarro: 2022 Carlyle S. Beals Award for Outstanding Research

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Julio F. Navarro as the recipient of the 2024 Carlyle S. Beals Award in recognition of outstanding achievement in research.

Dr. Navarro obtained his PhD from Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, in Argentina, and is currently a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria. As one of the leading cosmologists in Canada and the world, he has made many lasting impactful contributions to the field of computational cosmology, including landmark work on the intrinsic structure of dark matter halos. His work has proved essential to our understanding of the role of dark matter in the large-scale structure of the universe and in galaxy formation and evolution. Dr. Navarro’s contributions also include studies of dissipative effects on satellite galaxies, the collapse and shock-heating of non-radiative gas during the formation of galaxy clusters, and the formation and evolution of galactic disks. He was a pioneer of the “smoothed-particle hydrodynamics” (SPH) simulation technique, which remains the dominant tool allowing scientists to understand galaxy formation and evolution. Dr. Navarro has mentored numerous graduate students and postdoctoral researchers who have gone on to highly successful scientific careers.

CASCA is delighted to recognize Dr. Navarro’s efforts with this award.

Save the date: “Globular Clusters and Their Tidal Tails: From the Milky Way to the Local Group” in Toronto from May 28th – 31st 2024

We are glad to invite you to the conference “Globular Clusters and Their Tidal Tails: From the Milky Way to the Local Group” to be held in Toronto (Canada) from May 28th – 31st 2024. Some preliminary information can be found here: https://physics.mcmaster.ca/~reinacam/gcandtidaltails24/

Gravitationally-bound star clusters are the extreme modes of star formation, and they are ubiquitous amongst galaxies and cosmic time. Their formation and evolution is inherently a multi-physics and multi-scale problem, involving star formation and feedback, galaxy formation and evolution, collisional relaxation-driven N-body dynamics, stellar and binary evolution. The conference will cover a wide variety of topics related to star clusters (among others):
1.  their formation from giant molecular clouds,
2.  the impact of the stellar feedback from their massive stars onto the interstellar medium,
3.  the populations of exotic stellar objects as sources of gravitational waves,
4.  their dynamical evolution within their host galaxy,
5.  the formation of tidal tails,
6.  their role as tracers of the process of galaxy assembly.

The workshop will take place in the Department of Statistics of the University of Toronto (700 University Avenue, Toronto). One of the main goals of this meeting is to foster new collaborations, and thus we will allocate ample time for panel discussions, small group interactions and technical workshops on new techniques. We expect there might be funding available to provide partial travel funds for early career researchers. If you need to access it, please indicate so in the abstract submission form. There is no registration fee for this meeting.

We hope you will join us in Toronto and present your most recent results.
Please submit an abstract in the following link: https://forms.gle/uyAXC1s7shXLn6U9A by March 1st 2024.

Best regards,  the organisers:
Marta Reina-Campos, CITA, Toronto, Canada
Josh Speagle, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Ting Li, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Jeremy Webb, York University, Toronto, Canada
Jo Bovy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
Alison Sills, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada
Vincent Hénault-Brunet, Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, Canada

Shared Postdoctoral Position in Precision Radial Velocity Studies of Exoplanets (McMaster & Grenoble)

The exoplanetary research groups at McMaster University and l’Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA) invite applications for a shared, full-time postdoctoral position in the field of precise radial velocity (RV) studies of exoplanets. The successful applicant will work under the joint supervision of Dr. Ryan Cloutier (McMaster) and Dr. Xavier Bonfils (UGA).

The successful applicant will join the NIRPS (https://www.eso.org/public/teles-instr/lasilla/36/nirps/) GTO science team and enjoy access to data from its ongoing GTO program. NIRPS is a precise near-IR RV spectrograph that was recently commissioned on the ESO 3.6m telescope in Chile and is operating alongside the HARPS optical spectrograph. Work hours will be split between focused (80%) and independent research programs (20%) with the former focusing on NIRPS+HARPS data analysis to characterize the global architectures of M dwarf exoplanetary systems. We particularly invite applicants whose scientific backgrounds include leveraging observations to discover and characterize exoplanetary systems.

The duration of the appointment is 36 months with the first 18 months to be spent at McMaster before transferring to UGA for the remainder of the appointment. Master University is located in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada and UGA in Grenoble, France. Considerations for a term extension are conditional on satisfactory performance and the availability of funds. The start date of the position is negotiable but must begin before December 31, 2023.

Interested candidates should submit an application (single PDF file format) that includes:

  1. a cover letter
  2. a 3-page statement of research interests, including interests that pertain to NIRPS’s scientific capabilities (figures and references included)
  3. an up-to-date CV
  4. names and contact details for three consenting reference letter writers who may be contacted

Application materials should be submitted by email to ryan.cloutier@mcmaster.ca. The position will remain open until filled but evaluations of applications will begin on August 1, 2023.

McMaster University and UGA are strongly committed to employment equity within its community and to recruiting a diverse faculty and staff. Both universities seek qualified candidates who share our commitment to equity and inclusion, who will contribute to the diversification of ideas and perspectives, and especially welcomes applications from underrepresented minorities including but not limited to Indigenous peoples, members of other racialized communities, persons with disabilities, women, and persons who identify as 2SLGBTQ+.

At McMaster University, this position will be part of a Collective Agreement for Postdoctoral Fellows, CUPE 3906, Unit #3. This position carries a competitive salary and standard benefits package at both universities, including medical benefits.

Useful links

Ryan Cloutier, PhD
Assistant Professor
Dept. of Physics & Astronomy | McMaster University

Pronouns: He/Him/His
A.N. Bourns Science Building | 1280 Main St W | Hamilton, ON L8S 4L8
Office: ABB 318
ZOOM meeting room

re-submission of the summer solstice 2023 issue of e-CASS to include an article from the CSA

Dear all,

An article was sent to the editor’s email spam folder by accident, and thus was missed. Please check the updated issue of the newsletter for the article from the Canadian Space Agency.

My apologies to Denis Laurin for not including the article in the original newsletter.


Dr. Joanne Rosvick (she/her)
Associate Professor
Department of Physical Sciences (Physics)
Faculty of Science
Thompson Rivers University
805 TRU Way
Kamloops BC
V2C 0C8
Email: jrosvick@tru.ca

CASCA AGM Student Prizes

Dear CASCA members,

For those who were unable to attend last week’s CASCA AGM in Penticton, here are the winners of the student prizes:

Best talks from the Board (in no particular order):

  • Demet Kirmizibayrak (UBC): “Time Lags in Astronomy Through Novel Timing Methodologies”
  • Stefan Pelletier (Université de Montréal): “Probing the Carbon Budget and Formation History of the Ultra-Puffy Exoplanet WASP-127b”

Best poster from the Board:

  • Xiaoyi Ma (winner; University of Toronto): “Vortex-induced rings and gaps in a protoplanetary disk”
  • Alice Curtain (runner up: McGill University): “Science in Space: How to telescope designing and building telescopes in Minecraft to encourage belonging and equitable spaces in STEM”
  • Alan Knee (runner up: UBC): “Gravitational wave detection techniques for hierarchical triples in the LISA band”

Best talks from the Graduate Student Committee (in no particular order):

  • Alice Curtain (McGill University): “Calibrating the CHIME/FRB Outriggers using Pulsars and the VLBA”
  • Veronika Dornan (McMaster): “Investigating the M_GCS – M_h Relation in The Most Massive Galaxies”

Best posters from the Graduate Student Committee (in no particular order):

  • Lauren Foster (McMaster University): “Comparing Star Formation on the Leading versus Trailing Sides of Infalling Group and Cluster Galaxies”
  • Kate Hartman (McMaster University): “omparing Globular Cluster System Properties with Host Galaxy Environment”

Congratulations to the winners – and thanks to all students who attended last week’s CASCA meeting and provided an impressive array of 48 oral and 62 poster presentations.

Best regards

Dr Robert Cockcroft (he/him)
CASCA Secretary
on behalf of the CASCA Board and the Graduate Student Committee

Recording of eclipse info session


Some of us met in the first week of June for an interesting discussion about local initiatives for the total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024.

The recording is now available on YouTube (unlisted): https://youtu.be/6y7ESIyI-fk

You can also see the Google Slides that I used in the first part of the session.

I think we will have a few other sessions in the next academic year. Instead of writing to everyone through this list, I’m inviting those interested in joining these sessions to fill out this short Google form so that I can contact you directly.

Thanks, and have a nice day!

Julie Bolduc-Duval