2017 Martin Award

CASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2017 Peter G. Martin award is Dr. Ingrid Stairs of the University of British Columbia.

After receiving her PhD in 1998 from Princeton University, Dr. Stairs went to the University of Manchester from 1998 to 2000 to pursue postdoctoral work. She then continued her research at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory from 2000 to 2002 as a Jansky Fellow. She joined the faculty at UBC in 2002 and became a tenured professor in 2007. The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research appointed her as Senior Fellow in 2014.

Dr. Stairs is one of world’s experts on pulsars and has made significant contributions to radio astronomy instrumentation. She developed the novel Princeton Mark IV back-end instrument for use at the Arecibo telescope for high-precision timing of relativistic pulsars that was used in the discovery of general-relativistic orbital decay of the binary pulsar PSR B1534+12. She made the first measurement of the Shapiro delay, which continues to enable multiple new tests of General Relativity. She is involved in the development of instrumentation for the upcoming CHIME radio telescope that will observe pulsars as well as the cosmological distribution of hydrogen. She is the Observational Coordinator for the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav).

CASCA congratulates Dr. Stairs on the receipt of the 2017 Martin Award for her fundamental contributions to radio astronomy instrumentation and the understanding of pulsars that have shed new light on General Relativity.

2015 Martin Award

CASCA is pleased to announce that the recipient of the 2015 Peter G. Martin award is Dr. Laura Ferrarese of NRC-Herzberg.

Dr. Ferrarese received her PhD in 1996 from Johns Hopkins University, and became a tenured professor at Rutgers University 8 years later. In 2004, Dr. Ferrarese moved to Canada as a senior research officer at NRC-Herzberg, and was promoted to Principal Research Officer in 2012. She has been honoured with several prize and guest lectureships across North America such as the 2014 CASCA/RASC Helen Sawyer Hogg lecture, and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal in 2012.

Dr. Ferrarese is an internationally recognised leader in galaxy dynamics and scaling relations, supermassive black holes, active galactic nuclei, and the extragalactic distance scale. In particular, her seminal work on the relationship between the masses of supermassive black holes and the stellar velocity dispersions of the bulges in their host galaxies is among the most highly cited papers in astronomy and astrophysics. Since that time, she has taken on leadership roles in several major galaxy surveys with the Hubble Space Telescope and the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Ferrarese on the receipt of the 2015 Martin award.

2016 Plaskett Medal

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jonathan Gagné as the 2016 recipient of the J.S. Plaskett Medal.

Dr. Gagné completed his doctoral studies at l’Université de Montréal under the supervision of Dr. David Lafrenière and Dr. René Doyon. His thesis, entitled “La recherche de naines brunes et étoiles de faible masse dans les associations cinématiques jeunes du voisinage solaire”, identifies and characterizes new substellar mass objects that belong to nearby young associations of stars. Dr. Gagné developed a powerful new algorithm to select highly probable substellar objects in young associations that is now widely used by the community. He also carried out an all-sky survey to identify, follow-up and characterize actual candidates, more than doubling the number of confirmed brown dwarfs.
Dr. Gagné is now widely recognized as a leading figure in the study of nearby young substellar objects.

Dr. Gagné is currently a Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism at the Carnegie Institution for Science, where he will work to identify and characterize young brown dwarfs with only a few times the mass of Jupiter.

CASCA congratulates Dr. Gagné on the receipt of the 2016 J.S. Plaskett Medal.

2016 Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Outreach

CASCA is pleased to announce Dr. Jaymie Matthews, from the University of British Columbia, as the 2016 recipient of the Qilak Award.

After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario in 1987, Dr. Matthews held positions at Western and l’Université de Montréal before moving to the University of British Columbia as a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in 1988. He obtained tenure at UBC in 2000, and has been a full professor there since 2008.

Dr. Matthews’ dedication and boundless enthusiasm for communicating with the public about astronomy are illustrated by the dozens of outreach activities in which he participates annually, ranging from public presentations, to radio interviews, to campus tours, to TV show consultations. Beyond his legendary teaching reputation at UBC, he has given courses aimed at younger children as well as special lectures in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the First Nations Summer Science Programme, and the Canadian Association of Physics (CAP) undergraduate lecture series, among many others. In recognition of these efforts, Dr. Matthews received the CAP Education Medal in 2002, was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 2006, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

Please join CASCA in thanking Dr. Matthews for his selfless dedication to improving public understanding and appreciation of science and astronomy.

Kaspi and Martin appointed to Order of Canada

It is with great pleasure that the Canadian Astronomical Society / Société Canadienne d’Astronomie recognizes and applauds the appointment of Dr Victoria M. Kaspi of McGill University as a Companion of the Order of Canada, and Dr Peter G. Martin of the University of Toronto as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Dr. Victoria M. Kaspi is one of the world’s leading experts on neutron stars, the ancient remnants of the most massive stars in the Milky Way. The most massive stars end their lives as black holes. Less massive stars, however, leave behind celestial objects no bigger than the city of Montreal, yet so dense that just one teaspoon would weigh 100 million metric tonnes.

Dr Kaspi received her PhD from Princeton University in 1993. As well as receiving the 2016 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal from NSERC, she has received numerous prizes and fellowships, including the Hubble Fellowship, the Annie Jump Cannon Prize of the American Astronomical Society, and has been elected as a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, the Royal Society of London, and the US National Academy of Sciences.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the interstellar medium, Dr Martin moved to the University of Toronto shortly after receiving his PhD in 1972, where he quickly began a series of efforts — continuing to the present day — that bolstered Canada’s reputation as a world leader in astronomical research. In 1984, he co-founded the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Research (CITA), which quickly grew into one of the world’s leading centres for theoretical astrophysics. During the past decade, he worked tirelessly to establish the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, now poised to become a major centre for the development of astronomical instrumentation.

Dr Martin’s contributions to the national community are equally extensive. He has served on countless national and international committees, including the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), of which he was one of the founding advisors.

CASCA congratulates Dr Kaspi and Dr Martin for this exceptional recognition of their outstanding contributions to fundamental research as well as the Canadian astronomy and astrophysics community.

2014 U of T Summer Undergraduate Research Program in Astronomy & Astrophysics (Deadline January 31, 2014)

Le groupe d’Astronomie de l’Université de Toronto invite les étudiants de premier cycle en Astronomie, Physique et Ingénierie à candidater à notre Programme d’été de Recherche pour premier cycle Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), une chance unique offerte aux étudiants pour préparer leur carrière dans le domaine de la recherche scientifique.

Pendant le programme de 16 semaines, les participants pourront :

  • Acquérir de l’expérience en recherche scientifique, en conduisant un projet relié à la recherche scientifique effectuée à l’Université de Toronto (UdeT)
  • Collaborer avec des astronomes de l’UdeT
  • Améliorer leurs compétences en matière de communication et rédaction scientifique
  • Mieux connaitre les recherches effectuées à l’UdeT
  • Participer aux activités d’information destinées au grand publique

Les étudiants travailleront en collaboration avec des astronomes de l’Institut Dunlap (Dunlap Institute), du Département d’Astronomie et d’Astrophysique (Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics DAA), ou l’Institut Canadien d’Astrophysique Théorique (Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics CITA), en fonction de leur projet de recherche et de leur intérêt.

Le programme SURP offre aux étudiants l’opportunité de travailler dans un centre majeur de recherche astronomique au Canada. Le groupe d’astronomie de l’UdeT est une alliance unique de trois unités ayant des expertises complémentaires en recherche observationnelle, en instrumentation astronomique (Dunlap), et en astrophysique théorique (CITA).

Le programme aura lieu du 5 Mai au 22 Août 2014. La date limite d’application au programme est le 31 Janvier, la date d’offre officielle sera envoyée le 7 Février.

Pour plus de détails, merci de visiter le site



SKA Domain Specialist, Jodrell Bank Observatory (Deadline February 14, 2014)


Job Title: Domain Specialist (Operations)
Reference: DSO
Reports To: SKA Architect
Location: Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, UK
Closing Date for applications: Closing date for receipt of completed applications is Friday 14th February 2014. For details of how to apply please see below.
Submission of applications: Email to jobs@skatelescope.org

Organisation Background
The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) is a global project to build a multi-purpose radio telescope that will play a major role in answering key questions in modern astrophysics and cosmology. It will be one of a small number of cornerstone observatories around the world that will provide astrophysicists and cosmologists with a transformational view of the Universe. The SKA will be constructed in two distinct phases. The major science goals for the first phase, SKA1, will be to study the history and role of neutral Hydrogen in the Universe from the dark ages to the present-day, and to employ pulsars as probes of fundamental physics.

Since 2008, the global radio astronomy community has been engaged in the development of the SKA as a major part of the ‘Preparatory’ phase of the project. The Preparatory phase ended in December 2011 and, following a number of major changes, the international SKA project has now progressed to the ‘Pre-Construction’ phase (2012-15) with the establishment of a new legal entity, the SKA Organisation, on 14 December 2011. Ten governments are now participating in the project, with others engaged in discussions concerning possible membership. The SKA Organisation is now headquartered in a purpose-built building at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire, UK.

General Description
The Office of the SKA Organisation (“SKA Office”) leads the SKA system design and oversees the detailed design being undertaken within the globally distributed SKA work packages (WPs). To accomplish this goal the SKA Office is employing highly qualified scientists and engineers, project managers and system engineers. Work packages for the major SKA subsystems (elements) have been be contracted to a small number of work package consortia who are responsible for the management, execution and delivery of the work packages. The technical strategy and philosophy of the project are strongly based on system engineering principles.

The Role
Domain specialists are staff with extensive experience in a particular field of interest to the SKA. They may cross work breakdown structure boundaries and advise more than one work package manager. They support the SKA Architect in the generation of the top-level requirements and any re-baselining activities. Domain specialists provide engineering performance analysis as well as costing and other information to work package managers.

We seek a Domain Specialist in the area of Telescope Operations to ensure that operational constraints and requirements are incorporated in the design of SKA1.

Key Duties, Accountabilities and Responsibilities

Under the direction of the SKA Architect the postholder will:

• Support the SKA Architect in the generation of the top-level requirements, design and any re-baselining activities.
• Provide engineering performance analysis as required.
• Provide updates and reports as necessary.
• Work with Work Package Consortia (WPC) or equivalent, as appropriate to provide guidance, advice and technical assistance in their domain area of expertise.
• As required, engage in design reviews.
• Participate in team projects, and to provide specialist assistance to working groups, colleagues and WPCs.
• Travel, as required, to any of the SKA countries.
• As required, provide advice and guidance to SKA Office Project Managers and System Engineers.
• Undertake training in the financial, occupational health and safety, and human resource management procedures applicable to the SKA or its partners.
• In collaboration with others in the SKA Office and appropriate external parties, document the results of investigations, planning and production of requirements for all aspects of SKA operations.
• As the SKA design work progresses, participate in the design of operations-related components and sub-systems, which as examples could include:
o Assembly/documentation of operational scenarios and use cases,
o Estimation of operations costs,
o Availability and reliability analysis, maintenance planning,
o Development of logistics planning and human resource deployment,
o Assistance with science operations planning,
o Human-machine interfaces (HMI),
o Safety procedures,
o Operations requirements.
• Undertake any other reasonable duties as directed by the post holder’s line manager or a member of SKA Organisation Senior Management Team.
Mandatory Qualifications, Experience and Knowledge:
• Recognised university degree-level education/training in engineering or physical sciences.
• If required or relevant, maintain or obtain status as a professional or chartered engineer.
• Analytical skills. Experience with analysis/simulation, design tools and programming languages related to technical operations analysis.
• Good English oral and written communication skills.
• Experience in presenting work orally at meetings and other forums.
• Demonstrated experience at a high level with practical day-to-day technical operations of a large science facility.
• Experience with strategic planning for operations of a large science facility.
Desirable Qualifications, Experience and Knowledge:
• Experience with operations of a radio astronomy or astronomy facility.
• Familiarity with radio astronomy or a closely allied field.
• Industry experience, and/or a track record in successful collaborative links with industry.
• Familiarity with the formalism for, and requirements of, quality control environments such as ISO9000.
For more information on the SKA project visit http://www.skatelescope.org. The SKA Organisation offers a competitive salary, a generous company pension scheme, annual bonus and a flexible benefits package. The successful applicant’s workplace will be located at the SKA Office at Jodrell Bank, UK.

How to apply:

Please send a CV and covering letter to jobs@skatelescope.org, quoting reference DSO. Applications should include a summary of project experience, addressing the mandatory and desirable requirements explicitly, a resume and the names of at least three professional references. Closing date for receipt of applications is Friday 14th February 2014.

eNews: October-December 2013






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Dr. Rob Thacker to chair the Mid Term Review Panel

The CASCA Board is pleased to announce that Dr. Rob Thacker will chair the panel charged with the Mid Term Review of the 2010 Long Range Plan for Canadian Astronomy.

Dr. Thacker, one of Canada’s preeminent scientists in the field of galaxy evolution and structure formation, is a Full Professor and Canada Research Chair at Saint Mary’s University, where he is presently serving as chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department. His dedication and service to the Canadian astronomical community is extensive. He was a member of the CASCA Board between 2007 and 2010, and has since been invaluable in advising and assisting the Board on issues ranging from the state of financial support for astronomical research to national initiatives related to High Performance Computing. He was one of the original members of CASCA’s Long Range Plan Implementation Committee, and is presently the Chair of Compute Canada’s Advisory Council of Research. Most importantly, Dr. Thacker was one of the seven members of the 2010 Long Range Plan Panel. He is therefore intimately familiar with the LRP process and is in a unique position to undertake the critical task of leading the team in charge of evaluating progress on the LRP five years after its release, and advising on future directions.

On behalf of the CASCA Board and the entire astronomical community, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly express my appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Thacker for taking on this critical role.

Laura Ferrarese
CASCA President

CASCA’s 2014 Executive Award for Outstanding Service Presented to Dr. Peter G. Martin (January 29, 2014)

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. Peter G. Martin, of the University of Toronto, is the recipient of the 2014 Executive Award.

A graduate of the University of Cambridge, Dr. Martin moved to the University of Toronto shortly after receiving his PhD in 1972, where he quickly began a series of efforts — continuing to the present day — that bolstered Canada’s reputation as a world leader in astronomical research. In 1984, he co-founded the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Research (CITA), which quickly grew into one of the world’s leading centres for theoretical astrophysics. During the past decade, he worked tirelessly to establish the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, now poised to become a major centre for the development of astronomical instrumentation. The Canadian astronomical community, as a whole, benefits greatly from both CITA and the Dunlap Institute: e.g., through CITA’s National Fellows program, a vital source of postdoctoral funding for Universities across the country, and through the outreach efforts to which both Institutes are firmly committed.

Dr. Martin’s contributions to the national community are equally extensive. He has served on countless national and international committees, including the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA), of which he was one of the founding advisors. His ties with CASCA are particularly strong: he served as President of the Society between 2006 and 2008, and two of CASCA’s most prestigious awards, the Martin award and the Dunlap Award for Innovation in Astronomical Research Tools, are endowed thanks to his initiative.

With over 280 publications in peer reviewed journals, on topics ranging from the interstellar medium to active galactic nuclei, Dr. Martin has received numerous prizes and honours, including CASCA’s Beals Award in 1994. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2007.

For more than four decades, Dr. Martin has been a driving force and steadfast supporter of astronomy in Canada. In bestowing the Executive award on behalf of the entire astronomical community, the CASCA Board recognizes his outstanding contributions to our society and extends to Dr. Martin a small, but heartfelt, token of our gratitude.