Invited Speakers for Centennial Talks

Roberto (Bob) Abraham is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He obtained his BSc from UBC and his doctorate from Oxford. His work is focused on observations of galaxy formation and evolution and the development of innovative instruments. He has been awarded the Canadian Astronomical Society’s P. G. Martin Award, a Canada Foundation for Innovation Career Award, an NSERC Steacie Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award, a Canada Council Killam Fellowship, and the University of Toronto Outstanding Teaching Award. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and is President of the Canadian Astronomical Society. He has served on the Board of Directors of major international observatories and has advised NASA by serving as panel chair on the Hubble Space Telescope time allocation committee three times, and by serving as Canada’s representative on the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee. Being keen on outreach, he has served as Honorary President of the Toronto Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada for many years.

Prof. Abraham’s proudest moment is winning second prize in the Vancouver All-City Elementary School Grade 6 spelling bee, where he lost out for not knowing how to spell the word “satellite”, leading eventually to learning how to spell the word “ironic”.


Peter Broughton received his BSc (specializing in astronomy) and his MSc in mathematics from the University of Toronto. He was a high-school teacher for thirty-three years but maintained his interest in astronomy though the RASC, which he served in nearly every office including President from 1992-94. He has written dozens of encyclopedia articles, book reviews and papers on the history of astronomy ranging from the Journal for the History of Astronomy to the Journal of Geophysical Research as well as two books—Looking Up: a History of the RASC and Northern Star: J.S. Plaskett, just published by UofT Press. His service and extensive writing on the history of astronomy led the International Astronomical Union to name a minor planet in his honour.



Raymond Carlberg’s main interests are observational cosmology, and telescope design and construction. He was the principal investigator of the Canadian Network for Observational Cosmology cluster and field galaxy surveys and helped lead the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope Legacy Survey (CFHTLS). A component of the CFHTLS, The Supernova Legacy Survey, made the first accurate measurement of the dark energy equation of state parameter.  Carlberg was the PI of awards from NSERC and CFI which enabled Canadians participation in the development of Extremely Large Telescope designs and partnership within the Thirty Meter Telescope project.  Carlberg is a member of the Canada-France Imaging Survey and the Euclid Consortium, currently serving as the Euclid Consortium Board member. He is also a member of the Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument (DESI) consortium.  He currently is Chair of Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Dennis R. Crabtree is Director of the Optical Astronomy Directorate at Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre. He started at Herzberg in 1986 as the first external hire for the CADC. During his time with Herzberg, he has had the opportunity to work at the CFHT (1996 – 1999) and Gemini (2007-2010). He is well known for his tracking of observatory bibliometrics and is interested in research metrics in general.

Dr. Matt Dobbs’ research aims to improve our fundamental understanding of the universe, including its origin, history and fate. He is particularly interested in the early universe, where the laws of particle physics and cosmology intersect. His research group builds novel instrumentation and experiments to explore the early universe with millimeter wavelength observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation and radio observations of 21cm hydrogen emission.

Dr. Laura Ferrarese is a Principal Research Officer with the National Research Council in Victoria, BC, and since July 2017 has served as Interim Director for the Gemini Observatory. She received her PhD from Johns Hopkins University, where her work with the Hubble Space Telescope led to some of the first detections of supermassive black holes in nearby galaxies and, ultimately, to defining the role supermassive black holes play in galaxy formation and evolution. She has also worked extensively on the extragalactic distance scale and the Hubble constant, and on understanding the complex interactions among galaxies in dense environments. Dr. Ferrarese has served as President of the Canadian Astronomical Society and is currently a Vice President of the International Astronomical Union. 

Dr. John Hutchings has been at the DAO for more than half its 100 years. During that time he pursued research projects on the Plaskett telescope, and became involved in many facilities that followed, ranging from CFHT to the VLA. Space astronomy also developed in this timeframe, from the first OAO, through the HST, Einstein, and the upcoming JWST. He has been involved in developing and using these facilities, and continues today working for the next generation of Canadian telescopes, as envisioned in the Long Range Plan for astronomy. His research interests have included massive stars, X-ray binaries, the ISM, QSOs, and merging galaxies.​

Dr. Helen Kirk is a Research Officer at NRC’s Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre.  She completed her PhD at the University of Victoria, and then held an NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship at McMaster University before moving to NRC in 2013 to provide data reduction support for the JCMT’s Gould Belt Legacy Survey.  Helen’s research focuses on the formation of stars, and she is presently working with the Millimetre Astronomy group at NRC to help Canadian astronomers more easily use ALMA data in their research.

Dr. Ue-Li Pen‘s area of research is theoretical astrophysics. He studies systems where basic physical effects can be isolated from astronomical complexities. Current projects include the non-linear dynamics of the cosmic neutrino background, 21cm intensity mapping, pulsar VLBI scintillometry, and Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment CHIME. 


Dr. Tim Robishaw is an astronomer at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory.  His research interests include the history of radio astronomy, the study of microwave lasers in galaxies far, far away, and measuring the magnetic field in the Milky Way’s interstellar medium.



Dr. David Schade developed an interest in astronomy at the age of 25 stimulated by his mother’s acquisition of a telescope upon her retirement. He began observing as an amateur during long, frigid winter nights in the Canadian Rockies. Eventually the desire to understand more about the universe became overwhelming and he abandoned his lucrative career as a barroom blues guitarist to begin university a decade after leaving high school. (It is not true—as Luc Simard frequently repeats—that Dr. Schade is the only scientist he knows who went into astronomy for the money.) David obtained his doctorate in 1990 from the University of Victoria and moved with his wife and children to England to work at Cambridge University on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Medium Deep Survey project. He moved to the University of Toronto in 1993 and to Herzberg Victoria in 1996 driven largely by the exciting science produced by HST. Dr. Schade was the Group Leader of the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre from 2002 until 2017 and oversaw vast growth in the scales of data generated by observational facilities. As he nears retirement age he is looking forward to returning to his roots as a barroom blues guitarist.

Dr. Luc Simard is an astronomer at the National Research Council of Canada. He obtained his B.Sc. from Queen’s University in 1990 and his Ph.D. from the University of Victoria in 1996. From 1996 to 2002, he held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California – Santa Cruz and the University of Arizona. His research interests include galaxy formation and evolution, image processing and astronomical instrumentation. He has worked on developing instruments for the Thirty Meter Telescope for twelve years. He is now Director of Astronomy Technology at NRC-Herzberg.

Dr. Julie Steffen has been Director of Publishing for the American Astronomical Society since 2014. She spent 25 years at the University of Chicago, where she served many years as Director of Astronomy Publications at the University of Chicago Press. Since working on the team that started the electronic edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters in 1995, Julie has enjoyed the many challenges of publishing the global astronomy community’s research output, from implementing the first LaTex to XML workflows to maintaining a community run, non-profit publishing program in today’s increasingly commercial environment. As well as leading AAS Publishing innovation efforts, she is co-PI of an Arthur P. Sloan Foundation funded effort to improve discovery and citation of astronomical software and an NSF funded long tail data repository at the University of Arizona. Julie is based in Tucson, Arizona at the NOAO.


Dr. Christine Wilson is a Distinguished University Professor at McMaster University. She served as the Canadian ALMA Project Scientist for 15 years and is currently the Past President of CASCA. Her research focuses on the interplay between molecular gas and star formation in nearby galaxies using a variety of millimetre and far-infrared telescopes.