Science Sessions Invited Speakers


Dr. Pauline Barmby received her BSc in Physics and Astronomy in 1995 from the University of British Columbia, followed by her PhD in Astronomy in 2001 from Harvard University. From 2001-2007 she was a staff astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, working as part of the team responsible for building and testing the IRAC camera on NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. In 2007, she joined Western University’s Department of Physics & Astronomy and in 2015 took on the role of Associate Dean, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies within the Faculty of Science. She was named Acting Dean of Science in 2017. Pauline’s research uses multiwavelength observations to study stellar populations and star formation in nearby. She is interested in the use of computer data-mining techniques and community-developed software to facilitate knowledge extraction from astronomical data. She has been an active supporter of science outreach throughout her career and has contributed as a Blogger for Science Borealis, Scientist-in-Residence for the London Children’s Museum and a Software Carpentry instructor.

Dr. Patrick Côté received his Ph.D. in astrophysics from McMaster University in 1994, followed by postdoctoral appointments at National Research Council (NRC-Herzberg) and California Institute of Technology. From 2000 to 2004, he was a professor at Rutgers University. In 2004, he returned to NRC-Herzberg where he is currently a Principal Research Officer. His research interests include the structure, evolution and dynamics of nearby clusters and galaxies, as well as the Milky Way and its satellite system. He has published more than 160 papers in the refereed literature, and has been a frequent user of some of the world’s premier telescopes including the Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer and Astrosat space observatories. He was the principal investigator, or founding member, of some of the largest surveys of galaxies in the local universe undertaken during the past 15 years, including the Hubble ACS Virgo Cluster Survey and the CFHT Next Generation Virgo Cluster Survey. Since 2011, he has served as the lead scientific investigator for the CASTOR mission concept.

Dr. Christophe Dumas joined the Thirty-Meter-Telescope in July 2015, as TMT Observatory Scientist and Head of Operations. Previously, he was in charge of the science operations of the European Southern Observatory Very Large Telescope, in the Atacama desert of Northern Chile. Although Dumas has been working in the USA and Chile for the past 25 years, his education background comes from France, where he earned a degree in engineering from Supelec and a PhD in Astrophysics from the University Denis Diderot in Paris. His science interest is focused on studying the physical/chemical characteristics of small primitive solar system bodies, and how they can inform us on the formation of planetary systems at large. To this end, he mainly uses ground-based infrared spectrophotometry techniques  in coordination with high-angular resolution and high-contrast adaptive optics instrumentation.

Dr. Falk Herwig is a professor at the University of Victoria. He received his doctorate degree at Astrophysical Institute Potsdam (AIP)/University Kiel (Germany) followed by post-doctoral appointments at the University of Victoria, Victoria, BC and Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico (USA). After a first faculty appointment at Keele University (UK) Herwig joined the faculty at the University of Victoria in 2008. His group’s research in nuclear and stellar astrophysics advances our understanding of how the elements form in stars and stellar explosions, and how stars evolve in the early universe. An important aspect of this research involves the study of convection in stars, especially how convection interacts with vigorous nuclear burning in the final phase of stellar evolution of low-mass and massive stars. Herwig and his team’s work is embedded in international collaborations, such as the NSF Physics Frontier Center Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics (JINA). In his research Herwig constructs computational simulations that require very large computational resources and generate big data outputs. To fully take advantage of these large data sets, Herwig has made contributions to cyber infrastructure projects. 

Dr. Renée Hlozek is an assistant professor at Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. She is originally from South Africa where she did her undergrad degree and Masters degrees, before moving to the UK in 2008 as a South African Rhodes Scholar. After four years as a Lyman Spitzer Jr Fellow at Princeton University, she moved to Toronto in 2016. Her work uses data from telescopes around the world to test the predictions of novel cosmological theories,with a focus on dark matter and dark energy. She is interested in astrostatistics and using data science techniques applied to astrophysical problems. She is passionate about science communication and was elected as a 2013 TED Fellow and a Senior Fellow for the years 2014-2015. She was elected as a 2017 CASCA Westar lecturer.

Dr. Stephanie Juneau is an associate astronomer at the National Optical Astronomy Observatory, and the Project Scientist for the NOAO Data Lab. She obtained her BSc and MSc in physics from the Université de Montréal, and her PhD from the University of Arizona in 2011. She then moved to CEA-Saclay in France, where she started as a Marie Curie fellow before becoming staff researcher in 2012. She moved back to Tucson, Arizona in 2016 to join the scientific staff at NOAO.

Dr. Juneau’s expertise lies primarily in the field of supermassive black hole and galaxy evolution. She is interested in answering questions about the growth of galaxies and that of the black holes that reside in their centers, as well as the interplay between the two. Her work brings together multiwavelength observations, close comparison with numerical simulations, and ranges from detailed case studies to statistical analysis of large datasets. As a member of the DESI and Euclid collaborations, she is looking forward to taking advantages of several millions galaxy and quasar spectra to further our understanding of the black hole-galaxy connection and expand to larger scales.

Dr. Michael Landry is the Head of LIGO Hanford Observatory (LHO), and a physicist with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Michael completed his Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba in strange quark physics (Brookhaven/TRIUMF) in 2000, after which he joined LIGO as a postdoctoral scholar with Caltech. Michael has worked on a number of diverse aspects of searches for gravitational waves from astrophysical sources, including LIGO interferometer calibration and commissioning, data analyses for spinning neutron stars, and the leading of the installation of Advanced LIGO at LHO 2010-2014. He was Detection Lead Scientist at the time of LIGO and Virgo’s first gravitational wave discoveries of binary black hole mergers in late 2015. In the fall of 2016 he became Observatory Head. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Dr. Sam Lawler received her B.S. in astrophysics from Caltech in 2005, followed by 2 years of research work at Caltech’s IPAC facility on early Spitzer data of debris disks.  She then received her M.A. from Wesleyan University before coming to Canada for her PhD work at UBC.  She has been in Victoria ever since her PhD, initially as a UVic postdoc/lecturer, and since 2015 as a Plaskett Fellow at NRC-Herzberg.  Her work utilizes dynamical simulations of the effects of planets on debris disks and on the structure of the Kuiper Belt.  Several of her recent projects involve dynamically testing the existence of reported planets.  She has shown tau Ceti’s reported planet system is allowed by its wide debris disk, Fomalhaut b is likely a catastrophically disrupted icy body, and the structure of the Kuiper Belt does not require an additional distant planet in the Solar System.  While her dynamical simulations are running on the computer cluster, she likes to play with her kids and grow food.

Dr. Els Peeters is Associate Professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Western Ontario and research scientist at the SETI Institute in California. She obtained her MSc degrees in Physics and Astronomy from the Catholic University of Leuven and the Free University of Brussels (Belgium), and her PhD degree from the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). She was a post-doc at the NASA Ames Research Center and the SETI Institute in sunny California. She was hired as Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario in Dec. 2006. Her research focuses on the physics and chemistry of interstellar carbonaceous molecules and dust with a prime emphasis on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). She is an observational astronomer and has worked extensively with infrared observations from space-based telescopes, such as the Infrared Space Observatory (ISO), NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Infrared Space Observatory, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) and ground-based telescopes (e.g. VLT, Gemini).

Dr. Leslie Rogers is an assistant professor in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Rogers’ research focusses on theoretical and numerical studies of exoplanets (planets outside the Solar System) that are Neptune-size and smaller. She has developed models for low-mass planet interiors and has applied them to constrain planet bulk compositions, to evaluate planet formation scenarios, to explore the possibilities for surface liquid water oceans, and to constrain the fraction of planets that are rocky as a function of planet size.  Dr. Rogers has been awarded both a NASA Hubble Fellowship and a NASA Sagan Fellowship. She has served on CanTAC, the Hubble Space Telescope Exoplanet Advisory Committee, and is a member of the Habitable Exoplanet Imaging Mission (HabEx) Science and Technology Definition Team.  Rogers earned an Honours BSc in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Ottawa in 2006, and a PhD in Physics from MIT in 2012.

Dr. Gary Sanders spent 25 years performing high-energy physics experiments at laboratories in the United States and Europe. He earned an AB degree in physics from Columbia University and a PhD in high-energy physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been a faculty member in physics at Princeton University and a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In 1994, Gary came to Caltech to serve as the Project Manager and Deputy Director for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) project. Gary joined TMT as its Project Manager in 2004. He is the author or a co-author of more than 200 peer-reviewed publications and he has been elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Dr. Richard Shaw is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia. Originally from the UK, he received both his BA/MSci in Physics and Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Cambridge. From 2010 to 2015 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow at CITA before moving to UBC. Richard’s early work was in theoretical cosmology; his current research interests are in finding novel statistical methods for analysing the data from cosmological surveys. The focus of this work is how to overcome the significant challenges of 21cm Intensity Mapping — a new method for efficiently surveying the large-scale structure of the universe — where we must excise foreground contamination five orders of magnitude larger than the cosmological signal. Richard is heavily involved in CHIME, the pre-eminent 21cm Intensity Mapping experiment, where he is responsible for the real time processing and analysis pipeline.

Following a M.Sc. degree in Montreal,Dr. Nicole St-Louis obtained a Ph.D. from University College London in December1990 and spent two years as an NSERC postdoctoral fellow at the Université de Montréal, where she has been a professor since 1993. Her work focuses on massive stars and more specifically Wolf-Rayet (WR) stars, the core helium-burning descendants of main sequence O stars. She is particularly interested in large-scale asymmetries that can form in their dense winds, called Corotating Interaction Regions (CIRs). She specialised on characterizing these structures using extensive spectroscopic, photometric and polarimetric observing campaigns to obtain their characteristics and ultimately gain knowledge on the mechanisms from which they originate. In order to more accurately interpret the observations she also works on theoretical aspects. These structures can impact the evolution of massive stars, particularly the angular momentum budget, with links to long Gamma-Ray Burst (GRB) progenitors. St-Louis also studies the circumstellar medium (CSM) around WR stars to gain insight into massive-star evolution for which many aspects still remain misunderstood.  By mapping the density, temperature and abundances of the CSM around these stars, she characterizes the chemical enrichment, asymmetries and kinematics of the mass ejections that occurred in the intermediate phases between the main sequence and WR stages. These characteristics also serves as initial conditions to core-collapse supernova.