News and events
- Tau Ceti's dust belt is huge – December 2014
Newly released far-infrared images taken by the Herschel Space Observatory yield even more insight about Tau Ceti's solar system: greater detail about its dust belt.
Only 12 light-years away, the star Tau Ceti was the first ever to be searched for signs of intelligent life—half a century ago. In 2012 Tau Ceti grew still more intriguing, when astronomers reported five possible planets somewhat larger than Earth circling closer to the star than Mars orbits the sun. Now there is greater detail about its dust belt too, thanks to Samantha Lawler and her team.
Read more about this story in Scientific American.
- Andrew Weaver named Fellow of the American Geophysical Union - December 2014
UVic climate scientist and Green Party MLA Andrew Weaver was named Fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) this December.
AGU Fellows are recognized for their exceptional scientific contributions and acknowledged eminence in the fields of earth and space sciences.
Weaver received the distinction, “for his outstanding contributions in climate dynamics and paleoclimate, especially on the role of the global thermohaline circulation in climate.”
- UVic physicist shares in $3 million Breakthrough Prize - November 2014
Stars shone in more ways than one for UVic physicist, Sebastien Fabbro, this November.
Fabbro is part of the Supernova Cosmology Project Team, which together with the High-Z Supernova Search Team, won a $3 million Breakthrough Team Prize in Fundamental Physics this November. The teams were recognized for their 1998 discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe and dark energy.
In 1998 Fabbro was a graduate student, studying supernovae (stellar explosions) with the Supernova Cosmology Project Team. Their discovery of dark energy - the force driving the universe expansion - fundamentally changed how we describe the universe and has profound implications both at the largest and smallest scales of physics.
“We know almost nothing about dark energy and it composes more than 70% of the energy in our universe,” says Fabbro. “It could be an intrinsic property of space, a new dynamic fundamental field, a modification of gravitational theory, or even a manifestation of new physics.”
Founded by internet gurus Sergey Brin, Jack Ma, Yuri Milner, and Mark Zuckerberg, the Breakthrough Prizes were established in 2012 to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. They were handed out a celebrity-studded Gala on November 9, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, and featuring Kate Beckinsale, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Cameron Diaz as presenters.
The Breakthrough Prize is not the first time the two teams have been celebrated for their accomplishments. Principal Investigators for the two teams also shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics for the 1998 discovery. The two teams will share the $3 million equally, dividing $1.5 million among team members (see list below).
The Supernova Cosmology Project Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Greg Aldering, Brian J. Boyle, Patricia G. Castro, Warrick J. Couch, Susana Deustua, Richard S. Ellis, Sebastien Fabbro, Alexei V. Filippenko, Andrew S. Fruchter, Ariel Goobar, Donald E. Groom, Isobel M. Hook, Mike Irwin, Alex G. Kim, Matthew Y. Kim, Robert A. Knop, Julia C. Lee, Chris Lidman, Thomas Matheson, Richard G. McMahon, Richard Muller, Heidi J. M. Newberg, Peter Nugent, Nelson J. Nunes, Reynald Pain, Nino Panagia, Carl R. Pennypacker, Robert Quimby, Pilar Ruiz-Lapuente, Bradley E. Schaefer and Nicholas Walton.
The High-Z Supernova Search Team Breakthrough Prize winners: Peter Challis, Alejandro Clocchiatti, Alan Diercks, Alexei V. Filippenko, Peter M. Garnavich, Ron L. Gilliland, Craig J. Hogan, Saurabh Jha, Robert P. Kirshner, Bruno Leibundgut, Mark M. Phillips, David Reiss, R. Chris Smith, Jason Spyromilio, Christopher Stubbs, Nicholas B. Suntzeff and John Tonry.
- CERN picks Italian physicicist Fabiola Gianotti as new head - November 2014
Italian physicist Fabiola Gianotti, who won world attention in 2012 for her leadership role in the discovery of the "Higgs boson," has been chosen as the new head of CERN's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) research centre, as of 2016, making her the first woman nominated to lead a top global scientific institution in this field.
Gianotti became project leader of the Atlas collaboration in 2009, helping to construct and operate a large detector, located on the LHC ring, to detect and record the products of the proton collisions. The LHC and the ATLAS detector together form the most powerful microscope ever built, allowing scientists to explore space and time, and the fundamental laws of nature, to unprecedented levels.
VISPA scientists at UVic are founding members of the ATLAS Collaboration, and participated in the design and construction of the ATLAS detector. Since 1992, the ATLAS project at UVic provides unique opportunities for the training of highly qualified personnel; many former UVic-ATLAS members now hold permanent positions in top institutions in Canada and abroad.
- Astronomers Geoff Steeves & Jon Willis discuss comet landing - CTV News - November 2014
Jon Willis and Geoffrey Steves (Physics & Astronomy) were interviewed for CTV's Thursday night news broadcast about the importance and fate of a washing-machine sized spacecraft which scientists recently landed on the surface of a comet 500 million kilometres from Earth.
- Nobel-filled year for biochemistry grad - November 2014
How many people can say they’ve rubbed shoulders with 37 Nobel laureates? For Michelle (Tonkin) Parker that amazing experience capped a remarkable academic career at UVic that culminates this month with a PhD in biochemistry.
This June, Parker had the privilege of joining 600 aspiring young researchers from almost 80 countries taking part in the 2014 Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting on Physiology and Medicine in Germany.
She and the other students—mainly master’s and PhD students—attended lectures, panel discussions and master classes with 37 Nobel laureates at the meeting, which is intended to promote dialogue among generations, cultures and nations.
- UVic Physicist leads creation of advanced rare isotope laboratory - October 2014
University of Victoria physicist Dean Karlen leads the creation of ARIEL, a brand new particle physics laboratory, in Vancouver.
At the heart of ARIEL – the Advanced Rare IsotopE Laboratory – is an electron linear accelerator and an underground beam tunnel that will advance Canada’s capabilities in particle and nuclear physics, materials science, and environmental remediation.
- International study solves deep-sea puzzle - December, 2013
The final piece of a deep-sea puzzle that has long fascinated scientists has been found, after a two-month research expedition in a part of the Pacific Ocean that resembles an underwater Grand Canyon.
A team of international researchers on the ship JOIDES Resolution recovered primitive layered rocks that originated at least four kilometres beneath the seafloor in their expedition to the Hess Deep rift, about 900 kilometres west of the Galapagos Islands. It is the first time rock from that deep in the earth’s ocean crust has been retrieved, and required years of complex planning.
The rock confirms and refines hypotheses about how the ocean crust forms, says Kathy Gillis, UVic’s associate dean of science. Gillis and Jonathan Snow, from the University of Houston, co-led the team of international scientists. Gillis is the lead author of an article on the expedition in Nature, the leading international science journal. (Note: the paper is lengthy and can take a moment or two to show.)The JOIDES Resolution is operated through the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP), which is dedicated to advancing scientific understanding of the Earth through drilling, coring, and monitoring the sub-seafloor. Canadian participation in IODP is coordinated by the Canadian Consortium for Ocean Drilling (CCOD). The annual membership fee for Canadian participation in IODP is funded by a grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. For more information, visit http://www.iodpcanada.ca.
- Dylan Collins - Biochemistry and Microbiology - December, 2013We are very proud to announce that Dylan Collins is one of Canada's newest Rhodes Scholars. Dylan, a biochemistry student, will study public health at Oxford University on an all-expenses-paid two-year post-graduate study student award. Congratulations, Dylan! Read More
- 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics - October, 2013
TRIUMF, the national laboratory co-founded by UVic, UBC and SFU in the late '60s, announced today's news about the Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Prof. Higgs and colleague. Adjunct professor Robert McPherson is Canada's ATLAS spokesperson, and has already been interviewed by TV. Click here for details. Read more.
Marking the end to a very successful year in the Faculty of Science, outstanding achievements in teaching, research, and staff excellence were celebrated this December at the 2014 Faculty of Science Awards Ceremony.
Departments nominated recipients for each of the teaching, research and staff categories. A committee for each category then chose the winners.
Congratulations to the 2014 Science Award winners!
Teaching Excellence Award Dr. Dante Canil, School of Ocean Sciences
Dante joined SEOS in 1994 when the School was in the early stages of developing its undergraduate programs. Although he was a young scientist with limited teaching experience, Dante immediately made instrumental contributions to the curriculum, developing from scratch many of our core earth-science courses, labs, and field trips.
Since that time, Dante has taught a variety of classes, including 9 undergraduate and 3 graduate courses. Dante has taught both of SEOS’s Field Schools, each of which involves two weeks of practical geologic experience outside of the classroom. He also supervises and mentors many graduate, honours, and co-op students.
It is noteworthy that Dante is not only an outstanding teacher, but also an exceptional researcher, and that he brings his research into the classroom. In 2011 Dante was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada cited as “an international leader in the study of the Earth’s mantle,” and in 2012 he won the prestigious Peacock Award of the Mineralogical Association of Canada for “outstanding career contributions to mineral sciences.”
Dante’s passion and natural abilities as a teacher, together with his outstanding knowledge base, meticulous preparation, and genuine concern and respect for individuals make him a well-deserved recipient of this year’s Teaching Excellence Award.
Staff Excellence Award Kelly Choo, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Kelly Choo completed a combined UVic Computer Science-Math BSc in 1992 and an MSc with Gary McGillivray in 2002. He began his career at TRIUMF for half his time and then was hired by Math & Stat as a Programmer/Analyst for the balance of his time. In 1996 he joined the Education Services Group on campus and then, upon the creation of the Pacific Institute for the Mathematics Sciences (PIMS), he became the PIMS Web manager. Kelly is now the Systems Administrator for Mathematics and Statistics.
Kelly’s job in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics has changed along with the Unniversity's evolution in approach to campus-wide computing. For example, the unit’s web presence (including course pages) is much more important now than it was 20 years ago. The department also now operates a high-speed cluster instead of an antiquated dial-up system. There have been endless changes in networking, authentication protocols, file sharing, etc. Kelly has developed and grown with the changes, and has done so seamlessly and gracefully.
As many of the supporting letters for his nomination attest, Kelly is a really nice guy, in addition to being extremely smart, creative, and diligent. His contributions to work and community in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics are outstanding.
Research Excellence Award Rogério de Sousa, Department of Physics and Astronomy
Rogério De Sousa joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy in 2007. He is a condensed matter theorist, whose main research is in the field of spin physics and its applications to new materials and new technological devices. Rogerio's recent research focus has been on the physics of multiferroic materials, and of Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices. He seeks to find the best way to control magnetism using electric fields and how to reduce magnetic noise in order to build a fully functional quantum computer.
Rogerio has an extensive list of collaborators in the US, France, Brazil, and Canada. As a theorist, he is engaged in fruitful collaborations with leading experimental groups in the field, including D-Wave Systems, which is making news with its 512-qubit commercially-available quantum computer.
Rogerio has a strong record of publications in leading Physics journals, and his work is well appreciated by his peers, making him an ideal candidate for this year’s Research Excellence Award.