News and announcements

Cafe Scientifique

The Café Scientifique series is an informal series of talks given in an relaxed setting such as a café. These talks are designed to engage the public in learning about recent research in science. The talks, which are given by experts in the field, provide an opportunity to stimulate discussion around some of the most exciting topics in modern science. Join us for this exciting series of talks in 2016-17! **Café Scientifique is sponsored jointly by UVic's Office of the Vice President Research and the Faculty of Science and is hosted by the Centre for Biomedical Research and the Department of Physics & Astronomy**

Dr. Chris Pritchet to receive the 2016 Beals Award from CASCA

It is a pleasure to pass on the news that Chris Pritchet has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the Carlyle S. Beals Award by the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA). The Beals Prize is awarded biennially "to a Canadian astronomer or an astronomer working in Canada, in recognition of outstanding achievements in research (either for a specific achievement or for a lifetime of research)”.

LIGO announces first detection of gravitational waves

This morning the LIGO Scientific Collaboration announced that they have evidence for gravitational waves from a signal detected in September 2015. The signature matches theoretical expectations, based on General Relativity, for waves produced by the merger of two roughly 30 solar mass back holes. A paper has been published in Physical Review Letters, and is described here: The theoretical prediction of the gravitational wave signature of black hole mergers was aided by the ground-breaking numerical work of a former UVic MSc student, Frans Pretorius, now a Professor at Princeton University.

Compute Canada allocation unlocks multi-million dollar resources for astronomy and particle physics

Compute Canada, the national advanced computing platform that integrates high performance computing infrastructure with academic research facilities, has recently allocated significant resources for UVic researchers in astronomy and in particle physics. These computational resources allow for processing and analysis of vast datasets, e.g. from the Large Hadron Collider and from multiple astronomical observations, as well as massively-parallel computer simulations of stellar and extra-galactic astrophysics and cosmology. These allocations amount to thousands of core years of computing and many hundreds of terabytes of storage. Details of the 2014 UVic allocation (and for particle physics, collaboration partners at institutions including TRIUMF) are available at the Compute Canada website, here:

New Horizons spacecraft flies by Pluto

UVic Astronomer Jon Willis is quoted in an article about NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, that recently appeared on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen ( In addition, a Times Colonist article describes the involvement of Victoria-area scientists, Stephen Gwynn of the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre, and JJ Kavelaars (UVic adjunct faculty member) and Michele Bannister of NRC Herzberg, in the project and in planetary physics research ( Further details about the mission, and images of Pluto, are available from NASA’s New Horizons website (

CFI funding for VISPA projects announced

The University of Victoria’s leadership and participation in several national and international big science projects has got a huge shot in the arm with the injection of $14.8 million in new funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). The funding was announced on Friday in Ottawa by Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder as part of a $333-million CFI investment in new research infrastructure across the country. The UVic funding will support researchers who are developing world-class technologies in nuclear medicine, particle physics and ocean observation systems. “We’re very grateful to the Government of Canada through CFI for its continued support of major science infrastructure,” says UVic Vice-President Research David Castle. “This investment keeps Canada at the forefront of discovery in a number of important fields and allows UVic to build on its already formidable presence in big science projects nationally and around the world.” The bulk of the CFI money coming to UVic—more than $13.6 million—goes toward phase two of the UVic-led Advanced Rare IsotopE Laboratory (ARIEL) at TRIUMF, Canada’s national facility for particle and nuclear physics in Vancouver. ARIEL will strengthen Canada’s capabilities in particle and nuclear physics, and materials science. It’s also a testing ground for producing critical medical isotopes, which are used to diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. The first phase of ARIEL, completed in 2014, constructed an underground beam tunnel and one of the world’s most powerful superconducting particle accelerators, as well as a new building to house them. This second phase will add next-generation technologies to the accelerator to produce a wider variety of exotic isotopes at greater intensities. “We have designed a one-of-a kind accelerator that will allow us to pursue the science in which TRIUMF is currently a world leader,” says UVic physicist Dean Karlen, who leads a 19-university ARIEL II consortium. “It’s exciting for us and for future generations. They’ll come up with new ideas on how to use this technology that we haven’t even thought of yet.” For more information on ARIEL II and the other projects funded in this announcement that involve UVic, see the accompanying backgrounder.

Inaugural Astbury Lecture by CERN Director General Rolf Heuer - webcast available

On April 27, 2015, as part of the Alan Astbury Memorial Symposium, Dr. Rolf Heuer, CERN Director General, presented the inaugural Astbury Lecture. TITLE: Breaking the wall of the hidden universe - what the discovery of the Higgs boson tells us about Physics, Mankind and the Universe Abstract: With the start of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, particle physics entered a new era. The LHC will provide a deeper understanding of the universe and the insights gained could change our view of the world, and the talk will present some of the reasons for the excitement surrounding the LHC. The LHC is expected to yield insights into the origin of mass, the nature of dark matter and into many other key questions. This lecture will address the exciting physics prospects offered by the LHC, discuss in particular the recent discovery of the Higgs-Boson, and present a look forward.

Canada funds significant contribution to the Thirty Meter Telescope

The federal government recently approved Canada's $243M contribution to become a full partner in the international Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project to built on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. UVic astronomers, and in particular several adjunct faculty based at NRC Herzberg in Saanich, are deeply involved in many technical aspects of this endeavour. For example, Luc Simard is the TMT Science Instruments Group Leader, David Andersen is the project scientist for the NFIRAOS facility, while Tim Davidge, Christian Marois, Alan McConnachie, Julio Navarro, and Kim Venn are members of the International Science Development Teams. The NFIRAOS (Narrow Field Infrared Adaptive Optics System) instrument is a multi-conjugate adaptive optics system to be built at NRC Herzberg, and will be at the very heart of the TMT to focus light and correct for atmospheric distortions. This system will permit the TMT to peer deep into the cosmos to witness the birth of the first stars and galaxies and to search for biomarkers in the atmospheres of exoplanets. A link to the announcement by Prime Minister Harper: An overview is provided by this article in the Globe and Mail:

Russ Robb receives the 2014 President's Distinguished Service Award: Excellence in Service

The President's Distinguished Service Awards celebrate the contributions of university employees to the betterment of the university and the community. Russ is being rewarded for his multi-faceted role in the Department's astronomy programs, and outreach efforts, through which he has made an outstanding contribution to the learning environment for students, staff, and the general public. Congratulations Russ! For more information, please see the notice here.

Peter G. Martin award presented to Dr. Laura Ferrarese

Dr. Laura Ferrarese of NRC-Herzberg was named as the recipient of the 2015 Peter G. Martin award. 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. Dr. Ferrarese is an Adjunct Professor in the department of Physics and Astronomy. 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. Congratulations to Dr. Ferrarese on the receipt of the 2015 Martin award!

Alan Astbury (1934-2014)

With great sadness, we announce the passing of Dr. Alan Astbury, a pillar of our particle physics group, of the University of Victoria, and of Canadian Science. Alan joined the Department as the R.M. Pearce Chair of Physics in 1983 and served as Director of the Canadian Institute of Particle Physics from 1991-1995, and as Director of the TRIUMF Laboratory from 1994-2001. Alan was an exceptional scientist, a true gentleman, and a great friend to many in the Department and in the global physics community. He animated the lives of his friends and colleagues with his energy, integrity, commitment and humour, and he will be sorely missed. Alan is survived by his wife, Kathy, and daughters Elizabeth and Gillian. An online guestbook is available here, and an event commemorating his life and career is being planned. A short biography of Alan is available on the department's Alumni webpage.

First Bulletin – Alan Astbury Memorial Symposium

We are pleased to announce that the Alan Astbury Memorial Symposium will be held at the University of Victoria on April 27-28 this year. This two-day meeting will focus on Alan's professional interests during his career. Topics will include physics at the high-energy frontier, and the production of isotopes for nuclear physics and medicine. Dr. Rolf Heuer, CERN Director General, will present the inaugural Astbury Lecture, a public talk on the night of April 27th. Full details are available on the webpage below, which will be regularly updated. Please note the links for registration, and recommended accommodation options. We hope to see you in Victoria for this event, and please feel free to contact the organizers at We are grateful for the generous support of the University of Victoria, TRIUMF, and the Institute of Particle Physics. Symposium Organizing Committee Richard Keeler, Chair (UVic) Reiner Kruecken (TRIUMF) Rob McPherson (UVic/IPP) Adam Ritz (UVic) Randall Sobie (UVic/IPP)

RSVP - Lansdowne Lecture 2 March, 2015

Lansdowne Lecture Series Monday, March 2, 2015 6:00 p.m./ Bob Wright Building B150 Dr. Raymond Laflamme, Canada Research Chair in Quantum Information Executive Director, Institute for Quantum Computing University of Waterloo Quantum Information Science Dr. Laflamme is the Executive Director of the Institute for Quantum Computing, and holds a Tier-I Canada Research Chair in Quantum Information at the University of Waterloo. He is a world leader in the area of quantum information. Please click here to RSVP Department contact:

Masen Lamb awarded Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award

Masen Lamb was one of 5 graduate students to win a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award at the 225th AAS Meeting in Seattle held January 4-8, 2015. The Astronomy Achievement Student Awards are given to recognize exemplary research by undergraduate and graduate students who present at one of the poster sessions at the meetings of the AAS. Congratulations to Masen! For more information, please see the announcement on the AAS website.

2015 Team Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

The Breakthough Prize in Fundamental Physics was founded in 2012 by Yuri Milner to recognize those individuals who have made profound contributions to human knowledge. It is open to all physicists — theoretical, mathematical, experimental — working on the deepest mysteries of the Universe. The Supernova Cosmology Project Team, which includes Dr. Sebastien Fabbro, a Post Doctoral Fellow with Dr. Chris Pritchet at the University of Victoria, was the Team Breakthrough Prize winner for 2015. Further information on this award can be found at the Breakthrough Prize website and on the news section of the UVic Faculty Science website.

UVic Physics and Astronomy Professor and IPP Research Scientist Robert McPherson Elected ATLAS Deputy Spokesperson

Robert McPherson, University of Victoria Physics and Astronomy, and Institute of Particle Physics, has been selected as the Deputy Spokesperson of the ATLAS Experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The ATLAS Collaboration Board elected McPherson at its meeting in Geneva on October 10, 2014. Please see the TRIUMF press release for more information.

Canada's superconducting electron linear accelerator produces first beam

Dean Karlen, Physics & Astronomy / TRIUMF, and David Castle, VP Research, are quoted today in a article that highlights UVic's leadership and collaboration with Vancouver-based TRIUMF which recently resulted in the first particle beam produced by ARIEL's new superconducting electron linear accelerator. TRIUMF is Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. For more information, please see the TRIUMF press release.

Theory workshop on New Physics at the Intensity Frontier

The UVic particle theory group and VISPA recently held a 2-day international mini-workshop in Victoria, focusing on searches for new physics at low energy, high luminosity experiments. The meeting ran from Sept 11-12 at the Hotel Grand Pacific in Victoria's inner harbour. For more information, please see the VISPA website. Workshop attendees

Dr. Sara Ellison awarded prestigious Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics

Professor Sara Ellison is this year's recipient of the prestigious Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics. The Rutherford Memorial Medal in Physics is awarded annually by the Royal Society of Canada for outstanding research in any branch of physics and in recognition of Lord Rutherford’s own research carried out in Canada at a relatively young age. Dr. Ellison is a world expert in two fields of astrophysics: quasar absorption lines and galaxy mergers. She currently leads international programs with the world’s largest ground and space-based telescopes, and her work provides a panoramic view of the processes in galaxy evolution in both the nearby and distant universe. Dr. Ellison’s research has appeared in over 100 peer-reviewed articles and includes numerous high impact discoveries in the field of extragalactic observational astronomy. Please see the link to the press release from the Royal Society of Canada and the 2014 Award Winner Citations.

Dr. Andrew Pon - Plaskett Medal winner

Dr. Andrew Pon, who completed his doctoral studies at the University of Victoria under the supervision of Dr. Douglas Johnstone (UVic, NRC- Herzberg), is this year's recipient of the prestigious J.S. Plaskett Medal in recognition of his outstanding doctoral thesis entitled "Shocks, Superbubbles and Filaments: Investigations into Large Scale Gas Motions in Giant Molecular Clouds". Dr. Pon was also awarded the Governor-General's Gold Medal for the best doctoral thesis at this year's convocation ceremony at the University of Victoria. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Leeds where he is continuing his research into turbulent dissipation and shock heating in molecular clouds.

UVic's RAVEN MOAO sees first light at the Subaru Telescope

Raven, a Multi-­Object Adaptive Optics (MOAO) science demonstrator, successfully got its first light at the Subaru telescope on the nights of May 13 and 14, 2014. A technological advance in adaptive optics - it uses measurements from multiple guide stars to provide adaptive corrections for any other region of the sky being surveyed by the telescope. Raven has been developed by the Adaptive Optics Lab of the University of Victoria (UVic) in partnership with the National Council Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). Team members include Physics and Astronomy faculty (Prof. Kim Venn) and adjunct faculty (Dr. David Anderson). For more information, please see the Raven press release.

UVic physicists achieve 100 gigabit/second transatlantic transmission

The Canadian High Energy Physics network organization, HEPnet/Canada at the University of Victoria, under the direction of Dr. Randall Sobie and technical leadership of Ian Gable, and their colleagues from Caltech, under the leadership of Professor Harvey Newman, proved that data could be transferred from Geneva to Ottawa at 94 gigabits/second. They made use of the 100 gigiabit transatlantic network (the only one in the world) between Ottawa and CERN last week. For more information please see the press release and see the Reuters article.

RSVP - Public Lecture 8 May, 2014

Public Lecture Series Thursday, May 8, 2014 7:30 p.m./ Bob Wright Building B150 Dr. Edward "Rocky" Kolb, Dean of the Division of the Physical Sciences & Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago The Quantum and the Cosmos Dr. Rocky Kolb is currently the Dean of Physical Sciences at the University of Chicago, and is known for work on particle cosmology in the early universe, and for giving excellent public talks! Please click here to RSVP Department contact:

Centre of the Universe summer openings announced

Centre of the Universe Summer viewings in the works The observatory at the Centre of the Universe in Saanich, closed after federal budget cuts, will reopen to stargazers for a special event next month and seven nights over the summer. Don Moffatt, a UVic astronomy graduate and business analyst, is the chairman of a short-term working group that got the weekend viewings back on track. Please see the full article in the Times Colonist

New clues on the role supermassive black holes play in galactic star formation

In a recent paper published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (, Dr Asa Bluck (University of Victoria) and his team studied the relationship between star formation and galaxy attributes. Dr Bluck examined over half a million local Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) galaxies and determined that bulge mass (a region of snugly nestled stars within a larger arrangement) is most closely tied to the cessation of star formation. The close relationship between bulge mass and central supermassive black hole mass suggests that some form of AGN (active galactic nucleus) feedback may be responsible for the quenching of star formation. This work has been highlighted by the RAS.

Dr. Andrew Pon awarded 2014 J. S. Plaskett Medal

Congratulations to former UVic PhD student Andy Pon, and his supervisor Doug Johnstone! Andy recently won the 2014 J. S. Plaskett Medal, awarded annually by CASCA and the RASC for the most outstanding doctoral thesis in astronomy and astrophysics submitted during the preceding two years. For further details, please visit the CASCA webpage.

RSVP - Public Lecture 2 April, 2014

Public Lecture Series Wednesday, April 2, 2014 7:00 p.m./ Bob Wright Building B150 Dr. William D. Phillips, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1997 National Institute of Standards and Technology, University of Maryland Time, Einstein and the coolest stuff in the universe Dr. William D. Phillips was the joint winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics (with Chu and Cohen-Tannoudji) for laser cooling and atom trapping. His public talk involves significant amounts of liquid nitrogen, and likely some explosions! Please click here to RSVP Department contact:

Samantha Harder wins 2nd place at 3 Minute Thesis competition

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland that invites both Master’s and doctoral level students to present a summary of their thesis and its significance in just three minutes in language appropriate for the general public using only one static PowerPoint slide. Medical Physics PhD candidate, Samantha Harder, finished in 2nd place for her presentation entitled "Conquering Cancer: A Physcist's Quest for Personalized Therapy" at the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition held at UVic on March 6th. Samantha also won the people's choice award voted on by the large public audience in attendance. The event was well organized by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and impressive presentations by the five finalists were assessed in an American Idol-style format by an all-star panel of judges. Congratulations Samantha!

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