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Julie Claveau

Julie Claveau
  • Category: Presidents’ Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Science in Physics, 2009
  • Current hometown: Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot, QC
  • Birthplace: Chicoutimi, QC

About Julie

Julie Claveau is an astrophysicist at the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) who’s currently working as an Earth observation program officer for the smartEarth initiative.

Prior to that, she worked as deputy mission manager for the James Webb Space Telescope mission, as project manager for the opening of the RADARSAT-1 archives and as an Earth observation mission planner for the RADARSAT-2 mission.

As an advocate for diversity and inclusion, she co-chairs CSA’s Women in STEM Committee and is a member of CSA’s Advisory Committee on Employment Equity and Diversity. She is involved in the national and international space community where she mentors undergraduate students and early career professionals. She volunteers as a science communicator across the globe to inspire the next generation, where she talks to kids and adults about physics, astronomy and space.

Julie speaks at national and international events and conferences about the projects she works on as well as diversity and inclusion. She is also a retired Canadian naval warfare officer, violin teacher, World of Warcraft gamer and self-described creative wizard and supermom.

What's your favourite memory of being a UVic student?

The professors I had were tremendously caring and very passionate about their work. When I went to see one of them, it was always wide-open office doors, and if I asked questions, it easily led to hours of discussions. There were also a lot of different clubs and activities across the campus so it was easy to get involved and make lifelong friends. I remember doing ballroom dancing, helping the engineers push a little car around ring road as a fundraiser, and being the president of the Physics and Astronomy Student Society. I loved the nature on campus, all the trees, the cherry blossoms next to the library and the beach just down the road.

How did your experiences at UVic shape who you are or contribute to future successes?

I found that you really don’t know what you want in life until it’s right in front of you. When I got to UVic, I tried all the different sciences, and ended up in physics and astronomy. It was just true to my heart. I ended up finding like-minded people that had the same passions as me. It was the first time in my life where I actually felt like I belonged. I found my people. I found my true love. That’s what I found in physics and astronomy at UVic. That recognition is what helped guide me to the space sector, and working at the Canadian Space Agency.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

The highlight of my career was being Canada’s deputy mission manager for the James Webb Space Telescope mission, and being instrumental in getting everything ready for launch and operations: the contracts, grants, memorandum of understanding, to name a few. That meant making sure everyone had what they needed to do their work.

I even led the Canadian grant evaluation process and reviewed all the proposals with my team and external evaluators. It was just so special to be one of the first to learn about the science to be done with Webb and see the first images come out live at the official CSA event. It was just like, wow, look at all those galaxies!

What skills or traits are needed to be good at what you do?

The ability to learn independently and to find information is number one. It’s critical for any job. Creating a network of authentic relationships with people is also necessary. Not just surface relationships, but deep/meaningful relationships. It means talking to people and getting to know who they are. Creating lifelong bonds with your stakeholders, friends, team and international partners, and really getting to know them.

Working together on common goals and objectives, creating diverse teams, and caring for each other is how you get things done. The ability to write technical documents with precision and in a way that is easy to understand is also important, as well as the ability to verbally convey the information in a concise and convincing way.

Do you have a mantra that you follow?

“I am pure light.” It sounds intense, but for some reason, it speaks to me and I believe it’s true for everybody.

What is something you do for yourself every day?

I spend time with my kids, cuddling them and giving them hundreds of kisses. They like it, and I like it. I think it’s mutually beneficial, and it fills my heart with joy. I also love nature, so anything relating to that: taking walks in the forest, caring for my plants/garden, foraging for herbs and berries and drying them for teas. I also like reading astrophysics papers.

Is there a food you can’t resist?

Coffee. That’s probably where my perpetually positive predisposition and constant laughter come from.

What are you grateful for?

I’ve been lucky to find people who supported and empowered me in my times of need when I didn’t believe in myself and I didn’t think I could do it, from old profs to colleagues to friends to family. Having all of those people around me continuously is one of the main reasons I’m where I am today. And that’s why I give some of my time outside of work and my family obligations to the international, national and local community. I want to pay it forward because even though you may work very hard and be very good at what you do, you always need people around you to achieve anything.

About the Distinguished Alumni Awards

The UVic Distinguished Alumni Awards celebrate the remarkable achievements of UVic graduates.

Nominations for the 2024 awards are open now through Oct. 13, 2023.