News Archives for 2011-12

April, 2012

Martin Houde named co-PI on SOFIA science mission


Prof. Martin Houde is a key collaborator on the HAWCpol polarimeter of SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy).

The polarimeter is being used along with the HAWC (High-Resolution Airborne Wideband Camera) device,.

Martin is the only Canadian on the science team.

April, 2012

Shantanu Basumodel of brown dwarf formationDr. Eduard Vorobyov

Dr. Shantanu Basu (left) and Dr. Eduard Vorobyov (right, of the University of Vienna, Austria) have published what could be a groundbreaking paper on the origin and evolution brown dwarfs in the universe.

The paper appears in the 1 May 2012 issue of The Astrophysical Journal, Vol. 750, p. 30, and can be accessed directly at

[Physics and Astronomy Press Release, Western News article]

April, 2012

Theoretical Physics Workshop

A Theoretical Physics Workshop was held on Friday, April 13, 2012. Topics discussed included Gravitation, Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Condensed Matter Theory.

March, 2012

Physics and Astronomy at The Research Showcase 2012

The Faculties of Engineering, Science and the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University  have organized the Western Research Showcase providing an opportunity for partnerships and networking between industry and university researchers. This year, the showcase has encompassed more than 45 research displays within the Great Hall from Western's Research groups  with most involvement in research partnerships with industry and technological transfer.  Prof. Blaine Chronik and Prof. Giovanni Fanchini participated for our Department.

[More images]

March, 2012

Dr. Paul Wiegert giving the inaugural Science Here and Now lecture

Astronomer Dr. Paul Wiegert gave the first public lecture of the new "Science Here and Now" series held at the London Public Library.

Scientists are excited to be given the opportunity to share their research and ideas with the community in this format.

[More images]

March, 2012

Physics Undergraduate Conference 2012 participants.

The annual Physics Undergraduate Conference (PHUNC) was held on Saturday, March 24, 2012.

March, 2012

March 2012 Open House

The annual spring Open House for prospective students and their families was held on Saturday, March 10, 2012.

Shown in the image above are, (left to right) Dean of Science  Charmaine Dean, Mark Baker, Elizabeth Gray, Cameron Hopkins, and Assistant Dean of Diversity and Outreach  Carol Jones.

Our other intrepid student volunteers were  Gabe Keenleyside, Dina Tsarapkina, Laura Lenkic, Mathew Abado, Michelle Lord, Melanie Wright, Dilini Subasinghe.

The display was prepared in meticulous fashion once again by staff member Peter Frank.

Faculty members who made this a success were Kanthi Kaluarachchi, Pauline Barmby, Eugene Wong, Department Chair Shantanu Basu, Jeff  Hutter, Giovanni
Fanchini, and Dick Holt.

[More images]

March, 2012

Giovanni Fanchini

Dr. Giovanni Fanchini has been named an associate editor of a new physics journal "Dataset Papers in Optics".

March, 2012

Jan Cami

Dr. Jan Cami has been honored by being named a Faculty Scholar.

The objective of the Faculty Scholar award is, "To honor and celebrate outstanding scholarly achievements at a critical point in the career of a Faculty Member at Western". "This award recognizes outstanding contributions in research, teaching or service reflecting sustained excellence in all scholarly activities."

Not only is Jan acknowledged as a enthusiastic, inspirational lecturer, he has in addition been involved in some outstanding international research collaborations over the past several years. He may be best known for his discovery of Fullerene molecules (Bucky Balls) in space in 2010, but just recently he was on an international team which made the discovery of carbon monoxide molecules in supernova remnant Cassiopeia A.

March, 2012

FallsDr. Carol Jones

Carol Jones and PhD candidate Robbie Halonen attended the "Circumstellar Dynamics at High Resolution" conference in Fox do Iguacu, Brazil, from Feb. 27 to Mar. 2, 2012.

Carol gave a presentation titled "Circumstellar Disk Models: unraveling the mysteries of Be star disks", while Robbie's presentation was titled "Probing the Circumstellar Disk Structure of Classical Be Stars with Polarimetry".

February, 2012

Jan Cami

Jan Cami visited the SETI INSTITUTE on Feb. 24th and gave a presentation titled 'Space Buckyballs'.

A conveniently split screen Youtube video of this talk is available at both the Seti Weekly Lecture page , and on the Western Physics and Astronomy media archives page.

February, 2012

Eric Barbagiovanni, AIP

A new paper by graduate student Eric Barbagiovanni has made the prestigious "Research Highlights" list of the Journal of Applied Physics.

The paper is titled "Quantum confinement in Si and Ge nanostructures", by E. G. Barbagiovanni, D. J. Lockwood, P. J. Simpson, and L. V. Goncharova.

February, 2012

Peter FrankPeter Frank

Peter Frank  (at right sitting with Dr. Kanthi Kaluarachchi, who was Peter's primary nominator) was one of seven recipients of the Western Award of Excellence. This is the top honour that can be bestowed on a staff member at Western. A luncheon and presentation ceremony for the honorees was held on Thursday, Feb. 16 in the Great Hall. [See images].

[see full announcement in Western News]
(Left photo by Paul Mayne, Western News)

February, 2012

Jan CamiScience team finds carbon monoxide in supernova remnant Cassiopeia A

Prof. Jan Cami and science team led by Dr. Jeonghee Rho have used the Japanese infrared space telescope AKARI to identify carbon monoxide in the most unlikely of places, that being within 10 million degree gas in a region of supernova remnant Cassiopeia A. [press release]

February, 2012

Peter Simpson

Prof. Peter Simpson will assume the role of Associate Vice-Provost for the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS) on July 1, 2012.

Peter will have primary responsibility for graduate programs in the Faculties of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and Dentistry, as well as for postdoctoral scholars.

January, 2012

Dr. Els Peeters

Astronomer Dr. Els Peeters has been promoted to the rank of Associate Professor, effective July 1, 2012.

Dec., 2011

A fireball was spotted via Western's ASGARD camera network on the evening of Monday, December 12, 2011. The meteor was large enough to possibly have left fragments on the ground. The strewn field is in the area north east of Selwyn, Ontario. [press release]

Dec., 2011

Undergraduate award recipients for November, 2011:

Leesa Fleury
      Laurene Paterson Estate Scholarships
      John Gordon McIntosh Scholarship for second year Physics
Joshua Hainge
      Laurene Paterson Estate Scholarships
Cameron Hopkins
     Rogers Family Award in Science
Jongho Jung
      Andrew and Sarah Hamilton Scholarships
      Allan E. Boone Scholarship
Dawn Mackay
     Rogers Family Award in Science
Rafael Schulman
    Robert and Ruth Lumsden Scholarship in Science
    John Gordon McIntosh Scholarship for third year Physics
Saied Sorkhou
     Andrew and Sarah Hamilton Scholarships
     Mervin Wass Scholarship
Matthew Holden
    The Albert O. Jeffery Scholarship, No. 4

Dec., 2011

Rachel Zimmerman Brachman

Former Western MSc student in astronomy Rachel Zimmerman Brachman is the recipient of the 2011 Visionary Award presented by The Women in Film and Television Showcase Foundation. Rachel is presently with NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory working as the Solar System and Technology Education and Public Outreach Specialist.
[London Free Press article][Youth Science Canada article]

Dec., 2011

Leonard C. Feldman(left) and Lyudmila Goncharova

Dr. Leonard C. Feldman of Rutgers University (shown above at left, along with host Dr. Lyudmila Goncharova), presented the 2011 Elizabeth Laird Memorial Lecture.

The title of Dr. Feldman's talk was "The Materials Revolution". Dr. Feldman gave the audience a wonderful overview of modern materials physics and engineering within the realm of our everyday world, including medicine, computing, energy, and electronic gadgets. He also presented a possible road map to the future, where the inevitable end of our present 'Sillicon Age' will need a successor if we are to continue our technology revolution. Will we soon enter the 'Graphene Age'?

The Elizabeth Laird Memorial Lecture is hosted by The Department of Physics and Astronomy.

[more images]

Dec., 2011

John Moores

Western researcher Dr. John Moores has been selected to be part of the science team for NASA's Mars Curiosity rover mission.

[Western News article]

Nov., 2011

PASA soccer team 2011

The Undergraduate Physics and Astronomy Association soccer team made it to the quarter finals. [more images]

Nov., 2011

Abedin Abedin

Graduate PhD student Abedin Abedin is the recipient of a Trillium Scholarship. Abedin is doing his research with Professors Peter Brown and Paul Wiegert.

Details of this scholarship are as follows:

"The Ontario Trillium Scholarship (OTS) program has been launched by the Ontario government as part of its initiative to attract top international students to Ontario universities for PhD studies. Because of the recruitment nature of the program, eligible candidates must be international students entering full-time doctoral studies at Western.

Trillium scholars are nominated by their graduate program due to their scholarly achievements and strong research potential.

To be eligible, a candidate must have a first-class average, 80% or higher as calculated at time of admission to Western."

Nov., 2011

Professor Bob Sica

The Purple Crow Lidar observatory (Prof. Bob Sica, centre in photo),  was involved in the Environmental Science Western Field Station open house on Saturday, November 12, 2011.

The late fall weather was ideal, and almost 300 people attended over the course of the evening. [images].

Nov., 2011

The Purple Crow Lidar observatory was featured on The Weather Network on November 13, 2011.

Nov., 2011

Professor Bob Sica

Prof. Bob Sica was interviewed on CBC radio's Ontario Morning regarding the Purple Crow Lidar observatory.

Nov., 2011

We congratulate our fall graduates:


MSc in Astronomy

  • Ahmed, Ahmed
  • Hamed, Gamal Edin
  • Shiu, Ho Lai Horace

 PhD in Astronomy

  • Wolfgang Dapp

MSc in Physics

  • Boudreau, Mathieu
  • Couch, Marcus John
  • Khanna, Jaya

PhD in Physics

  • Dehghan, Armin
  • Hudson, Stephen Donald
  • Russell, Albert Thurston
  • Yang, Nan


Oct., 2011

TA Award winners for 2010-11

Our Teaching Assistant Award winners for 2010-11 are, from left to right, Joel Cox, Dilini Subasinghe, Chris Racknor, and Daniel Schindel.  [...more images]

Sept., 2011

Dr. Reto Musci

Dr. Reto Musci has won the award for Best Poster from the Faculty of Science at Western's annual Postdoctoral Research Symposium.

The title of his poster was 'An Optical Survey for Interstellar Meteors'.  [PDF poster]

Sept., 2011

Professor Sarah GallagherKonstantin Fedotov

Professor Sarah Gallagher (left) was one of the lead investigators in a study of compact galaxy group HCG 7. A compact group is a dense neighbourhood where a handful of galaxies are found within a few galaxy radii of each other.

Along with PhD candidate Konstantin Fedotov (right), Dr. Gallagher co-authored a recent paper on the unusual evolution of some of the individual members of HCG 7. The Hubble Space Telescope provided the highest resolution images taken of HCG 7 to date. Further studies of the compact group were then done at a variety of wavelengths and with several instruments, including the Chandra X-ray Space Observatory. There is still much to be learned about how galaxies evolve when in close proximity to neighbouring galaxies.

[ESA/Hubble/NASA release] [paper abstract]

Sept., 2011

The Department of Physics and Astronomy Fall Reception, 2011

The new academic year was  launched with a departmental reception, which was held at Spencer Lodge. [more images]

Sept., 2011

Western launches lunar analogue mission in the Canadian arctic

Planetary Scientists, led by Dr. Gordon Osinski, launch an analogue lunar mission in the Canadian arctic.

Aug., 2011

Matthew Quinn one of six Vanier Prize winnersPhd/MD candidate and recent Physics and Astronomy graduate Matthew Quinn is one of six Western students to claim the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

Matthew is working on an MD/PhD in medical biophysics with Dr. Ravi Menon at Robarts Research Institute.

[Western News]

Aug., 2011

Summer NSERC research winners

Twelve summer NSERC research position winners have been working in the department this year.

July, 2011

Dr. Martin Connors Dr. Martin Connors Dr. Christian Veillet

    Martin Connors                 Paul Wiegert                     Christian Veillet

Western astronomer Dr. Paul Wiegert was part of a Canadian team which has discovered the first Trojan asteroid of planet Earth, named asteroid 2010 TK7.

Principal author Dr. Martin Connors, of Athabaska University, is a former Londoner and graduate of the Astronomy program at Western, and Dr. Christian Veillet is the executive director of the Canada France Hawaii Telescope.

[Further information:  Nature Magazine, Western Physics and Astronomy discovery page, Asteroid 2010 TK7orbital simulation, Martin Connors, Paul Wiegert, Christian Veillet, CBC News Science and Technology, NASA WISE, Western News, Discover Magazine ]

July, 2011

Dr. Kanthi KaluarachchiThe Department of Physics and Astronomy is pleased to announce that Dr. Kanthi Kaluarachchi has been appointed as "International Education Coordinator".

Dr. Kaluarachchi serves a two year term in this new portfolio starting July 1, 2011.

Department Chair Dr. Shantanu Basu stated,

"This new position fills an important need that is generated by the internationalization of our department and the university, and the larger trend of globalized education. Important functions in this portfolio are international graduate student support services, building educational partnerships with international universities, developing exchange programs, and international undergraduate and graduate student recruitment.

Kanthi is ideally suited to this position, having first arrived in Canada from her native Sri Lanka as an international student. As the faculty member in charge of our first year laboratories, she also has extensive interaction with our teaching assistants, and understands the unique challenges faced by our international students. I am confident that she will develop the support services and international partnerships that can take this Department to new heights."

[Dr. Kaluarachchi's web page]

July, 2011

Dr. Paul WiegertAmanda PapadimosAsteroid Pandabear (263251) orbit

One of the asteroids discovered at Mauna Kea by Professor Paul Wiegert (left), and then graduate student Amanda Papadimos (centre), has been given the official moniker of asteroid Pandabear.

The official wording reads,

"Discovered 2008 Jan. 6 by P. A. Wiegert and A. Papadimos at Mauna Kea.
The Giant Panda is an endangered species and is a favourite animal to many.
This is to honour this cute and wonderful animal and should the giant panda ever
become extinct then at least one will still exist in our solar system."

[JPL Small-Body Database record for asteroid 263251 (Pandabear)]

June, 2011

Potluck, June 2011

The second Physics & Astronomy international potluck luncheon was held on June 24, 2011.  A wide variety of delicious international foods were enjoyed by a large group of hungry participants.
The event was organized by Dr. Kanthi KaluarachchiShailesh Nene and Peter Frank.

[More photos]

June, 2011

Dr. Jan CamiFlames of Betelgeuse

Professor Jan Cami and collaborators have obtained the highest resolution infrared images of the brilliant red supergiant star Betelgeuse to date.

The images of the complex nebular structure were taken with the VISIR infrared instrument on the VLT in Chile.

[European Southern Observatory press release]

June, 2011

Dr. Jan CamiDr. Els PeetersPAH

Professors Jan Cami (left) and Els Peeters (right) are part of a team that has won a NASA Group Achievement Award. The award is for creating the NASA Ames PAH (Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons) database. Jan Cami created the prototype of this database in 2005 when both were working at NASA, and this has now become the largest database of PAH spectroscopic properties.

June, 2011

Faranak SharifiFaranak Sharifi has won top prize for oral presentations in the Division of Condensed Matter and Materials Physics at the annual meeting of the Canadian Association of Physicists.

June, 2011

Undergraduate convocation, Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spring convocation ceremonies for science undergraduates was held on Thursday, June 16, 2011.

[more images]

Spring, 2011 Award Winners

(see also our Undergraduate Awards archives page.)

[photos from awards ceremony]

Nathan Armstrong Nathan Armstrong Raymond Compton Dearle Gold Medal in Physics.
Donald R. Hay Prize.
NSERC graduate scholarship.
Arvand Barghi Arvand Barghi Western Gold Medal, Honors Specialization in Medical Physics.
Allison Hill Allison Hill Maude Holt Kingston Gold Medal, Honors Specialization in Astrophysics.
Erin Kennedy Erin Kennedy Western Gold Medal, Honors Specialization in Science and Education.
Spencer Martin Spencer Martin Strik-Couprie-Inch Cancer Research Course Medal and Prize.


June, 2011

Postgraduate convocation, Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Spring convocation ceremonies for science postgraduates was held on Wednesday, June 15, 2011.

[more images]

May, 2011

Leesa Fleury in Giovanni Fanchini's nanotechnology lab

Summer student Leesa Fleury in Dr. Giovanni Fanchini's nanomaterials laboratory. With the first phase of the renovations to the Physics and Astronomy Building more-or-less complete, several faculty have moved into new, state-of-the-art research labs. The new labs of condensed matter researchers John de Bruyn and Giovanni Fanchini are fully operational, while Peter Simpson and Lyudmilla Goncharova are slowly moving in.

May, 2011

Local Organizing Chair Dr. Martin Houde at CASCA dinner

The Department of Physics and Astronomy hosted the annual meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) from May30-June 2, 2011.

It was a great success with total of over 250 participants.  It was an event filled week, including plenary and invited talks, as well as a large contribution of poster papers.

The week also included a reception for Alumni of Physics and Astronomy at Western.  After the reception, Dimitar Sasselov gave the Helen Sawyer-Hogg public lecture at the London Public Libary. His presentation was titled "Finding Sister Earth".

To finish the week, an ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/Sub-millimetre Array) workshop was held on Friday, June 3.

[more images] [2011 CASCA meeting web site] [ CASCA web site]

May, 2011

David Gray and Michel Debruyne attended the departmental reunion

A Physics and Astronomy alumni reception was held at the Hilton, London, on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, as part of the activities surrounding the annual CASCA (Canadian Astronomical Society) meeting.

[more images]

May, 2011

Peter Brown and Bill Cooke - Watching the heavens to keep NASA flights safer

The space shuttle Endeavour blasted off as possibly the second last shuttle ever to fly, at 9:56 am, on Monday May 16, 2011.

Dr. Peter Brown (on the left in photo, shown with Dr. Bill Cooke) and the Meteor Physics group was there to insure that meteoroids would not pose a larger risk to the flight.

Peter Brown's infrasound equipment can also detect the passing of the launch shock waves after the event.

[Western News] [London Free Press]

May, 2011

SLOME 2011

The Department of Physics and Astronomy has earned the 2011 SLOME Trophy for the quality of their exhibit.

Volunteers were students Melanie Wright, Mat Abado, Mat DaSilva, Maria Goiko, Corey Rae McRae, Cam Hopkins, Justin Bandoro, and Pat Cookson. They were assisted by tireless staff member Peter Frank.

SLOME is an independent not-for-profit project of the  Elgin, Middlesex, Oxford Local Training Boardwhich partners youth, education and business.

[More photos] [SLOME News] [video at London Free Press]

May, 2011

Dr. Silvia Mittler

The University's Senate recently elected Dr. Silvia Mittler to the University Research Board for a three-year term, effective 1st July 2011. The Board is responsible for, among other things, SUPAD (sub-committee on Academic Priorities and Development) and UCRE (University Council on Research Ethics involving Humans).

Congratulations Silvia!