Graduate Student Committee


A bit about CASCA and the GSC

Canadian Astronomical Society

The Canadian Astronomical Society was founded in 1971 and incorporated in 1983 as a society of professional astronomers. The society is devoted to the promotion and advancement of knowledge of the universe through research and education. Membership is open to persons with a professional involvement with these goals in astronomy and the related sciences. The main activities of the Society are its annual scientific meetings, the planning and realization of scientific projects, the support of the scientific activities of its members, and the dissemination of related information among members and other interested persons.

Graduate Student Committee

The Graduate Student Committee, or GSC, was formed in 1998. It’s mandate is to reflect the views of, and address issues important to, graduate students across Canada. The GSC consists of representatives of each institution in Canada which has a graduate program in astronomy and chooses to participate as well as an elected committee Chair and Secretary. The job of the Chair is to represent the views and concerns of the committee to the CASCA Board of Directors, while the Secretary records minutes and ensures proper documentation of the GSC’s activities.

Taken from CASCA website

Our Activities

Since February 2020, the GSC had chosen one graduate student a month.

We highlight their work in approximately 300 words and one image on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: handle casca_gsc).

Additionally, we post their profile on our website dedicated to their achievements: Graduate Student Highlights.

Jessica Campbell; September 2020

Jessica’s research focuses on the multiphase nature of our Galaxy’s magnetic field and how it connects between different phases of the interstellar medium (ISM). Whether it is the turbulent warm ionized medium (WIM) that fills much of the Galaxy or the cold neutral medium (CNM) often found in sheets and filaments, this complex ISM is permeated with high energy cosmic rays and magnetic fields.

Fig. 1 - September 2020 Gradaute Highlightee Jessica Campbell's work on galactic magnetic fields This figure shows a region that she calls S1-C where the local magnetic field appears to be coupled between the diffuse WIM and clumpy CNM, soon to appear in ApJ. The red image shows the spatial gradient of the synchrotron polarization vector, also called the polarization gradient, which identifies abrupt changes in the thermal electron density and/or line-of-sight magnetic field strength within the WIM.

The goal of these quarterly seminars is to highlight the opportunities provided to Canadian graduate students by the many and diverse astronomical observatories located in Canada or heavily involved in Canadian astronomy. During each session, an observatory will present its telescopes, instruments, and personnel.

Since the goal is to bolster graduate student involvement at these institutions, the observatories will focus on how graduate students can implicate themselves in the observatory through research projects and/or observation time proposals.

You can find more information here: CAnadian Telescope Seminars

# Date Observatory
1 03/10/2021 Canada-France-Hawai'i Telescope (CFHT)
2 04/28/2021 James Clark Maxwell Telescope (JCMT)
3 05/19/2021 Square Kilometer Array (SKA)
3 06/16/2021 Cosmological Advanced Survey Telescope for Optical and ultraviolet Research (CASTOR)
4 Mid-July Gemini Observatory
The GSC has obtained a standing monthly invitation to present at the CASCA CANVAS talks. After discussions with the organizers, we have agreed that the GSC will offer either one student an hour-long talk (including questions) or two students a 30-minute talk each (including questions). Several graduate students have already presented!

You can find more information at the CANVAS website.

Take a look at the CANVAS presentation by Myriam Prasow-Émond!

At the 2019 CASCA AGM, a motion was passed to recommend that departments adhere to a coordinated deadline for acceptance of the first round of graduate school offers (no earlier than February 28). You can find the official recommendation on the GSC’s website.

Having a synchronized deadline to respond to the first round offers to graduate schools enables new graduate students to make the most informed decisions concerning their career choice. However, being only a recommendation, it is the choice of the individual departments whether they adopt this approach. The support of the graduate student body (represented by the GSC) was key to CASCA being able to make this recommendation. Likewise, the ongoing support from students will be critical in its successful implementation.

In order to address the ongoing pandemic, the GSC decided to hold a town hall in July for all graduate student members of CASCA. During this hour-long event, we discussed ways graduate students could help themselves, each other, and ask for help from supervisors.

The GSC took place in Movember -- an organization/drive to support men’s mental health. In addition to running an hour-long event on the subject, we had a team that secured nearly $1000 in donations.

This is an informal opportunity to bring graduate students from around the country together to have a coffee, discuss research, pets, or whatever! The goal is to give graduate students a way to socialize with their peers in a relaxed setting. Faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, research associates, and friends/family are more than welcome to attend these events.

Every year, the GSC hosts the Graduate Student Workshop at the CASCA Annual General Meeting. This year we will be virtually hosting a day full of events! We will kick the day off with a seminar on mental health in the ongoing COVID-19 crisis among graduate students. After a business meeting, we will take part in an industry round table on how astronomy graduate students can transition from academia. After a short break, we will host a 5 à 7!



Carter Rhea

I am a first year PhD student under the supervision of Dr. Julie Hlavacek-Larrondo at l'Université de Montréal. I develop numerical tools to study galaxies and galaxy clusters.


Kenny Van

I'm a fourth year PhD student working at the University of Alberta under professor Natalia Ivanova. My research focuses on using stellar simulation to study the effects of magnetic braking in neutron star low-mass X-ray binaries.


Viraja Khatu

I am a fourth year PhD student at The University of Western Ontario working with Prof. Sarah Gallagher. I am passionate about research in Astronomy, and my work focusses on studying winds in supermassive black holes. I enjoy engaging in STEM outreach and communication, travelling, and performing arts, and am always ready for networking!

I'm a PhD student at the University of Calgary studying carbon chain chemistry in high mass star forming regions with Dr. René Plume. My interests in space and equity brought me to the CASCA GSC. In my attempts to find balance I enjoy running, baking, and being in the mountains.


Martine Lokken

I'm a 3rd year PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. My research focuses on using Cosmic Web structure to test cosmological models. I'm the graduate student representative on the CASCA Sustainability Committee, where I've recently focused on bringing awareness to the intersections between race and the environment.

Saint Mary's University University of Moncton
McGill University Bishop's University
l'Université de Montréal Université Laval
University of Toronto Queen's University
York University University of Waterloo
McMaster University University of Western Ontario
University of Manitoba University of Alberta
University of Calgary University of British Columbia
University of Victoria

Feel free to reach out to us via our social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter: handle casca_gsc).

You can find us on our website: CASCA GSC

You can also email us at cascagsc@gmail.com!