This year, three new students are joining PVL at the MSc level through the Physics and Astronomy Graduate Program. Though neither of them worked with the lab in their undergraduate years (and, indeed, come from three different universities) we've already started getting to know them and they us; Grace, Justin and Conor have been able to dial in to our lab meetings over the course of the summer once they moved online due to the pandemic. I know that everyone in the lab is excited to have them join us in an official capacity. They're also keen to introduce themselves to you, dear reader, and wanted to share their experience and hopes for the next couple of years.
Written by Grace Bischof, Conor Hayes and Justin Kerr
Organized by Conor Hayes
Grace Bischof (center in image above) Hi! My name is Grace Bischof and I’m extremely excited to be joining the PVL group as a first year Master’s student this fall. I started my academic career at Western University in London, Ontario and earned my B.S. in physics. I had the privilege of being taught by amazing, passionate physics and astronomy professors who inspired a love for physics (even when it was challenging). I’m very grateful for the experience I had as an undergraduate student in Physics at Western.
During my undergrad, I participated in research in the area of microfluidics. We designed and tested a T-junction microfluidic device to produce micron-sized beads of human decellularized adipose tissue to be used as a 3-dimensional cell culture method. While I enjoyed the research I participated in, medical physics was not the area of physics that truly interested me.
Like many who do space research, I’ve been captivated with space since I was a kid. When I applied for Master’s programs, I knew that I wanted to do research beyond Earth and was so thrilled to be accepted into this group. In the PVL group, I am going to be involved with the Martian Atmospheric Gas Evolution (MAGE) project. In the lab, we will test an enhanced spectrometer that will (hopefully!) eventually be deployed to Mars to gain a better understanding of the planet’s methane cycle.
I’m looking forward to the next couple of years at York with the PVL group!
Conor Hayes (left in image above) My name is Conor Hayes and I am joining PVL this year as a new Physics and Astronomy M.Sc. student. I received my B.S. in Astronomy and Astrophysics from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. My research there, through the Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, was focused primarily on conducting a spectroscopic analysis of five ultra-diffuse galaxy candidates in low-density environments.
My work at PVL will be much closer to home, looking at ices in the permanently shadowed regions (PSRs) of the Moon. PSRs are notable because, as their name implies, they receive very little light from the Sun or other sources, which allows them to protect volatiles like water ice against sublimation on geological timescales. Consequently, PSRs can act as a record of the history of volatiles in the solar system in addition to serving as a potential source of important resources for long-term human inhabitation of other celestial bodies.
When I applied for York’s Physics and Astronomy graduate program, my intent had been to complete the M.Sc. by Coursework degree. However, when I was contacted about the possibility of joining PVL, that plan changed quickly. Although I’ve not yet had substantial experience in planetary science (as it was not an area of much focus in the Department of Astronomy at Ohio State), the study of planets, particularly those closest to home, has held my fascination for quite some time. Consequently, I had to jump on this opportunity when it arose.
Justin Kerr (right in image above) Hi everyone, my name is Justin Kerr and I am a new M.Sc. student with the PVL through York’s Physics and Astronomy program. I am no stranger to York University, as I did my undergrad in Physics and Astronomy here as well. My previous research during that degree primarily consisted of particle physics, with my main project involving searching for magnetic monopoles using the Large Hadron Collider with the ATLAS collaboration. I also hold a BA in History which I completed before returning to university to study physics; my primary areas of interest at the time were Viking Age Scandinavia and medieval Europe. I am now looking forward to bringing my varied experience to the PVL for work in planetary physics.
My work at the PVL will consist of two projects. The first will involve joining the team in the development and testing of the Mars Atmospheric Panoramic camera and Laser Experiment (MAPLE). This project aims to use low-power lasers and a small panoramic camera system to detect small dust and ice particles near the Martian surface. I will also be working on modelling exoplanet atmospheres to determine the size of their “geocorona” (a term normally used to refer to the bubble of hydrogen in the outermost part of Earth’s atmosphere, extending past the orbit of the moon). It is expected that exoplanets possessing water would have an exosphere equivalent to Earth’s geocorona, but we do not yet know whether the size of it is affected by the presence of life. The goal of the project will be to determine what features of these exoplanet “geocoronas” future telescopes should look for as a biosignature when hunting for life-bearing exoplanets. I can’t wait to get started on these two exciting projects with the PVL, and look forward to telling you more about them over my time here.