Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Video Game provides opportunity for research on impactors

In his inaugural post, PVL Summer Undergraduate Michael Tabascio takes a look at a most unusual crater that appears in popular culture, on the map of the game "fortnite" as pictured above. As frequent readers of this space will appreciate, I think it's absolutely critical to bring the public along for the ride that is planetary exploration. As such, depictions of planetary processes like these offer a unique opportunity to connect our work with that public experience and to deepen the appreciation of both perspectives.

By Michael Tabascio

Fortnite is a hunger games style third person shooter has taken the world by storm, with the objective to be the last one alive by eliminating your opponents. It can be said with great assurance that Fortnite is the biggest game of the year, with the map evolving every couple months. Perhaps the most notable change came in May, when the map was struck by a meteor leaving a gigantic crater in the middle of the map. Using the dimensions of the crater, the direction and angle of the meteor, as well as the material of both the meteor and the ground beneath it, we can estimate what the size of the meteor was that hit the map.

Attending the 2018 CASI Conference

As you can see from the image above, Quebec City is truly a whimsical place. PhD student Jake reflects on his experiences in this eastern town while attending the CASI Conference in May.

By Jake Kloos

From May 15th to 17th of this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute (CASI) conference held in Quebec City, Quebec. A few other members of our lab also attended (Paul Godin, Alex Seguin, and John Moores), as did a number of other students in the Earth and Space Sciences department at York. As several attendees pointed out when I spoke with them, York University made up a sizeable contingent of the conference.

This was my second time attending CASI (the first time being in 2016), and my 7th conference overall during my tenure at York. Generally speaking, I enjoy attending conferences, and CASI this year was no exception. I enjoy travelling to new places and hearing about the latest research in aerospace and planetary science. And with each conference I attend, I feel a bit more comfortable standing in front of a crowd and presenting my own work and better able to scrutinize the work of others (as is healthy, and even necessary in science).  

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Summer Conference Season – Round 2: TEPS!

A number of members of PVL just completed a trip to Vancouver, British Columbia to attend the annual TEPS Summer Skills Series, organized by Catherine Neish and Christa Van Laerhoven. My trainees tell me they did a wonderful job and reported a very intellectually exciting and collaborative time out west. I asked Alex (4th from right in the first row) to weigh in on his experiences at the conference.

By Alex Séguin

On May 29th, 2018, seven members of PVL participated in the NSERC CREATE Technology for Exoplanetary Science(TEPS) Summer Skills Conference at the University of British Columbia. The workshop brings together young researchers involved in planetary science, exoplanetary science, and space instrumentation to encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations and to expose students of one field to two other complementary ones. Spanning the course of three days, the event offered us six keynote speakers and gave TEPS trainees an opportunity to present their latest research and receive feedback from their peers. This summer, PVL’s presence consisted of Paul (PDF), Christina (PDF), Jake (PhD), Giang (PhD), Charissa (MSc), Brittney (MSc), and myself, Alex (UG).   

As students preparing ourselves to pursue a career in the space sector, it is always encouraging and helpful to observe established individuals already successful in the field. Such were TEPS’ keynote speakers, who not only showed us the type of work they perform, but also shared some useful tips on how to find our place in the industry. The first presenter was Dr. Jani Radebaugh (Brigham Young University) who discussed the significance of using Earth as a planetary analog and common pitfalls when doing so. She used geomorphological features found within the Solar System as examples; Sometimes, features are comparable while other times they only share a similar cosmetic appearance. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Summer Conference Season

Judging by this photo I took in High Park a few weeks ago it would seem that spring has sprung here in Toronto. That can only mean that it is conference season! Paul has agreed tell you all about a few summer conferences we are supporting here at PVL.

by Dr. Paul Godin

Summer is typically considered a productive time for research on university campuses. With courses typically done, professors and students have more time to dedicate towards research. PVL has the addition of 3 undergrads working in the lab full time for the summer (plus one undergraduate volunteer). 

But it’s not just research that gets a boost during the summer months. Academic conferences to present our research are also more frequent in the summer. Attending conferences is a valuable part of academic life; it provides an opportunity to present your research and develop public speaking skills. But that’s not all: even if you’re not presenting your research conferences are a great opportunity to meet others working in your field, share ideas to help improve your research, and even discover employment opportunities.

Monday, April 9, 2018

“I’m not a student... not yet a professor”: but what actually IS a post-doc?

Usually I go with Grey's Anatomy references to explain academic ranks, hence the photo above, showing the season 1 cast. An intern (in Canada a 1st year resident - light blue above) is a bit like a PhD student just embarking on their research career, a resident is like a postdoc (light blue + lab coat) working with significant autonomy, each of whom works under an attending physician (dark blue above) who in turn takes their cues from the department chair (dark blue + lab coat). Here Christina takes a different tack.

By Dr. Christina Smith

Bonus points for anyone who gets the early 2000s song reference in the title there.

So this is a question I come across quite often – and I know other post-docs do too. When asked what I do for a living, I’ll often start with “I’m a researcher” for simplicity, but in reality I’m a “post-doctoral fellow” or even more confusingly, a “post-doctoral visitor”. There are a number of other names for people who do similar jobs to me, but they all tend to have the same word (or hyphenated word, but let’s not get onto the postdoctoral vs post-doctoral debate) at the beginning of the title, so often we just call ourselves “post-docs”.

But that doesn’t really answer the question: what is a post-doc?

Friday, March 30, 2018

2000 Sols on Mars: What Goes Into Documenting Another World?

The second in our two-part series on Curiosity's 2000th Sol on Mars. In this article Brittney takes a look at the public reaction to the day and reflects on choosing that perfect image to commemorate the occasion, in this case from an observation she herself designed, planned and ran on Mars! What goes into producing that top line image? Read on to find out. You can read the first article, written by Charissa Campbell and talking about operations, by clicking on this link.

By Brittney Cooper

Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), better known as Curiosity Rover, celebrated its historic 2000th sol on Mars last week. 2000 Martian days equates to roughly 3 Martian years, which has allowed the rover a great deal of time to traverse Gale Crater. Along the way, the science team has used MSL to analyze Mars’ geology, all the while monitoring the atmosphere and its processes as the seasons change each year.
To celebrate this historic occasion, the BBC published an article featuring a collection of images captured by the rover throughout its journey. It turned out that a triptych of images taken as part of an observation I proposed were selected to be included in the article. It was really cool to see them alongside others in such a large outlet. An unexpected (but positive) result of those images being published came in the form of discussions with friends and family about what my actual role was in the capture of those images.

Sol 2000: A day in the life of a Martian Explorer

This week we've got a double bill here at PVL. In dueling articles, two of our Mars Science Laboratory Collaborators, Brittney Cooper (at left in the image above) and Charissa Campbell (at center) reflect on Curiosity's 2000th martian day (or sol) on Mars. The third person pictured above is Christina Smith, PVL Postdoctoral fellow and fellow MSL Collaborator and ESTLK. Charissa kicks us off with a description of the day and is followed up by Brittney's article about how that beautiful image in the newspaper gets produced.

by Charissa Campbell

As of March 22, Curiosity celebrated her 2000th day on Mars. I was lucky enough to be on operations during this monumental moment as some members of our research group are a part of the Environmental (ENV) Science Theme Group (STG) for Curiosity. This STG is responsible for the environmental side of operations, which includes advocating and planning observations beneficial to our research such as atmospheric movies. The official name for our role is the Environmental Science Theme Lead and Keeper of the Plan, or in a much manageable form, ESTLK.