Where are they now after their time at iREx?
- Virginie Soffer
Portrait of two scientists who worked at the Institute for Research on Exoplanets
The Institute for Research on Exoplanets brings together some 40 professors, researchers and interns from UdeM and McGill.
What became of these people after their time at iREx? Meet two of them: Myriam Prasow-Émond and Jonathan Gagné.
After earning a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. in physics with a major in astrophysics from the Université de Montréal, Myriam Prasow-Émond was awarded a prestigious doctoral fellowship from Imperial College London.
During her time at iREx, she searched for exoplanets in extreme environments such as black holes, working with data from the Keck telescope.
She is currently a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant at Imperial College London, in the Department of Earth Science and Engineering. Her Ph.D. project is aligned with the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and the Environment. “I left astrophysics not for lack of passion, but rather because I wanted to do my part, social and scientific, to tackle climate change. My Ph.D. project combines machine learning and satellite data to help small island nations combat climate change. Since I’m now working with satellite data, I notice a lot of similarities with telescope data, but I also like to say that we’re ‘turning the instruments’ toward Earth.”
Jonathan Gagné earned a B.Sc. and a Ph.D. in physics with a major in astrophysics from the Université de Montréal. For his thesis he was awarded the Plaskett Medal from the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC). In 2018, he was a Banting Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Research on Exoplanets at the Université de Montréal. While there, he worked on brown dwarfs, exoplanets and young stars in the neighbourhood of the sun, as well as “wandering planets,” those planets that are isolated in space and not orbiting a star. “I find it fascinating to be able to discover these new objects and observe how the universe works,” he says.
He has harnessed data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia mission, which provided distance measurements for a billion stars with unprecedented accuracy. He is using this information to discover hundreds of low-mass stars that belong to associations of young stars.
Today, Jonathan Gagné is a scientific advisor at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium and an associate professor at the Université de Montréal. He continues his research on brown dwarfs, young stars, exoplanets, associations of young stars and astronomical data gathered from telescopes.