Sharing Secrets

Dr. Rob Thacker and students create and observe virtual galaxies in the Saint Mary’s University Computational Astrophysics Laboratory

Dr. Rob Thacker and students create and observe virtual galaxies in the Saint Mary’s University Computational Astrophysics Laboratory

The Universe isn’t quick to reveal its secrets, but a Saint Mary’s University researcher has discovered a way to move things along.

Using Saint Mary’s Computational Astrophysics Laboratory, a state-of-the-art computer platform funded in part by the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust (NSRIT), Dr. Robert Thacker, Saint Mary’s Canada Research Chair in Astronomy and Astrophysics, creates virtual galaxies and then observes their development.

NSRIT funding of approximately $150,000 leveraged  stakeholder financing for the project and additional support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation. It also helped attract $40,000 through the SUN/ACEnet Research Fellowship program in 2007; a NSERC Discovery Grant of more than $125,000 in 2008; and additional funding of $20,000 through SUN/ACEnet in 2009.

For Dr. Thacker and his team, it’s money well spent.

“Either directly or indirectly, the Computational Astrophysics Laboratory has contributed to 19 peer-reviewed paper publications, 26 invited presentations, proceedings or book chapters, and 20 conference presentations,” says Dr. Thacker. “It has also contributed to the training of nine highly qualified personnel at Saint Mary’s University, including students and post-doctoral researchers, and has enabled us to collaborate with researchers in the US, Australia, UK and Spain.”

Dr. Thacker goes to great lengths to disseminate his research in public forums, and in the past three years has given dozens of interviews for radio and television.

“Galaxy formation remains one of the keys to understanding the evolution of life,” he says. “This research gives us a better understanding of humanity’s place in the universe.”

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