University of Toronto astronomers are available to visit your school or community group to talk about astronomy and answer questions. Whether you’d like a short discussion about meteors with your grade one class or an in-depth talk on the nature of dark energy for your amateur astronomy group, we’ve got you covered. Best of all, this service is free within the Toronto area (but subject to the availability of speakers).
You can preview the list of speakers below, then click below to request a speaker:Request a Speaker
Dr. Roberto Abraham
Finding your place in Space and Time
Canada and the James Webb Space Telescope
The Origin of Galaxies
Roberto Abraham is a Professor of Astronomy and Associate Chair of the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. His research is in galaxy formation and evolution, as well as in the use of new technologies to enable breakthrough discoveries in astronomy. He led the Gemini Deep Deep Survey and is co-Principal Investigator of Project Dragonfly, a radical new concept to image the Universe using an array of small telescopes. He currently serves as Canadian representative on the James Webb Space Telescope’s Advisory Committee and on the Board of Directors of the Gemini Observatory. He has received many awards for his research and teaching, including a Steacie Fellowship, the Martin Prize of the Canadian Astronomical Society and the University of Toronto’s Outstanding Teaching Award.
The Search for Other Worlds
Emily Deibert is a graduate student in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. Her research focuses on observing the atmospheres of exoplanets, which are planets orbiting stars other than the Sun, and using these observations to learn more about how planets form and what kind of planets exist in the Universe. She’s also passionate about science communication, and works as a science journalist for various science news outlets.
Dr. Bryan Gaensler
The Dish, The Desert and The Dawn of the Universe
How the Cosmos Will Kill You
Magnets in the Sky
The World Records of the Universe
Fire and Ice: The Hottest and Coldest Places in the Universe
Warp Drive and Aliens: The Scientific Perspective
Gender and Equity: The Cosmic Perspective
Bryan Gaensler is the Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He is a leading international researcher in cosmic magnetism, supernova explosions and interstellar gas. His research focuses on why the Universe is magnetic, as well as on the study of transient phenomenon as a unique probe of fundamental physics.
Dr. Renée Hložek
The Dark and Beautiful universe
Watching the Fiery Beginnings of the Universe from the Atacama Desert
Why STEM Needs Diversity and What We Can Do to Help
Dark Matter and Dark Energy: Why Are They Different and Why You Should Care!
Renée Hlozek is an Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics within the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on theoretical cosmology and ‘astro-statistics’; she answers questions about the structure of the universe, its initial conditions and its eventual fate. She uses data from telescopes around the world like the Atacama Cosmology Telescope that measures microwave light left over from the Big Bang; and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope which is currently under construction and will measure the night sky in visible light, scanning the whole sky once every three days. She is a Rhodes Scholar and a TED Senior Fellow, and was named one of the Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans for 2012.
Mission to Pluto, from Napkins to New Horizons
Max King holds a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from U of T, specializing in space systems engineering. He is an avid musician, passionate about space exploration, and the public education of science and engineering.
Dr. Ting Li
Discover the Universe with Astronomical Observations
Introduction to Ancient and Modern Cosmology
The Biggest Two Mysterious in the Universe: Dark Matter and Dark Energy
The Fastest Star Rejected by Milky Way’s Super Massive Black Hole
Rivers in the Sky: Milky Way’s Past and Present
Ting Li is an Assistant Professor at the David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics. Her research focuses on near-field cosmology. In particular, she studies the stars in the Milky Way Galaxy and nearby galaxies to understand how they form and to understand the nature of dark matter. She specializes in analyzing large data sets from imaging surveys of wide areas of the sky and also performs traditional astronomical observations with the largest optical telescopes all over the world. Ting also builds astronomical instruments and contributes to infrastructure work for large-area sky surveys.
Dr. Christopher Matzner
Cosmic origins of everyday life
Spectacular deaths of massive stars
Star clusters: engines of galactic turmoil
Giant black holes and their secret lives
Dr. Matzner’s broad research involves the births and deaths of stars and the life cycle of matter within galaxies. His recent projects focus on the creation of stellar binaries and star clusters, the energetic motions caused by giant nebulae, supernova explosions and gamma-ray bursts, and how some unlucky stars get shredded by black holes. Click to visit Dr. Matzner’s web site.
Dr. Ilana MacDonald
Gravity: From Falling Apples to Ripples in Spacetime
Scales of the Universe
All You Ever Wanted to Know about Black Holes
The Odyssey of the Voyagers
English & French
Ilana MacDonald grew up in a small town in rural Quebec where she was inspired by the clear night skies and her father’s “midlife crisis telescope” to study Astronomy. She completed her Bachelors of Science in Physics at Bishop’s University, and her Doctorate in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, studying under Prof. Harald Pfeiffer. Her doctoral research topic was to test the accuracy of models of ripples in spacetime, that is, gravitational waves, from binary black holes for detectors such as LIGO. She currently is in charge managing of the largest Astronomy courses at the University of Toronto, as well as creating and presenting planetarium shows..
How to Destroy a Planet
Alysa Obertas is a PhD candidate in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics and the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Her research is on planetary dynamics–the study of how planets move. She investigates how closely the planets in a solar system can orbit their star without crashing into one another, as well as what happens when they get too close. Alysa’s passion for dynamics goes beyond science, and she dances ballet in her spare time.
Dr. John Percy
The Amazing Universe
Toronto’s Astronomical Heritage
The Birth, Life, and Bizarre Deaths of the Stars
Common Misconceptions about the Universe: From Everyday Life to the Big Bang
Archaeoastronomy: The Astronomy of Civilizations Past
John Percy is Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, in Astronomy & Astrophysics, and in Science Education. His research deals with the nature and evolution of the stars. He is also active in astronomy education, at all levels, throughout the world. He has received many awards for his work in education and outreach, most recently the 2013 Education Prize of the American Astronomical Society.
Dr. Michael Reid
Misconceptions about the Big Bang
Life in the Cosmos
The Lives and Deaths of Stars
The Search for Earth-like Planets
Dr. Reid’s research area is star formation–the process of turning vast clouds of gas and dust into new stars. He teaches several classes in introductory astronomy for non-scientists and frequently gives public talks on topics spanning all of astronomy. He will happily create a new presentation on a topic of your choice, or can deliver one of his prepared favourites.
Dr. Hanno Rein
Exoplanets: Strange New Worlds
Saturn’s Rings and Cassini
Dr. Hanno Rein wants to find out how planetary systems form. He maintains a large database of all discovered exoplanets, planets outside our own Solar System. Using large super-computers, he is simulating the evolution of planets and Saturn’s rings.
Weighing the Universe with a Balloon Borne Telescope
The Science of Time Travel
Shaaban is a graduate student in the Department of Physics and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. His research focuses on studying the contents and properties of the entire universe by looking at distant galaxies using a telescope that flies on a giant helium balloon.
Dr. Diana Valencia
From Earth to Super-Earths and Beyond
Making a Habitable Planet
Dr. Valencia’s goal is to understand the nature and evolution of new classes of planets: Super-Earths and Mini-Neptunes. Although the most common types of planets in our galaxy, they are absent form our Solar System, and thus we know little about them. Aside from studying the compositional and evolutionary differences between Super-Earths and Mini-Neptunes, my research goals also cover determining what makes a planet habitable.
Dr. Keith Vanderlinde
Science at the South Pole
Cosmology, Cell Phones, and Video Games
Dr. Vanderlinde’s research concerns the earliest eras of the universe. He uses telescopes all over the world–including Antarctica–to study the the cosmic microwave background, which is the oldest light in the universe. Dr. Vanderlinde is an engaging speaker who gives highly entertaining and informative accounts of what it’s like to do astronomy in Antarctica.
Dr. Jennifer West
The Universe in a Nutshell
Revealing the Invisible Universe with Radio Telescopes
Nature’s Supercolliders: The Extreme Environments of Stellar Graveyards
What Happens When All the Dark Places Are Gone?
Dr. West is a Postdoctoral Fellow who uses large radio surveys to study magnetic fields in the universe. She is also enthusiastic about astronomy education and outreach. A long time member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), she is the recipient of the 2011 International Dark Sky Association’s Dark Sky Defender Award and the 2010 RASC’s Ken Chilton Prize for her contributions to astronomy education and outreach.
Dr. Yanqin Wu
The origin of the solar system
English, Mandarin, Cantonese
Yanqin Wu is an associate professor of astronomy. She is engaged with studying the formation of Solar system and extra-solar planetary systems. Problems she has studied include, e.g., the survival of Mercury, the formation of Kuiper belt, Pluto and its moons, the migration of Jovian planets in extra-solar systems, and planets detected by the Kepler space mission.