Astrophysicist studies mysterious Fast Radio Bursts
McGill University Professor Victoria Kaspi, a world leader in the study of neutron stars, has won the 2022 Albert Einstein World Award of Science. Dr. Kaspi, director of the McGill Space Institute, has helped position Canada as a world leader in astrophysics.
The Einstein World Award is largely in recognition of Dr. Kaspi’s work on magnetars – highly magnetized, young neutron stars that suffer large x-ray and gamma-ray explosions.
“They’re very dramatic, very interesting objects,” she says. “I loved studying them and I studied them for at least 15 years.”
More recently, Dr. Kaspi’s research is focused on Fast Radio Bursts (FRB), which come from far outside our galaxy. FRBs are transient radio pulses varying in length from a fraction of a millisecond to three seconds. They are caused by an astrophysical process not yet understood. FRBs are thought to release as much energy in a millisecond as the Sun emits over three days.
Dr. Kaspi leads the CHIME Fast Radio Burst Project, which uses the CHIME telescope and has discovered more FRBs than all other radio telescopes combined.
On winning the Einstein World Award, Dr. Kaspi says it’s sometimes “uncomfortable” being singled out for recognition, since her work is such a team effort. “But the fact is that having these recognitions does bring many tangible benefits to my research program and I think, by extension, to Canada’s research profile overall.” That includes, she notes, making it easier to recruit students and postdocs to her team.
“And I think that raises the bar for everybody, bringing fantastic people into Canada who may never have come here otherwise. And then sometimes they end up settling here and developing research programs of their own. That’s a wonderful thing for the country.”