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McGill astrophysicist Vicky Kaspi, renowned for both her research on neutrons stars and her stewardship of the stellar McGill Pulsar Group (www.physics.mcgill.ca/~pulsar/), is the 2006 winner of the prestigious Steacie Prize in the Natural Sciences, awarded annually to a young scientist or engineer for notable contributions to research in Canada.
Kaspi, McGill's Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology, and Canada Research Chair in Observational Astrophysics, is an internationally respected expert on neutron stars, the dense, fast-spinning remnants left after the collapse of more massive stars. As for the Steacie, Kaspi says she never saw it coming.
"When I saw the 613 area code on my ringing phone, I thought, ‘Oh no, someone in Ottawa wants me to do more grant reviewing!'" said Kaspi, with a laugh. "I was completely shocked when I was told I had won the Steacie Prize. I still am shocked. Given the tremendous pool of extremely talented young researchers in Canada today, it is enormously flattering and a great honour to have won."
"Vicky Kaspi is one of the top stars of McGill University," says Dr Denis Thérien, McGill's Vice-Principal Research and International Relations. "The Steacie Prize is one of the most prestigious awards that one can win in Canada, and it is very well-deserved. When Vicky left MIT to come to McGill, we knew that she was a fantastic catch for the university. Just look at what she's accomplished in the short time that she's been here."
Kaspi, 38, was born in Austin, Texas but moved to Montreal with her family as a child. She graduated from McGill with a BSc Honors in Physics in 1989, and went on to MA and PhD studies at Princeton. After several years as a postdoctoral fellow and professor at MIT, she was enticed back to McGill in 1999. A multi-award-winner in the field of astrophysics, Kaspi will be moderating the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium at McGill in late January.
The Steacie Prize honours the memory of Edgar William Richard Steacie, a physical chemist and former President of the National Research Council of Canada.