McGill University astrophysicist Victoria Kaspi is the 2006 winner of the prestigious Steacie Prize in the Natural Sciences. The prize is 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, which are the dense remnants left after the gravitational collapse of more massive stars. These stars embody physics at the extremes of density, gravity and magnetic fields, and as such they represent unique tools to probe fundamental physics.
The news of the prize, which comes with a $15,000 award, took her completely by surprise, Kaspi said. "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!'” she recalled 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 Honours in Physics in 1989, and went on to MA and PhD studies at Princeton. After several years as a post-doctoral fellow and professor at MIT, she was enticed back to McGill in 1999. A multi-award-winner in the field of astrophysics, Kaspi was recently named McGill's Lorne Trottier Chair in Astrophysics and Cosmology, and 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. It is supported by the E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fund, an independent public foundation established in 1963 and administered by the trustees. The prize recipient is invited to present the Steacie Lecture at the NRC's Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences in Ottawa.