Winter PEG 2019

Movers & Shakers

Movers & Shakers



OTHERWORLDLY OPPORTUNITY A University of Lethbridge student is, quite literally, shooting for the stars. Or maybe that’s peering past the stars. Adam Christiansen, E.I.T. , specializes in photonics, and he has enough space cred already that he’s working with an international team of scientists and engineers on next-generation telescopes to look into the universe’s deep secrets. Recently, Mr. Christiansen acted on an invitation to present in San Francisco at the Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers’ Photonics West Conference. It’s the largest conference of its kind in the world, so this was a big deal. “I was excited when I found out I’d been chosen to present,” the master’s degree student in computer engineering says in a story on the U of L website. “It was nice to know that I was at least doing something that other people considered to be on the right track and worthy of a presentation. I was nervous because everybody there knows a lot, but it ended up going quite well.” Helping him get to San Francisco was an MKS Instruments Research Excellence Travel Award. The team of scientists and professional engineers he’s working with are from the Japanese Space Agency, the European Space Agency, and the Canadian Space Agency. They’re creating a next-generation, space- based telescope to study the origins of the universe, along with the formation and evolution of galaxies, black holes, and planetary systems, through observations in the far-infrared wavelengths. Mr. Christiansen’s primary contribution is a fibre- optic cryogenic laser metrology system critical to the correct operation of the instrument. “My research focuses on a subsystem of [the instrument] that involves the precise measurement and control of its moving mirror,” said Mr. Christiansen. “The challenge with this is that you need to be able to do it in space under cryogenic temperatures. That is, 4 Kelvin (-269 C). This kind of thing has been done before in the laboratory, but it’s not as straightforward in space.” Presenting at the conference may not be an interstellar accomplishment, but in earthly terms it’s big. Says astrophysicist David Naylor, PhD, his supervisor: “Four-plus months into his program, it’s exceptional to win a coveted oral spot at this conference. Most student presentations are given as posters, and Adam was the only student to give a talk in his session.” By studying light generation, detection, and

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS We last wrote about Jeannette Montufar, P.Eng., PhD , in the summer 2018 issue of The PEG , after she had received the Support of Women in the Engineering Profession national award from Engineers Canada. She’s not done. Fresh off that honour, she’s now earned the H. Robert Burton Distinguished Service Award from the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers. A founding partner and CEO of MORR Transportation Consulting and co-founder of TRAINFO, a technology startup, Dr. Montufar is well known in the transportation engineering field for her work on road safety and active transportation. Throughout her career, she’s been empowering students in the transportation engineering field and women in the engineering profession as a whole. Several of her students have gone on to log their own great accomplishments, and she’s used her internationally recognized reputation to establish support systems and programs for women in the engineering. One such initiative is the Hummingbird Education Fund, which gives financial support to women pursuing an engineering career. Her contributions to engineering education have been many and varied. In addition to her Engineers Canada award, she’s been recognized with an educational achievement award in 2012 and the Wilbur Smith Distinguished Transportation Educator Award in 2017. A member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers for more than two decades, Dr. Montufar is a founder and advisor of the institute’s University of Manitoba Student Chapter. With her at the helm, the chapter has received the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers Student Chapter Award 15 times in the last 17 years. It’s a two-time recipient of the international award.

manipulation, photonics researchers are making inroads in medicine, telecommunications, manufacturing, and military and defence. And space, of course. Scientists have for a long time been piecing together how galaxies, stars, and planets form, especially in the last 30 or 40 years. But they haven’t been able to see the whole picture, because the birthplaces of astronomical objects and bodies are enveloped in a thick shroud of space dust. Instruments such as the one Mr. Christiansen is working on will penetrate the dust, providing crucial information. Mr. Christiansen doesn’t have to go far to access state-of-the-art equipment. The astrophysics lab at the U of L is partnered with the Canadian Space Agency. As such, it’s well-suited to replicate as closely as possible the environment, temperature, and vibrations experienced on a spacecraft. “There have been plenty of previous space missions like this that have had to do this kind of measurement and control. They used various types of sensors to do that—resistive, capacitive, and inductive, for example,” said Mr. Christiansen. “But never before has a laser-interferometer system like the one that we’re proposing been used in a space application. So we’re trying to show that this system would be beneficial to use in space: that it’s well suited and can meet the requirements.”

PAVING THE WAY Jeannette Montufar, P.Eng., PhD, has spent her career helping women start theirs in the engineering profession. - photo by Rollan Temporosa

- photo by Catherine Drenth

THINGS WILL GET COLD University of Lethbridge student Adam Christiansen, E.I.T., poses with one of the largest cryostats in Canada. The machine allows his team to test the instrumentation they’re creating in a space-like environment.

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