Celebrating five years of the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics
Whether they are exploring dark matter, dark energy, black holes, or mapping the unknown parts of our universe, the researchers at the WCA are pushing boundaries daily and exploring unchartered territory so we can better understand our world.
By Katie McQuaid Faculty of Science
For the past five years, the Waterloo Centre for Astrophysics (WCA) has created a research-rich atmosphere where the sky is (literally) the limit. Thanks to a generous donation by Mike Lazaridis, which enabled a Distinguished Research Chair in Astrophysics, the centre has become an exciting hub of activity nestled in the physics building on the University of Waterloo Campus.
When you walk into the WCA offices, you can feel the buzz. The space is bright, inviting, and almost always filled with people. Collaboration is a huge part of the WCA model, and this space gives researchers somewhere to meet and work through things together.
At one end of the hallway, you’ll find Director Will Percival’s office. Along with his leadership of the WCA, he is also a Physics Professor with a passion for understanding the Universe. Percival has just been renewed for a second term as Director and is excited about what the next five years will bring.
"In the last five years, our researchers have been doing incredible work and they will have access to transformative data over the next few years," says Percival. "We have created an environment here where young scientists are openly collaborating on their research which is leading to amazing discoveries."
The WCA has also become a destination for those wanting to further their education and research. The WCA currently has 11 faculty, 43 graduate students, and 15 postdoctoral fellows and receives over 150 applications a year for its postdoctoral program. Clearly, the WCA has become a place students and researchers want to be.
One of those people is postdoctoral fellow Roan Haggar, who also happens to be the WCA’s Outreach Coordinator. When Haggar joined in 2022, he was given the important task of engaging with students and the community by putting together an outreach program that would get people involved with WCA.
Under Haggar’s leadership, community outreach has exploded within the WCA. In the past year, the outreach team has engaged with over 1500 students, mostly through taking the WCA’s inflatable planetarium, the Astro-Bubble , to schools. "One of the most fun parts of my job is taking the Astro-Bubble out into the community and seeing kids’ faces when they watch the show," says Haggar. "By sharing this technology, we are helping to ignite a passion for physics and astronomy in the next generation of future scientists and I love that."
The outreach program also includes the Gustav Bakos Observatory , monthly WCA-KPL Astronomy Talks , and Astronomy on Tap , where you can sit back, relax, and learn about the universe over a pint.
When he’s not showing off the galaxy in the Astro-Bubble , Haggar’s research involves looking at galaxy clusters and how they form and evolve. "I work a lot with computer simulations to see how we think the universe will change and compare it to the real universe in its current state."
Along with the other researchers at the WCA, Percival and Haggar are delving into finding answers to huge questions about our universe, and they don’t plan on stopping. Whether they are exploring dark matter, dark energy, black holes, or mapping the unknown parts of our universe, the researchers at the WCA are pushing boundaries daily and exploring unchartered territory so we can better understand our world.
If you are interested in connecting with the WCA outreach team, email firstname.lastname@example.org.