Invited Speakers

Corina Andreoiu, Nuclear Science (Simon Fraser University)

Talk Title: Using Radioactive Beams to Probe Atomic Nuclei Situated Far From Stability

Abstract: Radioactive beams produced at TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics, are used to investigate the structure of atomic nuclei situated far from stability with state-of-the-art facilities. Among them, powerful gamma-ray spectrometers (such as TIGRESS, 8π and the future GRIFFIN) are used for the detection of photons emitted by excited atoms that decay immediately after their formation, while TITAN, a set of sophisticated ion traps is used for high-precision mass measurements of very short-lived atomic nuclei. Together, these facilities are exploited in experiments that bring together complementary information used to better understand the matter at a subatomic level and how the elements in the universe have been created. These are fundamental questions related to our own existence and our desire to understand the world around us.

Bio: Corina Andreoiu is an Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Chemistry and Adjunct Professor in the Dept. of Physics at Simon Fraser University. She received her Ph.D. in physics from Lund University in Sweden in 2002. She joined the faculty at SFU after completing two postdoctoral fellowships in physics at the University of Liverpool and the University of Guelph. Dr. Andreoiu’s research focuses on nuclear structure studies of atomic nuclei situated far from stability, produced in stable- and radioactive-beam experiments using different techniques and state-of-the-art detector arrays primarily at TRIUMF, Canada’s Laboratory for Nuclear and Particle Physics, and other international laboratories such as Argonne National Laboratory in the US and GANIL in France. She is interested in radioactive beam production using actinide targets and medical isotope production.

Barbara Frisken, Soft Condensed Matter (Simon Fraser University)

Talk Title: Colloids in Space

Abstract: Colloidal systems can be used to study many fundamental processes. We are using a colloid-polymer mixture, a standard system in soft matter physics, to study competition between phase separation and crystallization. The colloidal particles can be thought of as model atoms, where interactions can be tuned carefully by varying the molecular weight and concentration of the polymer. But gravity can affect formation of larger structure. In this talk I will discuss what we have learned from experiments on Earth and on the International Space Station in samples prepared in the three-phase region (gas-liquid-crystal) of the phase diagram of a colloid-polymer mixture.

Bio: Barbara Frisken is Professor of Physics at Simon Fraser University. She completed her Ph.D. in physics at the University of British Columbia in 1989, and was a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Santa Barbara, before joining the faculty at SFU in 1992. Her research interests include structural studies of soft matter systems aimed at understanding relationships between microstructure and bulk properties; current projects focus on proton-conducting polymer membranes and phase separation and crystallization in colloid/polymer mixtures. She is an experimentalist with expertise in scattering techniques, particularly light scattering but also x-ray and neutron scattering. She served as chair of her department from 2006-2011, during which time she led a team of 30 faculty members and also chaired search committees for staff and faculty and the department’s salary and tenure review committee. She was a member of an NSERC Strategic Projects GSC (2003-2005) and has served in several roles with the Canadian Association of Physicists, where she is currently Director of Academic Affairs.

Shohini Ghose, Quantum Information Theory (Wilfrid Laurier University)

"After-Dinner Talk" Title: Anna Einstein

Bio: Shohini Ghose is an Associate Professor in Physics and Computer Science at Wilfrid Laurier University. She obtained her PhD in physics in 2003, and held an Alberta Ingenuity Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Calgary before joining Wilfrid Laurier University.  She is an award-winning researcher in quantum information science and quantum chaos, and is an affiliate member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo. She is a passionate educator, and recently co-authored Canada’s first introductory astronomy textbook. A driving force behind creating Laurier’s Centre for Women in Science, she serves as its first Director.

Paula Heron, Physics Education Research (University of Washington)

Talk Title: Research on the Learning and Teaching of Physics: An Important Focus for Physicists

Abstract: It is by now well known that many students emerge from traditional university physics courses without having developed a functional understanding of important basic concepts.  In the past few decades, an increasing number of physicists have responded to this challenge by applying methods of research based on those they have employed successfully in investigations of the physical world.  Physicists have developed research-based instructional materials and methods that have been subjected to repeated testing, evaluation, and redesign.  I will give a brief overview of physics education research and illustrate the process of identifying effective instructional strategies with examples.

Bio: Paula R.L. Heron is a Professor of Physics at the University of Washington. She received a B.Sc. in physics from the University of Ottawa and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Western Ontario.  Dr. Heron’s research focuses on student ability to apply what they have learned about the dynamics of point particles in more advanced contexts involving elastic media, rigid bodies, etc.  She is co-Founder of the biannual “Foundations and Frontiers in Physics Education Research” conference series, one of the premier venues for physics education researchers in North America.  Dr. Heron has served on the Executive Committee of the Forum on Education of the American Physical Society (APS), the Committee on Research in Physics Education of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and currently serves on a US National Research Council committee on the status and outlook for undergraduate physics education. In 2007 she was elected Fellow of the APS and in 2008 shared the APS Physics Education Award with Lillian C. McDermott, Peter S. Shaffer and the Physics Education Group at the University of Washington.

Karen Kavanagh, Condensed Matter and Nanoscience (Simon Fraser University)

Talk Title: Helium Ion Diffraction

Abstract: We commonly use electron and x-ray diffraction to study the structural properties of materials. With the development of coherent helium ion beams, atom diffraction becomes readily available. This talk will describe how such beams are produced and the potential applications for atom diffraction analysis.

Bio: Karen Kavanagh received her B.Sc. in Chemical Physics from Queen's University, Kingston and her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Cornell University. She was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center. In 1988, she joined the University of California, San Diego and moved through the ranks from Assistant to Full Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering before moving back to Canada. In 2000, she joined Simon Fraser University where she is currently a Professor of Physics. Her research is focused on atomic interfaces and nanostructures fabricated  by ultra-high vacuum deposition, focussed ion beam, electrochemical, and chemical processes. She has extensive expertise in a range of materials characterization techniques including: scanning transmission electron microscopy (STEM), focussed ion beam (FIB), high resolution x-ray diffraction, Rutherford backscattering spectroscopy (RBS), scanning tunneling microscopy (STM) and ballistic electron emission microscopy (BEEM). She has been recognized with a Vancouver YWCA Woman of Distinction Award, an NSERC University Faculty Award and an NSF Presidential Young Investigator and has published over 100 papers

Sabine Stanley, Theoretical Astrophysics (University of Toronto)

Talk Title: Planetary Magnetism: Unlocking the Secrets of Planetary Interiors

Abstract: Many planetary bodies in our solar system have magnetic fields that we can observe with spacecraft instruments.  These magnetic fields are generated deep in planetary interiors by complex motions in liquid conductors.  Because these magnetic fields are observable outside of the planet, they can act as important probes of planetary interiors.  In this talk I will describe what we know of planetary magnetic fields and how they have provided us with fundamental information about the structure, composition and evolution of planets.

Bio: Sabine Stanley is a Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Toronto where she has been a member of the faculty since 2005.  She received a B.Sc. degree in Physics and Astrophysics from the University of Toronto and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Geophysics from Harvard University.  Prior to joining the faculty she was a post-doctoral researcher at MIT from 2004-2005.  Her research interests lie in the area of planetary magnetic fields, planetary interiors and dynamo theory.  She has investigated planetary magnetic mysteries throughout the solar system from Mercury’s anomalously weak field to Neptune’s non-dipolar field to the ancient fields of Mars and asteroids.  Sabine’s awards and honors include the Ranjini Ghosh Excellence in Teaching Award of the University of Toronto, the William Gilbert Award of the American Geophysical Union and a Sloan Research Fellowship.

Silvia Wessel, Program Manager (Ballard Power Systems)

Talk Title: PEM Fuel Cells: Technical Challenges and Progress

Abstract: Fuel Cells are efficient, pollution free electrochemical devices that convert chemical energy into electricity, water and potentially useful heat.  The PEM (proton exchange membrane) fuel cell is the most widely applied fuel cell and over the past 20 years has been deployed in various transportation applications such as personal vehicles, trucks, buses, marine vessels, trains, and specialty vehicles such as fork lift trucks and ground support equipment, in stationary applications, such as back-up power, home generators, and distributed generation installations, as well as in portable applications for computer power and small generators.  However, wide-spread commercialization of these fuel cells is still a challenge due to higher cost and generally lower lifetime than the incumbent traditional power technologies.  Thus, ongoing research and development has focused on reducing cost through lower materials cost, more durable materials, high volume manufacturing, as well as systems mitigation strategies.

The presentation will provide an overview of the PEM fuel cell technology; the progress in performance and durability over time including the key technical challenges that are presently still considered as commercialization barriers in transportation and stationary market applications. An introduction to Ballard’s product portfolio will also be presented.


Bio: Dr. Wessel has over 20 years of professional experience in electrochemical energy systems.  She received a B.Sc. in Chemical Physics and a Ph.D. in Physics, both from Simon Fraser University. 

Dr. Wessel has been a manager in the Research and Development Department at Ballard Power Systems for over 12 years and is currently responsible for the development of fundamental understanding of catalyst layer degradation.  She also manages collaborative projects that investigate the effect and mechanisms of reactant contamination on fuel cell performance.  In her previous roles she facilitated Ballard’s internal and external R&D activities, ensuring alignment with Ballard’s Technology Roadmap.  Dr. Wessel represents Ballard in various international working groups that develop H2 quality standards for fuel cell systems and exchange information on the development of automotive fuel cell technology, energy efficiency, emissions and economics.

Prior to joining Ballard Power Systems, Dr. Wessel worked at BlueStar Advanced Technology Corporation (formerly Ballard Battery Systems) where she held the position of Vice President, Research and was responsible for the development of BlueStar’s Primary Li/ MnO2 and Li/CFx Battery technology.

Other experience includes research activities in silicon and CMOS micromachining for the development of gas sensor heater substrates at the School of Engineering Science at Simon Fraser University and solid state gas sensor research and development at Newtec Industries.