(left to right) Diane Mar-Nicolle, Ken Van Weiren, Nancy Cardozo, Cynthia Henson and Ken MacFarlane 


February 11, 2016

By Allen Tung

Since its opening on Apr. 17, 2015, SFU’s Trottier Observatory and Science Courtyard has been “engaging the universe”—from the Faculty of Science’s flagship Starry Nights @ SFU astronomy program to local elementary school students stargazing with Chilean students via videoconferencing.

Working closely with SFU physics professor Howard Trottier to oversee the project— from conceptualization to completion and opening—were Cynthia Henson, Ken MacFarlane, Diane Mar-Nicolle and Ken Van Wieren from the Faculty of Science, and Nancy Cardozo from University Advancement.

They receive the 2015 SFU Staff Achievement Award in the team category for their work to successfully introduce the observatory to the SFU community and the public.

An enormous undertaking, the project brought together faculty and staff from across the Faculty of Science and the SFU community.

“It couldn’t have been done without the cooperation of colleagues across SFU,” says Mar-Nicolle. “Each department and each member on our team contributed their expertise and ideas to the project and carried out their duties without a hitch.”

Cardozo, director of Advancement for the Faculty of Science, managed all aspects of the relationship between the Faculty of Science and the Trottier Family Foundation, which made a $2.7-million gift to help construct the observatory.

MacFarlane, director of facilities and technical operations, oversaw expenses on behalf of the faculty, ensuring the observatory was on time and on budget. He also supervised every building and landscaping detail.

Henson, outreach and engagement programs co-ordinator, took care the behind-the-scenes work for the observatory’s opening, such as coordinating volunteers and arranging the evening’s public star party, which attracted thousands.

Mar-Nicolle oversaw all publicity, preparing media releases, arranging interviews and updating the observatory’s website.

Rounding out this five-person team was Van Wieren, a Faculty of Science research machinist. He laser-cut the instruction plaque for the sundial in the observatory courtyard. He also designed and constructed 3D miniature models of the observatory—complete with revolving dome and telescope—which were presented as commemorative gifts to the Trottier family.

“We were all so excited by the observatory, and staging an event that the Trottiers would be happy with,” says Mar-Nicolle. “This was a huge motivator and certainly foremost in everyone's mind.”

As with all projects of this magnitude, teamwork and collaboration were vital to its success.

“It can be intimidating,” Mar-Nicolle says, “but the enormity of this event also afforded us the full benefit of the SFU machine, and when it springs into action, it is truly impressive.”