Chris has come to the Université de Montréal to pursue his Ph.D. in the field of exoplanet research under the supervision of David Lafrenière. His doctoral project involves applying the Dragonfly multi-lens optical array to the task of discovering, confirming, and characterizing exoplanet transits. The Dragonfly instrument’s original design intention was to capture galactic features with ultra-low surface brightness, however, the incredible quality of the optics involved in that pursuit will also allow for very precise determination of how a star’s light dims as a planet transits across it.
For his Master’s research at the University of British Columbia with Harvey Richer, Chris used Hubble Space Telescope (HST) images of the core of the globular cluster 47 Tucanae to calculate proper motions of the stars there and analyze their dynamics. The ultimate goal of this analysis was to determine if there is any dynamical evidence of a central intermediate mass black hole, an elusive class of black hole (102-105 solar masses) with plenty of detection claims, but much controversy surrounding them.
Prior to grad school, Chris received two Bachelor degrees from UBC: first a B.A. in Psychology, and then a B.Sc. in Astronomy. During his B.Sc. he worked on several summer research projects. One project involved using a hydrodynamics simulation of the early solar nebular disk to determine if chondrules (small meteoritic materials) could be properly thermally processed in the bow shocks of early planetary embryos. Another project included the photometric reduction of HST images of 47 Tucanae to identify white dwarf stars that show signs of infrared excess. This excess could be due to dusty circumstellar disks, potential sites for a second generation of planet formation. The project spawned a successful observing proposal to the Gemini South observatory for followup of the most promising candidates.