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NSERC Presents a Conversation with Victoria M. Kaspi

Department of Physics, McGill University, interviewed by B. Mario Pinto, President of NSERC


Video Name

Conversation with Victoria M. Kaspi


NSERC Communications



Release Date

February 16, 2016


Victoria M. Kaspi is one of the worldís leading experts on neutron stars, the ancient remnants of the most massive stars in the Milky Way. Her research group has had major impacts in the field of astrophysics, and her seminal work sheds light on how stars evolve, how they die and, ultimately, the very nature of matter under extreme conditions. Dr. Kaspi is the winner of NSERC's 2016 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.

B. Mario Pinto

Hello ladies and gentlemen, Iím Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Iím here at McGill University with Victoria Kaspi, winner of the 2016 Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal.

Vicky, itís a pleasure to be here with you. Congratulations on winning NSERCís top prize, a well-deserved honour given your impressive research career as an astrophysicist. Astrophysics is a broad discipline, big enough to encompass the universe. What led you to this area of study?

Victoria M. Kaspi

I study neutron stars, which is a rare kind of collapsed stars. Pulsars and magnetars are forms of neutron stars, and they form when massive stars die, end their lives. And part of that process is also what ejects, in a supernova explosion, a matter throughout the galaxy, and that same matter is what ends up making, you know, planets and tables and cameras and things like that. So part of understanding the evolution of stars and the formation of neutron stars is understanding the origin of all matter, even the matter that weíre made out of.

B. Mario Pinto

You and your research team have made several major discoveries, including identifying the fastest rotating star and uncovering a rare class of neutron stars. How did you arrive at your moments of discovery?

Victoria M. Kaspi

Once you realize something new and interesting about the universe, you start to think, ďOh, what does this imply?Ē because, you know, science builds up in layers. And so once youíve put down a new layer, you can think, ďAh, where am I going with this and where will this take me next?Ē NSERC has given me the freedom to study in my own style, in my own way, in the way that Iím sure is the best way to make progress in the field. Itís that, itís the flexibility that enables the scientific discoveries. If you were to clock my hours in my job, itís many hours. Itís much more than a standard job. But itís like Iím not working because I love what I do so much.

B. Mario Pinto

Finally, youíre the winner of the 2016 Gerhard Herzberg Gold Medal. This is NSERCís highest honour. Could you share a few thoughts on what it means to you to win this award?

Victoria M. Kaspi

Just, I donít even have the words to convey how I feel about it. Iím profoundly honoured and really deeply touched to have that recognition of the research that my group does. And really, I accept it on behalf of my research group. And also, to be in the same category as some of the past Herzberg award winners, it just blows me away. Iím thrilled and honoured.

B. Mario Pinto

Itís been a pleasure to speak with you today, Vicky. Congratulations once again on winning NSERCís Herzberg prize.

Victoria M. Kaspi

Thank you very much.