Nicolas Cowan Receives Prestigious Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship

Nicolas Cowan Receives Prestigious Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship
Nicolas Cowan Receives Prestigious Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship

McGill University has announced that Professor Nicolas Cowan has been awarded the 2023 Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship by NSERC. These highly esteemed fellowships are granted annually to early-career academic researchers in the fields of natural sciences and engineering.

Valued at $250,000 over a two-year period, these awards were previously known as the EWR Steacie Memorial Fellowships, and 14 of them have been previously bestowed upon McGill’s researchers, including individuals such as Elena Bennett, Vicky Kaspi, and Joelle Pineau.

Professor Cowan, who holds joint appointments in the Departments of Physics and Earth and Planetary Sciences, has been a faculty member at McGill since 2015. During this time, he has been instrumental in advancing research through the McGill Exoplanet Characterization Alliance, which is involved in a wide spectrum of investigations related to exoplanet atmospheres, encompassing mission design, instrument data processing, data analysis, and theoretical modeling.

Professor Cowan’s objectives include harnessing the capabilities of the James Webb Space Telescope to expand our understanding of planetary atmospheres. He also leads the Canadian contribution to the European Space Agency’s Ariel mission, focused on the study of the atmospheres of a thousand exoplanets. Additionally, Cowan is part of an international consortium working on the development of a high-resolution infrared spectrograph for the European Extra-Large Telescope, with the aim of searching for signs of life on distant worlds.

Martha Crago, Vice-Principal of Research and Innovation, extended congratulations to Professor Cowan on this significant honor and expressed gratitude to NSERC for supporting innovative research. She highlighted his role in positioning McGill as a leading institution in Canada for research in the fields of exoplanets and Earth’s climate, with a notable impact on students and emerging researchers.

Professor Cowan’s research has had a substantial impact on various aspects of exoplanet studies, including astrophysics, particularly in mapping exoplanet atmospheres, understanding energy budgets of exoplanets, comparative exoplanetology, and examining Earth as if it were an exoplanet.

Furthermore, Professor Cowan’s commitment to equity issues is evident. He co-founded the Astronomy in Indigenous Communities program in 2019, which aims to provide support for elementary students in Kanien’keha:ka through hands-on astronomy activities conducted by Indigenous professional astronomers.

Expressing his appreciation for being named a McDonald Fellow, Professor Cowan emphasized that the additional time and resources provided by the Fellowship would allow him to intensify his investigations into exoplanet atmospheres and continue his efforts to design and construct the next generation of telescopes for studying these unique celestial bodies.


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