David Lafrenière and Pierre Chastenay receive prestigious honors from the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA)


David Lafrenière

David Lafrenière of the Université de Montréal, and member of the CRAQ, is the 2017 recipient of the inaugural Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal from CASCA.

David Lafrenière earned his PhD in 2007 from the Université de Montréal and went on to the University of Toronto as a postdoctoral fellow. He returned to Montréal in 2009 and joined the faculty in 2011. David has received many prestigious awards and honours such as Scientist of the Year 2008 – Société Radio-Canada, the 2010 AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the 2010 NSERC John C. Polanyi Award, and the Medal of Honours of the Assemblée Nationale du Québec.

David Lafrenière is an expert in the field of exoplanet imaging who has made a substantial and significant impact very early in his career. He is among the few people to have led the first imaging discoveries of exoplanets. He is the inventor of a mathematically rigorous statistical method called the Locally Optimized Combination of Images (LOCI) algorithm, which was designed to improve contrast achieved in astronomical images. LOCI has become the worldwide gold standard in the analysis of high-contrast images. He is currently the leader of a major exoplanet transit and eclipse spectroscopy program for the Canadian-built NIRISS instrument on the James Webb Space Telescope.

About the Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal

The Richer Medal was established in 2016 thanks to a generous gift from Harvey B. Richer, a former Director of CASCA and Professor at the University of British Columbia. The Richer Medal is awarded every second year, in odd-numbered years, in recognition of significant and sustained early career research in astronomy. The award consists of a gold medal, plus a certificate.


20170413a2Pierre Chastenay

Pierre Chastenay of the Université du Québec à Montréal, also a member of the CRAQ, is the 2017 recipient of the Qilak Award from CASCA.

Pierre Chastenay received his MSc in Physics from Université Laval in 1987. He then embarked on a remarkable career in public science communications and earned a PhD in “La Didactique des sciences” from Université de Montréal in 2013. Pierre has been a leader in astronomy education and outreach in Canada for over 40 years. He led the development of over 30 long-running programs at the Planétarium de Montréal from 1988 to 2013. He was host of 156 episodes of Téléscience from 1996 to 2007 and over 200 episodes of Le Code Chastenay. As a professor of UQAM, he has been creating educational materials for both students and teachers. The breadth of his achievements has earned him the prestigious distinction of becoming Chevalier de l’Ordre de la Pléiade.

About the Qilak Award

The Qilak award was developed jointly by the Beyond International Year of Astronomy group (a collaboration of CASCA, the FAAQ and the RASC). The Qilak Award recognizes individual Canadian residents, or teams of residents, who have made an outstanding contribution either to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy in Canada, or to informal astronomy education in Canada. One goal the award is to promote such activities among the members of the sponsoring organizations.

It is with great pride that the CRAQ congratulates David Lafrenière and Pierre Chastenay for these prestigious honors.

Robert Lamontagne
Media relation and public outreach
Centre de recherche en astrophysique du Québec
Phone : (514) 343-6111 x3195