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New frontiers

Anthropology doctoral student honoured with Vanier scholarship


By Janet Harron

A PhD candidate in Memorial’s Department of Anthropology has been named as a recipient of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

The scholarship is Canada’s most prestigious award for doctoral students.

Michael Oman-Reagan is studying the anthropology of space travel
Michael Oman-Reagan

Originally from the U.S., Michael Oman-Reagan is currently in Victoria, B.C., doing fieldwork and research with space scientists, including astronomers and astrophysicists.

‘Truly thrilled’

“It can be financially challenging to study in Canada as an international student, so I’m incredibly grateful to have been selected as a Vanier Scholar; without the award I wouldn’t be able to do this research project,” he said. “I hope to stay and teach in Canada when I finish my PhD, so I’m truly thrilled to have the opportunity to study and live here. After just two years, Canada feels like home.”

Recipients of the Vanier scholarship receive $50,000 annually for up to three years to support their doctoral research and are selected based on their leadership skills and high standards of scholarly achievement in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences and engineering, or health-related fields.

Research on the edge

The scholarship will fund Mr. Oman-Reagan’s PhD research into space exploration, an unusual field for an anthropologist, he acknowledges.

“It’s not yet common for an anthropologist to study outer space, so I think it really demonstrates the courage and vision of my supervisor, my committee members, our department and the university, in that they all saw potential in the research that I proposed as a PhD student.”

His research focuses on understanding how imaginative, social, institutional and cultural contexts and influences shape the science of space exploration.

“Michael is a top-notch student who promises to make major contributions to our discipline.” — Dr. Robin Whitaker

“We are so pleased that Michael Oman-Reagan chose the Department of Anthropology here at Memorial as home base for his cutting-edge research on the anthropology of space exploration,” said Dr. Robin Whitaker, graduate officer for the department.

“Michael is a top-notch student who promises to make major contributions to our discipline. He is also a wonderful presence in our graduate program. We are delighted and very proud that he has been recognized with a much-deserved Vanier award.”

Future of humanity

The second decade of the 21st century is seeing unprecedented interest from space agencies, non-profit organizations and private corporations in exploring space and building human settlements on Mars.

“This may turn out to be the dawn of the first multi-planetary era, when we become a species that lives on more than one planet. It’s important for social scientists to be involved in not only studying our changing relationship with outer space, but in shaping how and why we go into space, and what kinds of futures we build there,” said Mr. Oman-Reagan.

“This is the moment when we must all ask what kind of future we imagine for humanity in outer space, and what that future will mean for life here on Earth.”

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