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Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring convocation 2017.

By Melanie Callahan

As a young boy, Nathan Winsor remembers thinking about the travel distance to and from hockey practice and the trajectory of the balls he threw in the air.

It wasn’t until he was a young adult watching milk bubble in his cup of tea that the Grenfell Campus student realized his interest in the motion of objects was a budding passion for the science of physics.

Developing a passion

After taking a number of introductory classes in physics and mathematics, and armed with a lifelong interest in astronomy―stemming from a Grade 8 presentation about the possibility of life on a newly discovered planet―astrophysics and astronomy became a priority for the White River, Ont., native.

“Having two astronomers here on campus, as well as the Grenfell Campus observatory, provided a great environment for my love of astronomy to grow,” said Mr. Winsor, who will collect his B.Sc. in Corner Brook during convocation May 10.

Spurred by his professors and his academic success in his program, Mr. Winsor found himself given research opportunities rarely made available to undergraduate students.

“This sort of thing doesn’t happen often for an undergraduate student.” — Dr. Doug Forbes

This past December, he was flown to Los Angeles, Calif., to start a discussion at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) about his research on stars near the centre of our galaxy. Dr. Doug Forbes, Mr. Winsor’s professor, says “this sort of thing doesn’t happen often for an undergraduate student, and speaks well for the quality of Nathan’s work.”

The previous year, he accepted an offer at the David Dunlap Institute Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) at the University of Toronto. The 16-week program is meant to prepare undergraduate students focused on astronomy, physics and engineering for careers in scientific research.

Scholarly publication

His 2014 research contributed to the findings presented in the paper Discovery of Low-metallicity Stars in the Central Parsec of the Milky Way, which has been published in the prestigious Astrophysical Journal and is co-authored by Do, Tuan; Kerzendorf, Wolfgang; Støstad, Morten; Morris, Mark R.; Lu, Jessica R.; and Ghez, Andrea M. Also that year, he attended the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference (CUPC) conference in Kingston, Ont.

“It was a very good feeling to see that my work had contributed to an astrophysical journal publication,” said Mr. Winsor. “I believe it is a relatively uncommon occurrence to receive such an honour, and more than likely helped with my graduate school applications because it shows both that I have research experience and publishing experience.”

Help along the way

Studying at Grenfell has played a significant role in his success, says Mr. Winsor.

“Without the encouragement of the physics faculty and staff to apply for SURP, future opportunities such as publishing in a scholarly journal during my undergraduate studies, and presenting at both the CUPC and UCLA workshop would not have become available to me. Furthermore, all of these experiences which have resulted from SURP likely contributed to my acceptance into several different graduate schools this year.”

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Winsor will jump straight into the PhD program in astronomy and astrophysics at the University of Toronto to study exoplanets and either directly or indirectly study planetary habitability and the question of life elsewhere in the universe. His ultimate goal is to become a professor of astronomy, researching exoplanets and lecturing on physics and astrophysics.

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