‘How we can’ mindset earns Cami top honours

Physics and Astronomy professor Jan Cami was recently awarded the 2019 Qilak Award for Astronomy Communications, Public Education and Research for his work in keeping Canadian eyes on the stars – and other celestial bodies, the Canadian Astronomical Society announced recently.

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.

“Dr. Cami’s enthusiasm for outreach and his ability to ask ‘how we can’ rather than the ‘if we can’ about any activity makes him an ideal Qilak recipient,” the society said in its announcement of the award.

Among physics and astronomy researchers, Cami is known as the discoverer of space ‘buckyballs,’ tiny soccer-ball-shaped molecules made of carbon. To the broader astronomy community in Ontario – and beyond – he is the public ambassador for sky- and space-gazing.

Cami obtained his PhD from the University of Amsterdam and has been the Director and Coordinator of Western’s historic Hume Cronyn Memorial Observatory since 2010. His work in outreach spans both large public gatherings and hands-on exhibits within the observatory. In addition, Cami is the Associate Director of the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration (CPSX) and the main organizer for the Science Rendezvous festival.

On the national level, Cami has served for 10 years on Canadian Astronomical Society’s Education and Public Outreach Committee, during which time he supported the development of the online platform Discover the Universe.