Group members


Interested in joining us? Please contact Pauline.

Potential graduate students: for more information about applying see the web page for the graduate program in Physics & Astronomy at Western.


Pauline Barmby (group leader)

My current research focuses on nearby galaxies, particularly the Andromeda galaxy (M31) and other galaxies in our Local Group. I’ve used quite a few different telescopes and instruments, with a lot of emphasis on infrared observations with the Spitzer Space Telescope. My group has studied star-forming regions, star formation laws, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and X-ray emitting star clusters in M31, among other topics.

I came to Western from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, where I was a member of the Spitzer/IRAC instrument team and worked on a variety of science topics including distant galaxies and variable stars in the Milky Way. My PhD thesis was on globular clusters in the Andromeda galaxy, and I started my research career working on galaxy clusters.

Here are my CV and blog.

Mark Gorski (Postdoc)

I use molecular spectra from radio and submillimeter telescopes to probe physical conditions of the interstellar medium within nearby galaxies. Nearby galaxies permit access to weak, but diagnostically important tracers that can be applied to a much wider range of galactic star formation rates and environments. The connection between star formation and the ISM is responsible for large uncertainties in galaxy evolution and the main source of uncertainty limiting future progress. I’m specifically interested in the effect of mechanical and radiative feed-back processes and how they might impede the formation of stars.

More about my research and my CV can be found on my website

Matt Shubat (BSc 2019)

My undergraduate thesis project is focused on comparing two popular astronomical datasets: NED and SIMBAD. I will initially be looking at the M83 galaxy object entries and comparing their classifications in an automated fashion. Based on such an analysis I hope to generate useful metrics and results which give a clearer view of how the classifications compare between the two resources. Ultimately this tool could be used by researchers to see how other datasets compare between NED and SIMBAD in terms of similarity, differences, and provide some insight into accuracy.

I am also in my last year of undergrad pursuing a degree in Computer Science and Physics.

You can find out more about me on LinkedIn


Dayi David Li (MSc 2020)

I am a Master’s student pursuing a degree in Statistics. My research focuses on devising statistical methods for comparing inhomogeneous spatial point processes/random shapes. I am currently studying the spatial dependence between the CO filaments and young star clusters in the M33 galaxy. Methods exist in spatial statistics field for analyzing spatial dependence for homogeneous point processes but few do for inhomogeneous processes. CO filaments and star clusters both exhibit similar global inhomogeneity which renders the existing methods unsuitable for investigating the dependence structure. I hope to come up with novel techniques that can address this issue and aid fellow astronomers to better analyze the spatial structure of astronomical objects and possibly generate new physical insights.

For more info about me, please check my Linkedin

Recent alumni

Robin Arnason (PhD 2018)

Robin’s PhD thesis investigates the details of the formation and evolution of binary systems that have a compact object (white dwarf, neutron star, and black hole). Studying compact object binaries is difficult in the Milky Way, where there is a lot of uncertainty about the distance, age, and metal content of stellar populations, so we often use globular clusters or nearby galaxies instead. You can find Robin’s publications here. Robin is now a senior scientist at Interface Fluidics.

Alex Kiar (BESc/HBA 2018; USRA 2016)

Alex’s research involved the use of clustering algorithms to analyze a multi-wavelength astronomical catalog of point sources in a nearby galaxy. The paper from this research is here. He is associate analyst at Mastercard Advisors.


Sachi Elkerton (BSc 2017)

Sachi’s thesis research was on mass-losing dusty stars in nearby dwarf galaxies. Sachi is currently a fraud detection analyst at RBC.

Neven, Pauline and Sahar on Convocation day, fall 2016

Neven, Pauline and Sahar on Convocation day, fall 2016

Sahar Rahmani (PhD 2016)

Sahar’s research involves using modern statistical and machine learning techniques to study the star formation rate in external galaxies. Find her publications here and her PhD thesis here. Sahar is now Director, Joint Security Operations Centre (JSOC) Analytics, Global Cyber Security at RBC.

Neven Vulic (PhD 2016, MSc 2012)

Neven is interested in the X-ray populations of nearby galaxies (M31, M51, etc.), specifically X-ray binary systems. What are the impact of various environmental parameters on the formation and evolution of X-ray sources? In addition, he studies the characteristics of X-ray populations, such as physical/flux distributions and variability, to investigate their connection with galaxy properties. He is now a Postdoctoral Associate at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Find his Western webpage here, PhD thesis here and publications here.

Masoud Rafiei Ravandi (MSc 2015)

Masoud studied the mid-infrared halo of the Andromeda galaxy. He is now a PhD student at the University of Waterloo and Perimeter Institute. Find Masoud’s publications here.


Sophia Lianou (PDF 2012-2015)

Sophia’s research is on multi-wavelength studies of star formation in nearby galaxies. She is now a researcher at the National Observatory of Athens. Find Sophia’s publications here.


Dimuthu Hemachandra (MSc 2014)

Dimuthu studied the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Andromeda; find his MSc thesis paper here. Dimuthu was a faculty member at Brescia University College and is now a PhD student in Bio-medical Engineering at Western.

Andrea investigated the use of clustering algorithms in analysis of multi-wavelength astronomical catalogs. She completed her MSc in astophysical instrumentation at INAOE, Mexico in 2017 and is now a DPhil student at Oxford.

Gabe Keenleyside (BSc 2014)

Gabe’s research involved precisely locating an X-ray binary within a star cluster in M31. He is completing a BSc in Computer Science at Western.

Mitchell Croley (MSc 2013)

Mitchell measured the metallicity gradient in M31 HII regions. He is now working as an actuarial analyst at Pacific Life Re.

Judi Agar (MSc 2012)

Judi’s research was on the structure of X-ray binary-containing globular clusters in Andromeda; her MSc thesis paper is here. She is now a college astronomy professor and high school science and mathematics teacher.

Ghazal Farhani (MSc 2012)

Ghazal studied the HII regions in the nearby galaxy NGC 5128. She completed her PhD in atmospheric physics in the Western Physics & Astronomy Purple Crow Lidar group and is now a data scientist at the Globe and Mail.

Roger Odell (BSc 2012)

Roger investigated the use of machine learning algorithms in classifying colours of objects measured with the Spitzer Space Telescope. He is now an MSc student in particle physics at Carleton University.


We collaborate with several other research groups in our department including those of Sarah Gallagher and Els Peeters, and form part of Western’s extragalactic journal club. We’re also part of Western’s Center for Planetary Science & Exploration.