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.

Robin Arnason (PhD 2018)

I’m interested in the details of the formation and evolution of binary systems that have a compact object (white dwarf, neutron star, and black hole) inside our Galaxy. 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. In the past, I’ve investigated the unusual properties of a very faint X-ray binary in the globular cluster M15. Currently, I am conducting a survey of the X-ray binaries in the Sculptor Dwarf spheroidal Galaxy. Like the globular clusters, dwarf galaxies tend to be relatively simple in terms of having one distance, age, and metallicity. However, they are much better than globular clusters at representing binary evolution in an environment similar to the Milky Way, since they don’t have the same high stellar density.

Robin’s Publications

Alex Kiar (BESc/HBA 2018; USRA 2016)

Alex’s research involves the use of clustering algorithms to analyze a multi-wavelength astronomical catalog of point sources in a nearby galaxy. FInd an abstract for his conference presentation on this work here. He doesn’t usually wear a suit.


Recent alumni

Sachi Elkerton (BSc 2017)

Sachi’s thesis research was on mass-losing dusty stars in nearby dwarf galaxies.

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.

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 postdoc at CEA-Saclay, France. Find Sophia’s publications here.


Dimuthu Hemachandra (MSc 2014)

Dimuthu studied the Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Andromeda; find his MSc thesis paper here. Dimuthu works as an instructor at Brescia University College.

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 will soon be starting her PhD.

Gabe Keenleyside (BSc 2014)

Gabe’s research involved precisely locating an X-ray binary within a star cluster in M31.

Mitchell Croley (MSc 2013)

Mitchell measured the metallicity gradient in M31 HII regions. He is now working as a data analyst in industry.

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 high school science and mathematics teacher.

Ghazal Farhani (MSc 2012)

Ghazal studied the HII regions in the nearby galaxy NGC 5128. She is now a PhD student in atmospheric physics in the Western Physics & Astronomy Purple Crow Lidar group.

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.