Dr. Rachel Friesen

While at the Dunlap, Rachel Friesen studied the earliest stages of star formation by observing the cold, dense molecular clouds from which stars arise. She examined the light emitted by molecules within these regions to gain an understanding of the composition, structure, temperature and internal motions of these stellar nurseries—and thus gain a better understanding of the birth of stars and planetary systems.

Because this light is found at radio wavelengths, Friesen makes her observations using radio telescopes facilities like the Very Large Array, the Australia Telescope Compact Array, and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array. She also makes use of observations from space telescopes such as the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory.

Friesen received her PhD from the University of Victoria, and joined the Dunlap Institute in August, 2012, from the North American ALMA Science Center at the NRAO in Charlottesville, Virginia. She left the Dunlap in September 2017 to become an Assistant Scientist at the North American ALMA Science Center, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

In August 2017, Friesen was interviewed about the role the Dunlap and U of T played in advancing her career:

What were the highlights of your stay at the Dunlap Institute?

Highlights definitely include the science, but also being able to design and build hands-on labs for the Instrumentation Summer School, and coordinating a solid, Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) that drew applicants from across Canada and emphasized a broad research experience. I also very much enjoyed working with the excellent students in Toronto, both undergraduate and graduate.

What drew you to UofT and the Dunlap?

The fellowship package—salary and research budget—is very attractive, and allowed me significant freedom to pursue my interests. I was excited to join a young and growing institute, with a lot of energy for new initiatives and collaboration. The location within U of T and proximity to the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics also was enticing in terms of collaboration opportunities. Lastly, I appreciated the Dunlap’s mission not only to research, but to training and outreach.

How was your stay at the Dunlap helpful in your advancement into your current position?

The time, financial support, and freedom to pursue and present my research were instrumental in obtaining my current position. Facilitating summer school labs and the SURP, and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students certainly also helped.

As an organization, what would you say are the Dunlap’s strengths?

The Dunlap has amazing potential. No other institution in Canada has been able to hire so many new staff and faculty members in the past few years. I hope the Dunlap continues to push its members to take the lead in the community, both locally and nationally, in its core goals. Clearly, we want to see research excellence and innovation, but Dunlap has a unique window to really drive the conversation on diversity and education.