September Grad Student of the Month: Tomás Cassanelli


In front of Gemini South, Cerro Pachón, Chile. Credit: Tomás Cassanelli.

Tomás is a fourth year PhD candidate at the University of Toronto (U of T), specializing in Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) and Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs). Before starting at U of T, Tomás completed an Astrophysics MSc at the Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie (Germany), and an engineering/physics degree from Universidad de La Frontera (Chile). Tomás has worked extensively in radio astronomy at the observatories: ALMA, Effelsberg, CHIME, and ARO.

How did you first become interested in Astronomy and Astrophysics?

While working on my undergraduate thesis at ALMA, I got the opportunity to work with astronomical instrumentation, met astronomers and engineers, and because of their influence I am an astronomer now.

Can you tell us a little bit about your specific field of research?

My work is in Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs), which are extragalactic sources of radio emission with millisecond durations and an unknown astrophysical mechanism and origin, first discovered in 2007. What I try to do is understand which galaxy these signals come from, and for that we use VLBI with the CHIME and ARO 10-m telescope. VLBI is a technique to observe radio signals with telescopes separated by thousands of kilometres, in order to correlate data and pin-point signals in the sky.

What’s the most exciting thing about your research?

I get to work with many people in a large collaboration, CHIME/FRB, from all across North America, as well as deal with instrumentation and build telescopes!

What do you hope will be your next step, professionally?

I will continue working with CHIME to build a new set of telescopes in order to localize (i.e., find the galactic hosts of) many FRBs.

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To learn more about Tomás’s work, you can visit his: 

In front of the ARO 10m during COVID. Credit: Tomás Cassanelli.

In front of the ARO 10-m while installing the CHIME feed in the telescope focus. Credit: Mubdi Rahman.

(Click to expand). VLBI. The diagram shows the delay that exists between two antennas while receiving a radio signal from an FRB. Credit: Tomás Cassanelli.