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Dr. Heidi White

Originally from Chicago, Dr. White obtained a Ph.D. in Astrophysics in 2021 at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, specializing in star formation and galaxy kinematics. Her focus of expertise is the evolution of galaxies at “cosmic noon”, which refers to a period in the history of the Universe (occurring roughly 10 billion years ago) when star formation in galaxies reaches an all-time high. Observations show that about 50% of the stars we see today were formed over this period, thus illustrating the profound impact this era of star formation played in shaping the present-day Universe and the evolution of galaxies over cosmic time. 

For her doctoral research, Dr. White studied the internal motions and star forming properties of a sample of local (z~0.1) galaxies (DYNAMO). She utilized a multi-colour (infrared, optical, and radio wavelength) approach to explore the similarity of the DYNAMO sample to galaxies at cosmic noon (which are notoriously difficult to observe with current technology due to their distances) and tackle the mystery of what drives star formation in the Universe at this epoch. 

Throughout her academic career Dr. White has been dedicated to leading and developing many initiatives related to science communication and education. She is especially passionate about bringing astronomy learning to underserved and disproportionately impacted populations in Canada and around the globe. Dr. White specializes in building innovative educational content and activities that weave together scientific thinking and practice and that are designed to engage and centre learners’ interests. Notably, she is a co-founder and instructor of the Pan-African School for Emerging Astronomers, PASEA a bi-annual school which brings hands-on astronomy learning and research opportunities to STEM undergraduates from across the African continent. Her most recent work has focused on the preservation of Indigenous Sky Knowledges (ISK) and elevating the presence of non-Western perspectives of our night sky in K-12 learning. She is a core member of the Astrodigenous educational team, which has created an Indigenous Astronomy portal that supports the work of Canadian educators who aim to build mindful inclusion of ISK in their teaching.

Dr. White also has extensive experience in representing scientific discoveries and news in the media. She is a science expert for TVOntario/TVOKids and has made many appearances on Canadian national news outlets and popular CBC shows “Tai Asks Why” and “Quirks & Quarks”.

Dr. White’s passion for education and outreach is deeply rooted in personal experience: early exposure to astronomy played an unequivocally influential role in her career path and she recognizes the impact that effective science communication can have in inspiring young minds.