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Dr. Roberta Bondar

Dr. Roberta Bondar visits Queen's to share A Cautionary Tale

This guest blog was written by Kate Rath-Wilson, PhD, and MD Candidate (Class of 2019). 

Many share the feeling of a delightful combination of wonder and mystery when we peer into the sky on a clear night. In the summers here in Canada, the darkness arrives late and may be obscured by aurora or the V-shaped passage of a group of honking geese. In the winter, getting a good look at the sky means crunching through loud snow and rearranging toques and scarves to get an unobscured view. No matter how often we may get the chance to look, the promise of a short glimpse at a shooting star or the eventual clarity of a difficult to find constellation brings us back again and again. Not much has changed about the view of the night sky since Roberta Bondar looked up as a child in Sault Ste. Marie and was unsatisfied with simply viewing the stars.

Rumour has it that Dr. Bondar could fly an airplane before she could drive a car. She studied biology and zoology at Guelph, before completing her Master’s and PhD at Western and Toronto respectively. She continued her education with an MD from MacMaster, completing her Residency in Neurology. She then went progressed her studies in Neuro-opthalmology with internships in Toronto and Boston. In December 1983, she was chosen from thousands of applicants as one of Canada’s first six astronauts. She became the Payload Specialist for the space shuttle Discovery in January 1992. She was in charge of experiments for the first International Microgravity Lab Mission, which investigated the effects of weightlessness on the human body. Long beyond this mission, she would continue her studies in neurological illness, leading an international research team at NASA.

While her career in the sciences is astronomically impressive on its own, her second career as a photographer must be appreciated in its own rite. She has authored multiple best-selling books, and has exhibited her photographs internationally. She uses her photography to communicate, educate and encourage responsible environmental stewardship through her charitable organization, The Roberta Bondar Foundation. Her photographs inspire scientific discovery, preservation, and human rights around the world.

Dr. Bondar is extremely busy. As the first neurologist in space, the first female Canadian astronaut, and an accomplished scientist and photographer, her attendance is sought at many prestigious events and institutions. She was unable to make the original HG Kelly date because her presence was requested by the Queen (yes, THE Queen) at the inauguration of Julie Payette as Canada’s next Governor General. Despite the demands on her time, she has graciously agreed to speak at Queen’s on November 1st, with the hope of inspiring students to follow their dreams, overcome adversity, and be responsible leaders. She will discuss her time in space, update us on her research, and share some of the wisdom that has carried her this far in her career; and she has promised to explain how toilets work in space.

Please join us at 4:30pm on November 1st in the David M. C. Walker Atrium for refreshments before Dr. Bondar’s 5:00pm lecture entitled – Beyond Earth: A Cautionary Tale, which will take place in the Britton Smith Lecture Theatre (132A) in the School of Medicine Building.

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