Astronomer honoured with Beals Award
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Bill Harris considers himself an archaeologist of the sky.
But while others probe what lies beneath the earth for clues to human development, Harris, a professor of physics and astronomy at McMaster, explores the depths of outer space, working to better understand something even greater.
Harris' work focuses on giant elliptical galaxies and globular star clusters - tightly bound, spherical collections of stars - and allows us to gain a better understanding not only of Earth's formation, but of the development of the universe itself.
"It's very much like doing archaeology in the sky," says Harris. "But instead of studying the layers of development of, say, an ancient society, we study the layers of development of the universe."
Harris says that his work, which is very much curiosity-driven, offers no shortage of questions for astronomers to answer: are there other types of star clusters? Where are they? How many are there?
Throughout his career, however, Harris has worked to answer as many of these questions as he can, recently earning a nod from the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA), which is honouring him with its prestigious Beals Award in recognition of his outstanding research achievements.
"Dr. Harris is being recognized for the significant impact his research has had in many areas of astrophysics ranging from our understanding of globular clusters and globular cluster systems to galaxy formation and evolution and observational cosmology," CASCA's Board announced in a release to society members.
The Beals Award is the third recognition of Harris' expertise in the field in the last five years. Previously, he was awarded a Killam Research Fellowship and was elected to the Royal Society of Canada.
"Whether you're looking to the sky or otherwise, there is only one sure way to discover something," says Harris. "Look for anything."