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Canadian astronaut to speak on St. John's campus

By Darcy MacRae | Jan. 16, 2012

The winter edition of Memorial's Speaking of Engineering event will see Canadian Space Agency astronaut Dr. Robert Thirsk speak on the St. John's campus.

Dr. Thirsk's presentation will focus on his experience of living in space for six months aboard the International Space Station. The event takes place Thursday, Jan. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation's Innovation Hall (room number IIC-2001).

The following day, Friday, Jan. 20, Dr. Thirsk will give a special Grand Rounds in the main auditorium, Health Sciences Centre, from 12-1 p.m. Later in the afternoon he will also give a small presentation to patients at the Janeway Hospital.

"On behalf of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, I want to welcome Mr. Thirsk to Memorial University and wish to thank him for addressing our students, faculty, staff and members of the public at our annual winter Speaking of Engineering," said Dr. Ramachandran (Venky) Venkatesan, dean, pro tempore. "Dr. Thirsk's presentation will provide insight into an experience so few people have the opportunity to take part in. His knowledge and expertise will be of great benefit to everyone in attendance, especially our students."

Dr. Thirsk became the first Canadian astronaut to fly a long duration expedition aboard the International Space Station in 2009 when he launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Dr. Thirsk and his international crew mates performed an unprecedented amount of multidisciplinary research, complex robotic operations and maintenance and repair work of station systems and payloads.

He was part of a groundbreaking crew that expanded the boundaries of space exploration by living and working on board the International Space Station for six months. Dr. Thirsk assumed responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the ISS during the mission, while also leading experiments on behalf of Canadian and international researchers.

During the summer of 1996, Dr. Thirsk flew as a payload specialist aboard space shuttle mission STS-78, during the Life and Microgravity Spacelab (LMS) mission. During this 17-day flight aboard Columbia, he and his six crew mates performed 43 international experiments devoted to the study of life and materials sciences, including experiments that investigated changes in plants, animals and humans under space flight conditions.

"There is much anticipation throughout Memorial University about Dr. Thirsk's presentation at Speaking of Engineering," said Dr. Venkatesan. "I look forward to learning more about his time in space and the important research he conducted."

Dr. Thirsk is a native of New Westminster, B.C. He received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Calgary in 1976, a master of science in mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1978, a doctorate of medicine from McGill University in 1982 and a master of business administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1998.

Speaking of Engineering is hosted during each fall and winter semester. The event includes speakers from a variety of engineering backgrounds and is co-hosted by the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science and the Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Newfoundland and Labrador (PEGLN).

Free parking is available in lot 15B for the event and a reception will follow Dr. Thirsk's presentation.


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