Meet Dr. Laurie Rousseau-Nepton

Dr. Laurie Rousseau-Nepton is a Canadian astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Waimea on the island of Hawaii. She helps researchers around the world to work with the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and on improving their astronomical cameras. Receiving her PhD from @Ulaval she is the first indigenous woman in Quebec to obtain a PhD in astrophysics. She was always drawn to physics as it “is the science that studies the great forces of the Universe. It was a way for me to finally be able to answer my own questions.” 

1. How would you describe your current occupation (what and where)?

I am a resident Astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii. I help researchers around the world to do science with our Telescope and help improving our astronomical cameras. I also analyze data and study how stars form in other galaxies near the Milky Way. 

2. How did you become what you are? Can you describe your journey leading to your career?

I have always been a scientist. Young, I was constantly asking questions on how things worked and loved observing natural phenomena like weather systems, shooting stars, auroras, etc.  It was an obvious decision to then study Physics at the University. Physics, is the science that study the great forces of the Universe. It was a way for me to finally be able to answer my own questions.

3. What or who inspired you to explore space exploration the way you have?

I think it is natural to be amazed by our Universe. There is so much things going on out there. My family always pushed me to purse my passion. My curiosity and the people around me are the reason why I am here. 

4. What would you say to someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Be bold and go for it. There is a place for anyone who is passionate in doing science. Trust your instinct and believe in your capacities. You might have to cross some tuff times here and there, but, believe me, it is worth it, and you will come out of it proud of yourself.

5. Share a fun fact about yourself!

I love singing when I am alone in my car. 

6.  Is there something you still want to do or learn that you haven’t done yet in your career?

So many things! Being a researcher is to constantly contribute to increase the knowledge of all. I will never stop learning and sharing what I learn with everyone. 

7. We often talk about constellations to youth attending our programs – is there a favourite constellation you have or a story you can share that celebrates your Indigenous heritage.

So many. I love Utshek (The Fisher, the animal…) it is ruffly represented by the stars in the Big Dipper. It is also the hero in a story that explains how the seasons got back after the glaciation period 10 000  years ago. This is a looooong story. 

The fisher is part of an even greater constellation, a canoe. He is paddling in the sky along with Kuekuatsheu (the Wolverine, represented by the Star in what most people know as Orion). The two paddlers are traveling from North to South and around the North star every night and every year, following the seasonal changes.