An Unexpected Journey to the Stars

She never planned to get into astronomy, until a professor inspired her. Now she travels the world, works on telescopes... and writes for R2R.


Emily Deibert is a Vanier Scholar and PhD Candidate in Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on observing and understanding the atmospheres of faraway worlds in our galaxy. For the past four years, she has also worked as a science writer for Research2Reality. We asked her about everything from her inspirations to her hobbies in the hopes of giving you a better understanding of what goes on outside the lab for a Canadian researcher.

What do you like most about being a researcher?

My favourite part of being a researcher is getting to work with fellow astronomers around the world. Astronomy as a field is very collaborative, and often requires contributions from many different scientists and organizations. Many of my closest collaborators are people I’ve never met in person, and I feel grateful that astronomy was able to bring us together despite us actually being very far apart.

I also love that astronomy has brought me to so many different places around the world. In fact, in a few months I’ll be moving to Chile, where I’ll be working on the Gemini South telescope.

What advice would you give young researchers?

Graduate school can be very difficult, and having a caring and supportive research advisor is crucial. My advice to young researchers is to take the time to get to know potential research advisors before starting your thesis, and to ask them about their supervisory style to make sure that it clicks with you. I would also recommend speaking to their current and previous students to see what their experiences have been like. Your advisor is someone who you will work with for many years, so it’s important that you’re comfortable with them!

What inspired you to become a researcher?

When I first started university, my plan was to do a degree in English. However, I was inspired by one of my professors, Dr. Michael Reid, who taught me a first-year astronomy course for non-scientists. Dr. Reid’s lectures were so inspiring that I decided to pursue astronomy despite not having a background in physics.

Later on in my undergraduate degree, I was lucky enough to work on a few astronomy research projects, which convinced me to pursue my PhD in astronomy as well. I was particularly inspired by one of my undergraduate research advisors, Dr. John Percy, who helped me publish my first scientific research paper.

What do you like to do for fun?

Outside of astronomy, I spend my time reading and writing. I also like biking in the summer and playing ice hockey in the winter.

What’s your favourite cuisine?

I’m not sure that I can name one favourite cuisine — I love to try new food, especially when I’m travelling!

If you could do any profession other than your own, what would it be?

I’m lucky that I currently work in two different areas I’m really passionate about: astronomy and writing. If I had to choose a profession other than those, I’d be interested in exploring medicine. I think it would be incredibly rewarding to have such a direct impact on people’s lives.

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Research2Reality is a groundbreaking initiative that shines a spotlight on world-class scientists engaged in innovative and leading edge research in Canada. Our video series is continually updated to celebrate the success of researchers who are establishing the new frontiers of science and to share the impact of their discoveries with the public.