Astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar to visit TRU

Bondar, Canada's first female astronaut, is the guest speaker for the next TRUSU Common Voices lecture series.

If you plan on attending TRUSU’s Common Voices guest lecture at the end of the month, you won’t come face-to-face with any extraterrestrials. Still, you may be lucky enough to encounter Canada’s first female astronaut.

Dr. Roberta Bondar will speak at CAC Grand Hall on Thursday, Feb. 29, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m., with free entry for anyone in the community. Bondar’s accomplishments include being named to the Order of Canada and being the first neurologist in space.

Her talk is titled Perspective Shift: Moving beyond the Familiar to Reach for the Extraordinary, which TRUSU’s Samiul Khan said is fitting.

“Dr. Roberta Bondar is one of the most interesting Canadians ever,” Khan said of why TRUSU reached out to her for the guest lecture. “She broke the glass ceiling for women in STEM as the first Canadian female astronaut.”

Joanne Rosvick, an astronomy and physics instructor at TRU, also echoes this sentiment.

“It’s such an honour for TRU to get this accomplished scientist, who’s Canadian, to come here,” Rosvick said. “I would encourage [students] to go and hear her because she has so many years of experience and wisdom that I’m sure everybody will be able to take something away from it.”

Rosvick’s advice comes from her own experience. She met Bondar following a lecture she gave at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in 1995.

“I thought that it was so cool to meet an astronaut for the first time,” Rosvick, who was then a graduate student at the University of Victoria, said. “She was just so nice and humble… she was genuine and interested in what she was telling us, and she was so matter of fact.”

Rosvick looks back on that experience fondly, and now, TRU students will also have the chance to meet Bondar.

Now 78 years old, Bondar’s January 1992 spaceflight aboard the Discovery shuttle marked the first time a Canadian woman had made the journey, finalizing a goal she’d had for a very long time.

“When I was eight years old, [being] a spaceman was the most exciting thing I could imagine,” Bondar said in a statement on her official website.

Although she is generally recognized for her accomplishments as an astronaut, Bondar also has considerable experience in other areas. With her neurology background, she worked as a physician and is also a published author, scientific researcher, and photographer.

Bondar is the latest to add her name to the Common Voices speakers list, including notable Canadians like David Suzuki, Peter Mansbridge, and Magaret Atwood.

“The objective is mainly to facilitate discussion on a range of subjects including economics, social justice, and other critical issues,” Khan said on what TRUSU looks for in its speakers.

Typically, the series occurs annually, but the pandemic stifled it. Accomplished female hockey player Hayley Wickenheiser’s talk during the Winter 2023 semester marked the first installment since 2019 — Bondar’s will be the second.

For more specific information about this event, students can visit the TRUSU website.