January 26, 2016

Additional Information for NRC-Herzberg Students


NRC-Herzberg = HIA (Herzberg Institute for Astrophysics), as it is still commonly called that even after PM Harper’s restructuring of NRC.

For those of you with supervisors who work at the HIA, you probably want to go to the observatory fairly early to sort out your work because of limited desk space (see modes of transportation below).  They run weekly seminars (typically on Tuesdays at 11 am) which are strictly astronomy-related and more likely to be related to your research. You can also watch the talks from the comfort of your own home via a teleconference link (typically provided with the announcement email).

Building Access

As of September 2019, access to HIA is restricted to those who have undergone the proper background check (This is a government building after all). If you visit infrequently, the best option is to have someone sign you in. This can be a supervisor or another grad student who is registered as a visiting worker. You can use the phone at the entrance to call someone to let you in as there is no reception. 

If your supervisor is located at HIA, they should have already started the process of getting you registered as a visiting worker at the observatory, but if not you should remind them. The observatory is a federal government institution so you will have to undergo a background check before you can get your keys and computer account. The government of Canada requests that you fill out numerous forms to be eligible to work at the observatory, and it is a real pain. You will need some additional paperwork, including:

  1. Fingerprints from the local Police Office (If you have lived outside of Canada in the past 3 years you must provide a federal police certificate from each country.)
  2. CV/Resume
  3. Government-issued photo ID
  4. Two reference letters verifying education, professional qualifications, etc…
  5. Visitor Statistical Form (which will be emailed to you during the process)
  6. Copy of your Study/Work permit (if you are not a Domestic Student)
  7. Visitor Work Agreement Form (also emailed to you)

UVic will make some amendments to the agreement before it is all finalized (things like, you’re allowed to publish your thesis).

Note: the forms have to be filled out in triplicate; one for NRC, one for UVic, one for you. You will have to renew your visiting worker’s agreement if it expires. So it is probably a good idea to set the initial contract to be slightly longer than the length of your degree program. (For example, if you expect to graduate in August 2020, set your agreement to last until August 2021 so that you don’t have to worry about renewing it.)

Desk Space

When you first show up your supervisor will find your temporary desk space. James Di Francesco is in charge of desk assignments. (He is located on the north hall on the third floor.) Speak to him if you would like to have some input on where you are placed.


Personal Car:

  • You can drive to HIA if you have a car. Driving directions can be found here.
  • Parking is free (though occasionally hard to find). If there are no spaces available in the lower lot, you may have to park up by the dome.


  • Unfortunately, as of August 2019 Uber is still not available in BC.
  • A taxi from Royal Oak is likely the best option as it is easy to get to by bus.
  • Here is a list of taxis

The Bus:

  • There is a bus (#83) that drops off and picks up at the bottom of the hill. You transfer to/from it at the Royal Oak Exchange (schedule)
  • You will see the big NRC sign on the lawn before the bus stop. The driveway is just past this sign and the bus stop is on the far side of the driveway. So don’t worry, if you pull the cord when you see the sign, you won’t miss your stop. 
  • It is a 20 min walk up the hill if you take the road. It is shorter if you go up the trail.


  • Many people do bike to HIA, but its feasibility depends on your level of enthusiasm.
  • Depending on the bus route, you can also take your bus to Royal Oak Exchange and bike from there.
  • Depending on where you live, you may be able to bike most or part of the way on trails like the Galloping Goose (here) and the Lochside Trail (here)


  • It is a very long walk from Royal Oak Exchange (1-2 hours if I remember correctly). Not recommended. There are heavy trucks on West Saanich Road and no sidewalk, so it is scary.


  • You can send out an email asking if there is anyone that you can carpool with.
  • There is a mailing list for HIA people where you can ask (some students have done this to organize a carpool from the Royal Oak Exchange for example)
  • You can send out an email to the astrograds to ask
  • TIP: just because another grad student has a car does not mean that they want to drive people around. So it is probably a good idea to send out a general email asking if thereʼs anyone you can carpool with. That way, people who ARE willing to give you a lift can respond and people who it may not work well for donʼt have to reject you and make a situation even more awkward 🙂
  • It is ultimately your responsibility to get up the hill, not anyone elseʼs to get you there.



To print at HIA you have to be past the firewall. So you can’t print from if you are connected to the “HIA Visitors” network.

In order to be allowed past the firewall, you must complete your Visiting Worker Agreement and the IT personnel will then set your machine up on the network. (All HIA computers are already set up on the network.) All the information you need about printing at HIA is on “astrozone” website, again something you can only access if you are past the firewall. On there is all the information for setting up the HIA printers and how to print and where to file a help ticket if there are any issues. The IT people are really great and helpful and they are always speedy to resolve your issue.