June 21, 2018

History of SPACE

SPACE, formerly known as Students in Physics and Astronomy Communication Enrichment, has a long and rich history. SPACE’s first light dates back to May 2012 when Dr. Matthias Le Dall (a young PhD candidate at the time) kicked it off with a simple Eureka moment. His words continue to inspire us today! The letter below explains the vision which empowered SPACE.

June, 2018

Dear SPACE Walkers,

      When I arrived in the department in 2010, there was no unified event for graduate students to mingle around a common purpose, other than the meetings about serious matters such as funding issues and CUPE strikes. SPACE was an attempt to create a forum for students to casually interact, converse, and exchange ideas.

     The idea had brewed in my mind for two years, and was still very crude when I pitched it to Frank Berghaus in January of 2012: a series of seminars made for and by graduate students, without profs. Frank was instrumental in getting SPACE started as he knew all the tricks of bureaucracy at UVic. But SPACE really took off only after the graduate liaisons were involved in the project: Alison Elliot for particle physics, Jason Crawford for medical physics and Andy Pon for astronomy.

     The format of SPACE, the way we know it today, crystallized through long and often heated debates among the five of us. Discussions with the chair of the department (Bob Kowalewski at the time) and with the Grad advisor (Sara Ellison at the time) helped with the logistics. The GSS has played a fundamental role by supporting us and providing us with the space where we met for five consecutive years. The name was created at the Grad House, after a few beers and nachos with Frank. Just two minutes before paying, the acronym “S.P.A.C.E” came to me: “Students in Physics and Astronomy Communication Enrichment”. From that point onwards, the event would be known as the SPACE Program.

     The emphasis of the acronym was clearly placed on the “communication” aspect rather than on the subject or the format. In order to put into action this belief that people and connections should be at the center, here are the core values that have allowed SPACE to thrive,

  1. No profs,
  2. The subject and format of the talks are up to the speaker,
  3. The talks should be accessible to everyone in the department,
  4. The attendance, participation and organization of SPACE are entirely voluntary.

     The historical SPACE launch was held in March of 2012, and the first year was a striking success. At last, we had successfully created the first regular, fun and instructive series of events through which students connected. The SPACE Program has kept going uninterrupted ever since!

     I will forever be grateful to everyone who, over the years, have participated and contributed to make what SPACE has become. As I am leaving, SPACE enters a new phase in its journey, and my wish is for it to keep growing further and stronger to connect and inspire future generations of students!


Matthias Le Dall, SPACE dad.