Waterloo announces winners of annual award for co-op students

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Meet Isaac Cheng, 2022 Co-op Student of the Year Award - Science

Isaac Cheng

Growing up, Isaac Cheng went camping each summer and was fascinated by the night sky. He was inspired by an opportunity he had as a child to explore the sky with an astronomer. Cheng is also the 2022 winner of the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada) Student of the Year Award. He is an honourable mention for the 2022 EWO Co-op Student of the Year Award.

 “The astronomer showed us the heart of the Milky Way. Sirius was the brightest star in the night sky. It was amazing to me,” Cheng says. “It really captured my imagination and led me to pursuing physics in university and hopefully beyond.”  

Cheng’s passion for astronomy led him to three co-op terms as a junior researcher at the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre, part of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC). Cheng’s work during his winter 2022 work term was monumental in the development of the major CASTOR telescope. 

The proposed telescope is one of Canada’s biggest astronomy endeavours and will replace the famous Hubble Telescope. Many expect it to revolutionize the world of astronomy and give unparalleled views of the universe.   

Under the guidance of Tyrone Woods and Dr. Patrick Cote, Cheng helped create an exposure time calculator (ETC) which simulates CASTOR’s in-sky performance.

“I am just humbled by the experience. These space telescopes are a world-wide effort and being able to contribute to a small part of it is amazing,” Cheng says. “It was a very rewarding project, and I am glad that I got the opportunity to work on such a big part of Canada’s future in space.”      

“Co-op is the best thing I could have asked for in my academic career," says Cheng. "My work terms allowed me to explore the different subfields that interested me, expanded my professional network, and offered me opportunities beyond anything I could have hoped for.”

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