Successfully obtaining a Ph.D. is a rare academic achievement and one that deserves to be celebrated.
Huntsville native Connor Stone—Pine Glen Public School and Huntsville High School graduate and son of Huntsville town Councillor Bob Stone and Tracey Stone—
obtained his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Queen’s University on July 28, 2022.
Stone specializes in the study of galaxies, particularly spiral galaxies, and the correlations between different aspects of such galaxies, including size, colour, luminosity, and mass. His work focuses on “intrinsic statistical properties of galaxy populations,” as his website states, as well as “the physics of galaxy formation and evolution.”
The process of obtaining a Ph.D. is a long and arduous one, with years of hard work, research, and dedication. Stone is clearly no stranger to this journey; he completed a four-year undergraduate program, earning a B.Sc. from the University of Waterloo, and a two-year Master’s program, earning a M.Sc. from Queen’s University, before moving on to his four-year Ph.D. program.
While studying for his Ph.D., Stone created a code called “AutoProf” which he started working on in 2020 and released in the summer of 2021. The code analyzes pictures of galaxies in order to gather information on the various characteristics of those galaxies and is able to extract information such as the total population, light, size, and colour of a galaxy.
“There’s a lot of relations that exist between these parameters,” Stone says. “You can imagine that a bigger galaxy is also a brighter galaxy is also a heavier galaxy, but there are some random variations around those relationships. I was basically studying the scatter around that and what I found is that previously, people had been underestimating this diversity of galaxies; there is more variety than what we expected before.”
Stone’s code has helped to highlight this diversity of galaxies and is being used by many other researchers around the globe in places such as Australia, China, and the United Kingdom.
During the course of his Ph.D. program, Stone ran the Queen’s University Observatory and once a month, hosted open houses with up to 100 attendees, which included access to the university telescope and a professor or graduate student guest speaker. Stone also hosted a podcast called “Queen’s Observatory Fast Radio Bursts,” which consisted of orations on a variety of astronomy topics and discussions with various faculty members and graduate students.
After his four years of research as a Ph.D. candidate at Queen’s University, Stone had to defend his Ph.D. in order to be granted the official title. To do this, Stone put together a thesis, which he sent to his supervisor, Professor Stephané Courteau, and other scientists for peer review. On July 28, this team gathered for
Stone’s Ph.D. defense, which consisted of an initial presentation, followed by a lengthy questioning. The peer review team then took a vote on whether or not Stone successfully defended his research to be granted a Ph.D. and as it turned out, he most certainly did.
After years of schooling and research, Stone expressed that the experience of defending his Ph.D. was an intellectual awakening of his academic potential.
“It was quite a realization for me, I went into the defense process thinking of it as a test, it really is set up as a test of whether or not you’ve done the work, but what I realized towards the end is that it was actually a really incredible learning experience for me,” Stone says. “I learned a lot about my own work and how I can take it further and make it an impactful part of the [scientific]community. So I was super happy and relieved but also I felt like I had learned a lot from the whole process on how to be a better scientist.”
As with many professions, a researcher’s job is never done and Stone is ready for new endeavours. This September, Stone will be working with a research team in Montreal through a program called Post Doc, which is a training-focused position for those who have successfully obtained a doctorate. From there, he aims to continue his research and build his portfolio to become known to the global scientific community and work toward becoming a professor at Queen’s University.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here [at Queen’s]and I think that if I could come back as a professor, that would be perfect,” he says. “I got to do so much more than just research when I was here, most of our time is devoted to learning in one way or another. It’s not just about our own research explicitly but we invite researchers from all around the world to come and give presentations about all different aspects of astronomy. One of the things I love about galaxy research is that you’re a little bit connected with everything, I get connected with all sorts of other fields of astronomy, and I get to learn so much.”
For more information on Stone’s background and research, visit connorjstone.com
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!