David Miles, a PhD candidate in geophysics and space physics, has been recognized as one of ten emerging leaders in Alberta by the province’s top business magazine, Alberta Venture. He joins an illustrious group of influential Albertans who have been recognized over the years by this annual roundup.
Miles, who completed his Master’s degree at the University of Alberta while working as a staff engineer in the UAlberta Space Physics Group, develops scientific instruments called fluxgate magnetometers. Under the co-supervision of professors Ian Mann (a space physicist) and Martyn Unsworth (a geophysicist), Miles designs his instruments for a “looking up/looking down” approach to the magnetosphere.
These magnetometers affix to not only rockets and satellites—to detect and record scientific events in the magnetosphere such as storms in space—but also to ground tools to measure geomagnetic activity such as tectonics. “These instruments take very precise measurements, principally of the earth’s magnetic field and the forces affecting this field,” says Miles.
Packing a punch
Miles was pleasantly surprised to learn about his inclusion in Alberta Venture’s list of emerging leaders and is pleased with the attention it brings to the strides Alberta and Canada are making in space physics. “We punch above our weight internationally in aerospace and satellites,” says Miles. “The sort of work that we do here at the University of Alberta answers the call outlined in things like the Emerson report in relation to the value of aerospace high tech to Canada.” The Emerson Report (or federal aerospace review) identified aerospace technology, among other metrics, as a Canadian strength that should continue to be developed and transferred out to high tech industry.
“I know Alberta is trying to diversify the economy and build up some high tech infrastructure to develop a technology base,” continues Miles. “That’s one of the ways our space physics group is able to contribute to Alberta. Our research and development has applicability to the space industry and beyond.”
“Our work has started to attract a lot of attention,” says Miles, who has been featured numerous times in mainstream media over the past several years for his involvement in various missions including CaNoRock, CASSIOPE/e-POP, and Alberta Sat. “Right now, we have an internationally competitive instrument, but we are close to being in a position of possessing a world leading instrument.” The UAlberta Space Physics Group is currently in talks to collaborate on several international proposals including European projects and a NASA mission. With regards to moving forward, Miles says, “Now that we’ve built this instrument, we want to get it out into the world, get it used, and do some science with it.”