Cam Wipper started his academic journey at Vancouver Island University, transferring to UH Hilo in 2011, where he went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in astronomy in 2013. He now works at the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope on Hawai‘i Island.
An alumnus of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo astronomy program was just named Alum of the Month by his other alma mater, Vancouver Island University, located in British Columbia, Canada. Cam Wipper started his academic journey at VIU, transferring to UH Hilo in 2011, where he went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in astronomy in 2013. Today he works at the Canada-France-Hawai‘i Telescope on Hawai‘i Island, conducting night-time scientific observations for astronomers across Canada and around the world.
Excerpt from an interview with Wipper conducted by VIU News:
Tell us about your journey since leaving VIU.
I left VIU in 2011 to transfer to the University of Hawaii at Hilo (UHH) to study astronomy full-time. UHH has a unique astronomy program, thanks to its proximity to the observatories on Maunakea. I graduated with my astronomy degree in 2013, and then took on three different part-time work experiences. I worked as a telescope operator for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT); as a laser operator and lead aircraft spotter for Gemini Observatory; and as a Planetarium Operator and host at the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center. After doing this for about 18 months, I was hired by the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) in 2015 as a full-time telescope operator and scientific observer. Eight years after graduating, I remain here on the Big Island working at CFHT.
What should people know about the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope?
The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope is one of the world’s premier observatories, and continues to produce world-class, cutting-edge science (a recent example is the ‘Oumuamua interstellar object). CFHT is funded in part by the government of Canada, through the National Research Council, and available for, and used by, astronomers across Canada to make new discoveries. A number of our instruments, including SITELLE, an extremely advanced imaging spectrograph, were built in Canada. CFHT has a staff of about 45, including a handful of other Canadians. One of these is Dr. Laurie Rousseau-Nepton, the first Indigenous woman from Quebec to obtain a PhD in astrophysics.
What advice would you give other VIU students on a similar journey?
My advice is to always have an open mind and be willing to explore and take chances. I took classes in many different subjects that I wasn’t sure I was interested in. If I had been forced to decide my path immediately, I don’t think I’d be where I am today. The other piece of advice would be to take any opportunities that present themselves. My transfer to UHH was not something I planned, but when an opportunity presented itself rather unexpectedly, I decided to jump on it. I had no idea it would lead me to where I am today, and that’s the point. It’s impossible to know where things will lead, but you’ll never find out if you never go for it.