Olivier Hernandez earned an engineering degree from the École centrale de Marseille and a Master’s in Physics from the Université de Montréal. He also holds a PhD in astrophysics. His dissertation, completed jointly at the Université de Montréal and the Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory, concerned the dynamics of galaxies. Hernandez is an astrophysicist at the Université de Montréal, an expert in instrumentation and in galaxies.
He is currently the Coordinator of iREx and the Director of Operations for the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic (OMM), which includes its 1.6 m telescope and an experimental astrophysics research centre of national and international renown, he is also a Lecturer with the Université de Montréal Department of Physics, and handles communications for the Quebec Centre for Research in Astrophysics (CRAQ).
His main fields of research are the kinematics and dynamics of barred spiral galaxies – mainly the study of the distribution of visible and non-visible matter, and the development of high-tech specialized astronomical instrumentation for studying galaxies and detecting and characterizing exoplanets.
One of his responsibilities as Project Director at the OMM is co-ordinating work in Montreal on the international SPIRou project, an instrument that will make it possible (in 2017) to detect terrestrial planets, i.e. those comparable to Earth in size. He is also the Montreal project co-ordinator for the development and construction of 1 of the 4 scientific instruments to be deployed on the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the future James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). The Canadian instrument to be deployed on the JWST, designed by a team led by UdeM Professor René Doyon, will be used to detect the atmosphere of exoplanets and determine its chemical composition, so as to detect water and potentially life, by means of other biomarker gases like oxygen and methane.
Lastly, he co-ordinates a team of researchers, engineers and technicians who manage and develop all the astronomical instrumentation for the Observatoire du Mont-Mégantic, with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) received in 2009.
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