Our Speakers


Bob McDonald has been bringing science to the public for more than 40 years. In addition to hosting Quirks & Quarks, the award-winning science program that is heard by 500,000 people each week,  McDonald is also science correspondent for CBC TV. As a writer, he has authored five bestselling science books, and contributed to numerous textbooks, magazines, and newspapers (including The Globe and Mail). McDonald has been honoured for his outstanding contribution to the promotion of science within Canada.

Panel 1: Intersection Between Space and Medicine

Dr. Hilding Neilson is an interdisciplinary scientist, working on astrophysics and on the intersection of science, astronomy, and Indigenous knowledge. As a Mi’kmaw person, he strives to embrace and integrate Indigenous knowledges and methodologies to better understand the physics of stars and the Universe, and our place in it. Dr. Neilson enjoys teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as participating in public outreach and science communication.

Dr. Shawna Pandya is a Canadian physician, scientist-astronaut candidate program graduate with the International Institute for Astronautical Sciences (IIAS), aquanaut, speaker, martial artist, advanced diver, skydiver, pilot-in-training, VP Immersive Medicine with Luxsonic Technologies, Associate Fellow of the Aerospace Medicine Association, and Fellow of the Explorers’ Club. She is currently completing a fellowship in Wilderness Medicine (Academy of Wilderness Medicine).

Dr. Robert Thirsk has academic backgrounds in mechanical engineering, medicine, and business administration. He has flown on two space missions as a member of the Canadian Space Agency astronaut corps in 1996 and 2009. Bob and his crewmates performed multidisciplinary research, robotic operations, and maintenance of Station systems and payloads. Bob continues to be a strong promoter of an economy based upon exploration, innovation, and lifelong learning.

Panel 2: Emerging and Future Trends in Space Medicine

Dr. Kristi Ray is a current aerospace medicine resident working at NASA Johnson Space Center. She received her medical degree from Nova Southeastern University College of Osteopathic Medicine and has a background in family medicine and dive medicine. Her research interests include aerospace decompression sickness prevention and mitigation strategies.

Dr. Konrad Szocik is a visiting fellow at the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, as well as an assistant professor at the University of Information Technology and Management in Rzeszow. His research interests include philosophy, ethics, and bioethics of space exploration, human enhancement, feminism, and selected issues on the border of futures studies and technology. Dr. Szocik is the author of the monograph “Bioethics of space exploration” to be published in 2022 by Oxford University Press.

Dr. Joan Saary is a physician in Occupational Medicine with unique expertise in aerospace medicine. She is an Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Medicine and a consultant to various organizations, including the Royal Canadian Air Force/Canadian Forces Environmental Medicine Establishment and the Canadian Space Agency. She serves as Chair of Aerospace Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and is a Past President of the Occupational Medicine Specialists of Canada.