Robert Thirsk


Dr. Robert Thirsk, O.C., O.B.C., is a former Canadian Space Agency astronaut and vice-president of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. He currently holds the role of chancellor of the University of Calgary.

Following selection as an astronaut, Robert pursued training in Canada as well as at the NASA Johnson Space Center and other international space centres.  He has completed two space missions. In 1996, he flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia as part of a 17-day mission that studied life and materials sciences. In 2009, he launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and became the first Canadian astronaut to complete a long-duration expedition aboard the International Space Station. This six-month expedition featured multidisciplinary research, robotic operations, and maintenance and repair work of Station systems and payloads.

As an executive with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Robert strove to ensure the organization’s partnerships advanced health research for the benefit of patients and the health care system.

In addition to LIFT Philanthropy Partners, Robert is a director of the Canadian Foundation for International Space University, an advisory board member of Partners in Research, a member of the selection committee for the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence, and former chair of the Vanier Scholarship-Banting Fellowship Board. He holds degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Calgary and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also holds a doctorate of medicine from McGill University, and a master of business administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He is an adjunct professor of International Space University in Strasbourg, France.

Robert is a strong promoter of a Canadian economy based upon innovation and lifelong learning. He partners with other organizations to develop science curricula and experiential learning opportunities for grade school students. He encourages all Canadians to build their career dreams upon a solid educational foundation and advanced skills.

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