Joel grew up in Toronto, dreaming of becoming an astronaut for as long as he could remember. Throughout school he pursued the space sciences; it was a dream to work in Dr. Skylar Adhar’s lab. He has always been a good communicator, and after completing his PhD he moved into a role of public outreach at the Dunlap Institute, helping another generation of space-obsessed kids get their start. This has also served him well as his interest in extra-solar travel hasn’t had the most public support as interest in the transmissions from Proxima b decreased, but he’s continued to advance even if his own research has taken more of a backseat, especially since his daughter Mackenzie was born.
He met Leila Karam in graduate school when they both served as research assistants under Dr. Adhar. They were in a relationship during much of this time (almost four years), but it was tumultuous and its foundation was really about their shared passion for their research. It fell apart as they realized they each had different life goals. Leila has continued to push forward the field, entirely focused on her aspirations, while Joel has adapted his work to support the desire to have a family. They remain close—Joel’s daughter sees Leila as an Aunt—but he still harbors feelings for Leila